Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Consul General's News Letter From Houston

Remarks by Consul-General Jota Yamamoto
on the “Hermann Park Japanese Garden Day”
to Feature the Commendation of Mr. Kunio Minami
by Foreign Minister of Japan
and the Gifting of Cherry Blossom Saplings,
at the City Hall of Houston, on June 19, 2012

June 19, 2012

Honorable Mayor Parker, Honorable Members of the City Council,
In April last year, my colleague was given the floor at the City Council meeting to explain the circumstances of Japan after the earthquake.  Thanks to your support, Japan has returned to normalcy, and is now open & safe for tourism, study and business.  We earnestly wait for Houstonians to come and visit Japan.

In Chiba City, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the sister-city relationship with Houston, the Honorable Mayor Kumagai & citizens of Chiba earnestly await a visit from Mayor Parker and City Council Members.  I received the message from Mayor Kumagai this morning which he likes to convey to Madam Mayor: “as this year marks the 40th anniversary of our sister-city relationship, I also sincerely hope we will have the honor of welcoming you in Chiba City…I pray for your continued prosperity and health, as well as that of all citizens of the city of Houston.” 

In Japan, the wording “this year” often refers to “the present fiscal year”, which extends not to December of the current year but to March of the following.  Even though it takes place in between January and March, visit and stay in Japan will be fabulous.  I, for my part, have to convey the cheers from my people for the Astros and for the NBA All-Star Weekend to be back in Houston in 2013. 

Our businesses have reactivated as well.  The Japanese Business Association of Houston now has 86 members, many of which are well known brands in major industrial, commercial & banking sectors, and includes national representatives in trade, space development and exploration of natural resources.  The collaboration of Chiba City & Houston Technology Center has witnessed its first achievement, too.  We keep a careful watch on potential business opportunities in Houston, in particular the development & marketing of natural resources, and transportation networks & facilities, to give just a few examples. 

Japan has emerged at the cultural front as well.  The Arts of Japan Gallery in the Museum of Fine Arts now attracts visitors and Asia Society has opened its Texas Center.  At the Center’s inaugural ceremony, Japanese Architect Mr. Yoshio Taniguchi expressed his appreciation for the excitement & enthusiasm of Houstonians, which is crucial to keep cultural diversities thriving in this city.  I agree with him, Texas is the state of diversities, Houston is the city of enriched diversities.

The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park is another example of a celebrated Houston cultural diversity.  I appreciate many people who made it possible for the Garden to prosper for the past 20 years.  The Honorable Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has thus decided to commend Mr. Kunio Minami, as the representative figure of many dedicated people.  My Foreign Minister is making transit in Dallas/Fort Worth right now, unfortunately not in Houston this time, but on his behalf, I would like to convey thanks to the City of Houston by gifting 20 cherry blossom saplings. 

The message is quite clear.  Japan wishes to strengthen the relationship with Houston, as the cherry blossoms bloom faithfully every year.  Japan wishes to perpetuate its friendship with Houston, as cherry blossom trees can live over one thousand years, if so cherished by people like Mr. Minami and his colleagues.  100 years ago, Japan made the first gift of cherry blossom trees to the States with the same message.  We would like to repeat this message for the new generations of people, with new generations of cherry blossoms.

Honorable Mayor Parker, Honorable Members of the City Council,
Let me express my sincere thanks to the city for giving us such a dignified opportunity here today.  I believe that we can gather again to witness the planting of the cherry blossom saplings, which shall be done after the heat retreats from Houston.  October should be a nice month for that.   

Mayor Parker kindly declared October 27th of last year as the date to commend a Japanese gardener Mr. Terunobu Nakai, who made enormous efforts to keep the Japanese Garden blooming and beautiful.  Mr. Nakai passed away in January this year but his dream is still vivid and alive in the heart of many people.  Thus I wonder at the possibility to set the planting of cherry blossom saplings for October 27 in Mr. Nakai’s memory. 

Obviously nobody can impose something specific upon your busy schedules.  For the moment,  I would simply but earnestly like to share with you the prayer of my people: long live cherry blossoms in Houston, long live the glorious diversities of Houston, and long live the friendship between Japan and Houston.  I today have a small plaque to be presented to Madam Mayor, which I believe will keep this praying vivid and alive for ever.

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Short remarks by Consul-General Yamamoto at the Reception to honor Mr. Kunio Minami, Recipient of Foreign Minster’s Commendation, on June 19, 2012

Honorable Members of the City Council, Distinguished Guests,
I thank you all to join us again to celebrate this great day today honoring Mr. Minami and his colleagues.  I shall be brief and would like to quote a part of the message of the Honorable Mayor Kumagai of Chiba City addressed to the Honorable Mayor Parker of the City of Houston:

“Mr. Minami was kind enough to guide me through the Japanese garden when I visited Houston in October 2010.  I can recall the beauty of the garden with ease, and am still impressed at the passion and dedication of the garden’s caretakers in preserving it for the last 20 years as a beloved landmark for all Houston’s citizens to enjoy.  I truly believe this garden has fulfilled its role as a bridge between Chiba and Houston.”

“I understand that 20 more trees are to be planted this October.  I hope that more and more people will visit the Japanese garden in the spring to see the blossoms at their loveliest, and expect that this will only strengthen the bonds of friendship between our cities and nations.”

It speaks volumes to 20 saplings, which are blessed so much today.  I believe that they will continue to be blessed and cherished by Houstonians, and will start to bloom within ten years time to thank Houstonians and reward the City of Houston.   

To celebrate all those things, I would now like to confer the commendation from the Honorable Foreign Minister of Japan Koichiro Gemba upon Mr. Kunio Minami who represents all the people dedicated to Hermann Park Japanese Garden.