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Friday, May 27, 2005

Japanese-U.S. ties linked to American brethren

Staff writer

Cooperation between Japan and Japanese-Americans in the United States is essential for forming better ties between the two countries in the future, participants at a Wednesday symposium in Tokyo said.

During the keynote speech, visiting Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said that while Japanese-U.S. relations may now be at a peak, it will require efforts on both sides of the Pacific to make sure ties remain favorable.

"We are here to ask you to enhance a better relationship between Japan and the United States because history is constant on one feature," Inouye said. "One day we are friends, years from now we are enemies."

Inouye and about 70 officials from the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles were in Tokyo to attend the "Japanese Americans and the Future of U.S.-Japan Relations" symposium and meet with government leaders, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Although many Japanese-Americans have climbed to prominent positions in U.S. society, they were often looked down upon in Japanese society as "failures" who deserted their home country for a new land, Inouye said.

Inouye still remembers a meeting he had in the late 1950s with then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, during which he suggested that Tokyo appoint a Japanese-American as an ambassador.

But the suggestion from the senator was dismissed because "only men from great families were selected to serve as diplomats," Inouye quoted Kishi as saying.

Yasuko Takezawa, a professor of humanities research at Kyoto University, noted that such perceptions on the part of Japanese leaders was one of the reasons why Japanese-Americans have not fostered close ties with the country of their ancestry.

Japanese businesses in the U.S. supported Japanese-Americans, but at the same time, many hired by those companies were discriminated against by the Japanese management, Takezawa said.

But in the past few years, the Japanese government has begun to put more weight on building ties with the Japanese-American community, according to Taizo Nishimuro, a vice chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

The Foreign Ministry has introduced a program to invite young Japanese-American leaders to Japan to increase their understanding of Japan.

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