Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Consul General's News Letter From Houston

Remarks by Consul-General Jota Yamamoto
at the Opening Ceremony of Japan Festival
at Hermann Park, Houston on March 31, 2012

March 31, 2012

Ms. Shara Fryer, you always navigate us towards success in any event which may be important for the Japanese communities.  Today is no exception.  I thank you.

I congratulate Mr. Matsumura and other members of the Festival Committee, and I pay tribute to the supporting organizations: the Japan-America Society of Houston, the Japan Business Association of Houston, the Japanese Association of Greater Houston, the Japanese-American Citizens League Houston Chapter, the Houston Parks Recreation Department and the Hermann Park Conservancy.

Honorable Mayor Pro Tempore Ed Gonzalez, Distinguished Guests and Dear Friends in Houston,
I thank you all for joining us.  I thank you all for always assuring us of a safe, comfortable and exciting life here in Houston. 

I thank you all for extending to us the heartwarming support in times when we need it.  We from Japan have witnessed your kindness for many years.  This has been all the more encouraging after the earthquake which occurred in Japan one year ago.   With your support, Japan has made a comeback.  Thank you very much.

I wonder whether we will have a spring in Houston or simply jump into summer.  Either way, the month of April will start tomorrow, with the opening of the Astros  season starting next Friday.  Did you know that Houston has a sister city in Japan?  It is Chiba City.  Like Houston, Chiba is the home to a professional baseball team.  Indeed, the Mayor of Chiba City, Mr. Kumagai, sent us his cheer: on behalf of the  960,000 residents of Chiba City, the Mayor offered his hopes that they will bring you and the Astros the best of luck in the upcoming season.

The sister-city relationship between Chiba and Houston celebrates its 40th year anniversary this year.  This festival is actually one part of a chain of events to celebrate it.  The anniversary gives us in Japan even more reasons to cheer for the Astros, and I hope you will continue cheering for the Chiba Lotte Marines as well.  Chiba, Houston, the 40th anniversary, the Chiba Lotte Marines, and the Astros.  So many things to hold in my mind, in your minds.

Then, let us talk about cherry blossoms.  Did you know that this year marks the centennial, the 100 year anniversary of Japan’s cherry blossoms being brought to the States?  It was in 1914 that George Hermann presented this park to the City of Houston.  Two years prior, in 1912, on March 27, the very first tree among thousands of cherry blossom trees, gifted as the symbol of the Japan-US friendship, was planted in Washington D.C. 

For the past 100 years, Japan and the US have witnessed many things.  But cherry blossoms have bloomed faithfully every year , and now the friendship of our two countries has bloomed into a steadfast alliance, which shall never be scattered, even by the strongest of winds. 

To commemorate this centennial, we will gift twenty cherry blossom saplings to Hermann Park.  Those saplings will be planted in autumn, once the heat retreats from Houston.  In 5 years, they will grow to 10 feet tall.  In 10 years, they will add to the many colors of the Japanese Garden.   Some cherry blossom trees can live over one thousand years.  Long live cherry blossoms, long live the Japanese Garden, long live Hermann Park, and long live Houston.

The Japanese Garden will turn 20 years old in May, the same age as the Hermann Park Conservancy.  I thank the Conservancy for tireless efforts to keep the Garden in good shape.  I would also like to recall the name of one Japanese gentleman, Mr. Nakai.  Did you know that October 27, last year was proclaimed by Mayor Parker as “Terunobu Nakai Day”?  He received this honor for his enormous voluntary endeavors to revive the Japanese Garden. 

Mr. Nakai passed away this year.  He can no longer return to his beloved Houston.  He cannot come back but his disciple came, flying all the way from Japan, to take care of the garden.  She will be here again.  I am sure that Mr. Minami, member of the Conservancy Board, too, will continue his best efforts to this end.  Long live the Japanese Garden.  I ask everybody to help us make this dream a reality.

The Honorable Ed Gonzalez and Dear Friends in Houston,
I hope that you will enjoy the Japan Festival.  Japan has made a comeback.  Once again, I thank you all for your enormous support to Japan following the earthquake.  Once again, I wish the best of luck to the Astros.  Once again, long live and prosper the City of Houston.

As for the blossoms.  I now invite the Honorable Ed Gonzalez to the podium.  It is my honor to present him with the plaque to the City of Houston in commemoration of the cherry blossom centennial.  I believe that the friendship between Houston and Japan will blossom for another 100 years.  Long live our friendship.