Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Consul General's News Letter From Houston

Remarks by Consul-General Jota Yamamoto
on December 5, 2012
to welcome the participants in Japan Showcase Seminar (Promotion of Tourism to Japan)
to be held in Houston

December 5, 2012

I would like to thank Director Ota of Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), who made possible the upcoming Japan Showcase Seminar.  JNTO has extended its active attention to Texas this year, making the first campaign in Houston in March, joining the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show in November, and now having come back with many nice colleagues of various expertise from various regions.  I welcome you all, and if this occasion of today could be a small step to further advance your networking, I would be most obliged.

Texas is one of the best prosperous States.  The total of individual income is the second largest in America, exceeding one trillion dollars in 2011.  They are rich.  Here, the business people are most effective interlocutors for many aspects of life, the agenda of tourism and the question of where, why and how to travel much depend on comments by the people making frequent business trips.  

Houston is now a major gateway to Latin America, and increasingly vital gateways to Europe, Middle East & Africa.  The population of metropolitan Greater Houston amounts to 6 million, and the one-fifth may be related to the Asian origins.  Vietnamese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis & increasing Koreans are eminent. 

Thus, I have two points.  First, Houston is achieving the status of gateway to Asia, and now poses a question of which city of Asia will be the best fitting gateway for Houston.  Second, an exotic curiosity alone cannot be a major force to drive tourism from here.  Multi-ethnic diversity is taken for granted in this city of salad bowl, and a stay in Houston may be the best way to satisfy exoticism.

There is a funny story of a Houstonian, who made his first travel to Japan just for fun.  He said: McDonald’s offers the same service as in the States; streets of Tokyo are filled with chances for entertainment.  He went to a batting center, batting cage not so called by baseball-crazy Japanese as he put it, and dazzled the local people.  He watched Dragon Gate wrestling in Korakuen Hall, criticizing referees as incompetent as in the States.  He bought Hiroshima Carp jersey in Tokyo Dome because Carp is funnier than Giants.

Water is safe, city is open to business.  Excellent deals are available on hotels.  Subway is immaculately clean and safe.  Tsukiji, Ginza, Roppongi, Akihabara, the world busiest pedestrians’ crossing of Shibuya and pose with Hachiko.  He concluded that Tokyo is one of the most exciting, interesting capitals of the world. 

Was it a fragment of private chat?  It is the two-page article by staff writer Ken Hoffman in the Houston Chronicle of January 15 of this year.  I don’t call it typical, but I take it as a kind of convincing orientation.  The Houston Chronicle is the largest paper of the Hearst Group, and is very good at picking up whatever people like to see.  Yes, the Chronicle readers like to have fun, anywhere any time, but in nice circumstances; what is nice should be safety and convenience.  I was told that Mr. Carl Rosa underlined similar points in his presentation, and prompted a very positive response in the Dallas Travel Show.

Another catchy phrase for Houstonians is the human-to-human network and face-to-face collaboration.  Gift of cherry blossom trees, cheers for the Houston Astros, image of the Japanese astronauts in Johnson Space Center, student exchanges and home-staying, all can easily be precious factors of life in Houston.  They love the Toyota Tundra as tangible evidence of multi-ethnic collaboration, they love the story of bullet train as promising project of cross-cultural collaboration.

It applies to the entire Texas and Oklahoma, and it is the reason why a lot of sister-city relations, fourteen in Texas and five in Oklahoma, have long been cherished by the local people of all generations.  The same spirit speaks volumes to the success of the Japan-America Grassroots Summit in North Texas this year.  This constant long-standing exchange of youth and elders will continue to be a good and sound basis for further expansion of tourism to Japan. 

I believe that Japan Showcase Seminar will give many hints to your local counterparts, and will ultimately give a concrete protocol to the local people to visit and revisit Japan.  I thank you again and wish you all the success of seminar and nice enjoyable stay in Houston.