On Wednesday, December 9th, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan announced that Ms. Anna McFarland, Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth (JASDFW), is a recipient of the “Foreign Minister’s Commendation on the anniversary of the 70th anniversary of the End of the War.” This commendation is given to Americans who contributed through grassroots activities to the friendship between the United States of America and Japan, which has been stably developed after the Second World War. Ms. McFarland was granted this award in recognition of her esteemed service in the promotion of mutual understanding between the United States of America and Japan. She is among the 28 individual recipients who were awarded this prestigious honor by the Government of Japan.
Influenced by her parents, who established the Japan-America Society of Dallas, later renamed Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, she has been a supporter of Japan-U.S. relations for over 30 years. In 1984, while employed at the Dallas Museum of Art, Ms. McFarland worked on “The Shogun Age Exhibition” on loan from the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya. Later, she served as the Deputy Director for Sun & Star 1996, a major three-month festival of Japanese arts and culture featuring 60 exhibitions and events in North Texas. The program was a collaborative effort between cultural organizations, businesses, and government agencies on both sides of the Pacific, as well as the local Japanese community and the people of Sendai. This work sparked a renewed interest in Japan for Ms. McFarland, and, following the close of the festival, she assumed the role of Executive Director of JASDFW in January 1997.
As the first fulltime Executive Director, Ms. McFarland has improved the credibility, reputation, and long-term stability of JASDFW by organizing numerous quality events and building the capacity of the organization through board development, strategic planning and a stable financial base.
JASDFW has had several notable achievements during Ms. McFarland’s tenure. The establishment of the International Friendship Cities agreement between Dallas and Sendai in 1997 resulted in numerous exchange activities – most notably an annual week-long homestay program for high school students known as the Dallas-Sendai Young Ambassadors program. Additionally, in response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, JASDFW led a grassroots effort that collected $189,000 in generous donations from members of the Dallas/Fort Worth community in support of their friendship city. The funds were used to rebuild the Mori no Sato Nursing Home in Sendai, which was badly damaged by the tsunami. Working in partnership with the City of Dallas, JASDFW has played a leadership role in developing and sustaining an active Dallas-Sendai friendship-city relationship.
Locally, Ms. McFarland initiated several large-scale signature events, such as the Mochitsuki New Year Celebration and Otsukimi Moon Viewing Festival, which share traditional Japanese arts, culture, and seasonal celebrations with the people of North Texas. Now in their 16th year, both events have grown in popularity and now attract around 1,000 and 3,800 visitors respectively. Ms. McFarland also was instrumental in the decision to host the 2012 Japan America Grassroots Summit in North Texas, the society’s largest undertaking ever. During the Summit, 180 Japanese visitors were welcomed by host families in 15 cities across North Texas. The Texas Rangers kicked off the week with the first ever “Japan America Friendship Night” at the ballpark, now an annual event. In total, the Summit brought together over 3,000 people from the U.S. and Japan for a week-long celebration of U.S.-Japan friendship.
Also during Ms. McFarland’s tenure, JASDFW established the Sun & Star Legacy Award in 1998 to recognize the achievements of Japanese and American leaders who have positively impacted U.S.-Japan relations. Recent recipients include Mr. Yoshiyuki Kasai in 2015 and Ambassador John V. Roos in 2014. The award dinner, which is also a fundraising event for the organization, draws approximately 400 people annually and raises awareness of the importance of Japan-U.S. friendship. As the premier annual Japan-U.S. business event in Texas, the award dinner provides opportunities for meaningful networking among business executives.
Additionally, since 1997, Ms. McFarland has been an active participant in the National Association of Japan America Societies and served on the Executive Committee from 2010 to 2014. She also organized numerous events in cooperation with the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston, the Embassy of Japan to the U.S., and Japan External Trade Organization Houston. Ms. McFarland has been working to sustain the legacy of her parents and ensure that JASDFW continues long into the future. Her tireless dedication has been recognized and admired by people in North Texas and beyond.