Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Remarks by Consul-General Nozomu Takaoka
at The Reception in Celebration of
the Birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan on December 5, 2013

December 5, 2013

Distinguished Guests, Honorable Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you so much for joining us this evening and welcome to my residence.  My name is Nozomu Takaoka and I arrived in Houston to take my post as Consul-General of Japan less than two months ago.  This is actually the first large reception for me to host with my wife in this house since our arrival.  You all are our very special guests on this occasion. 

Today we gather in tribute of His Majesty, The Emperor of Japan, who will turn 80 years old this month.  Emperor Akihito is the 125th emperor of Japan, in the oldest uninterrupted line of hereditary monarchy in the world.  Throughout their many visits to the Tohoku region this year, Their Majesties continued to support and encourage the people and communities that were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, exactly 1001 days ago. 

On the piano you can see graciously displayed a photo of Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress, as well as the newly appointed United States Ambassador to Japan, the Honorable Caroline Kennedy, presenting her credentials to the Emperor. 

It has been 50 year since Ambassador Kennedy’s father, President John F. Kennedy intent to be the first American President to make an official visit to Japan, was tragically assassinated before that in Dallas.  While Japan missed the chance to welcome President Kennedy, now 50 years later we are honored to welcome his daughter as the first female American Ambassador to Japan.  Her recent visit to the earthquake affected region, less than one month after she took her post, was also very much appreciated by the Japanese. 

In connection to this, I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Texas and Oklahoma for your outpouring support after the earthquake.  Your generosity and encouragement continue to be the source of inspiration sent from the most dynamic region in the U.S.

In my short time in Houston I am already very much impressed with the robust economy of this city and the entire states of Texas and Oklahoma.  It is no wonder that we observe increasing Japanese interest and enthusiasm to further develop relations with this region.  I would like to take this opportunity to review the growing Japanese presence which took place in this year of 2013 and recognize four salient areas of such developments.

The first area is the energy sector.  Thanks to the U.S. shale revolution and the open approach taken by the local authorities we have seen an increase in Japanese companies looking to invest in the development of shale oil and gas.  One prime example is seen in the recent contract between Osaka Gas/ Chubu Electric and Freeport LNG Development.  Thanks to the approval given by the U.S. Department of Energy in May this year, we anticipate this collaboration to be the very first historic export of shale gas and natural gas from the U.S. to Japan. 

Following these developments, many Japanese companies have expanded and relocated their branches and headquarters from New York to Texas and even from Tokyo to Texas including: Osaka Gas, which opened a new permanent office in Houston just last month in addition to Tokyo Gas and Chubu Electric.  I would like to recognize Mr. Tadashi Yamamoto, the President of Osaka Gas Resources America.  His company has kindly volunteered to open a booth on the second floor to explain company expansion and future plans.  Please visit his booth to find out how collaboration in the energy sector is adding another dimension to our already strong bilateral partnership.

Secondly, I would like to highlight the presence of Japanese manufacturing companies.  Considering the highly developed technology, quality of employees, and availability of affordable energy, it is no surprise Japanese companies find this region most attractive.  Toyota Motors Manufacturing Texas is a front runner, having celebrated their 10th anniversary this year and the cumulative production of their one millionth truck this October.  Toyota, located in San Antonio employs around 3,000 and including on-site suppliers that number increases to around 6,000.  I would like to thank Corporate Advisor, Mr. Kurt Onoue for driving all the way from San Antonio to the entrance of this residence where you find the 2014 Year Model Tundra 1794 Edition, the model that took its inspiration from horseback riding.

I would also like to recognize President and CEO of Toshiba International Corporation, Mr. Tatsuo Doko, because Toshiba which already employs over 2,000, mainly in the State of Texas, recently expanded its facilities demonstrating their commitment to this region. Please take a look at their products, the electric hybrid vehicle motor and smart grid system on the second floor.  In addition I mention that Kuraray; which produces specialty dental, fiber, resin, and elastomer products; broke ground on a factory in La Porte this year, adding 107 new employees.  

Thirdly: Space.  Japan has partnered with the U.S. on space development for several decades.  I was personally involved in the conclusion of the space station agreement in the 1980’s when the focus was on strengthening the western alliance vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. 

I would like to mention two exciting contributions more recently made by Japan: Japanese Astronaut Koichi Wakata, now in space on the International Space Station, will become the first Japanese and indeed the first Asian commander of the space station in March next year.  Another important contribution is found in the Japanese developed technology of the unmanned H-II transfer vehicle called Kounotori, or Oriental stork.  Kounotori is the only transport module with the capacity for large size cargo since the shuttle retired with an unbeatable safety record and full robotics to handle exposed cargo.  In Houston the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) continues its effective collaboration with NASA on this important mission.  I would like to recognize Mr. Junichi Sakai, JAXA Office Director, who is heading up this coordination and kindly displayed JAXA’s achievements on the 2nd floor.  I would also like to recognize astronauts Mr. Akihiko Hoshide and Mr, Takuya Onishi.

Finally, even on your way to our reception here tonight, you might have noticed one problem that arises from the booming economy found in this region: a transportation system that has been stretched to its limits.  I believe Japanese technology could be the solution. 

Before arriving here in Houston, I had the opportunity to meet with the Chairman of JR Central (Japanese Railway Company), Mr. Yoshiyuki Kasai.  Chairman Kasai is promoting the deployment of the Japanese bullet train technology worldwide.  He considers this region to be one of the most promising, not only because the connection between two great metropolitan areas (Houston and Dallas Fort Worth) falls in one state of Texas, but also considering Texas’s reputation as open to business defiant of regulations and bureaucratic red tape that often gets in the way in other parts of the world. 

JR Central is working closely to promote this epoch making project of high speed railway system here.  I would like to recognize the Honorable Robert Eckels, Judge and President of the Texas Central Railway; and Mr. Naoyuki Ueno, JR Central Washington DC office manager.

Please take this chance to find out more about high speed rail technology by visiting the JR Central display on the 2nd floor. 

In light of all these exciting developments there is still much work to be done and much room for further collaboration and partnership.  I am encouraged to see leadership from both countries, locally and nationally, actively pursuing the continuation of our special relationship.  Nationally I should note that Vice President Biden just visited Japan, and met with Prime Minister Abe the day before yesterday.  In addition to discussing the prospective Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to promote economic cooperation, the meeting was an opportunity to reaffirm the strong Japan-U.S. alliance.

On a more local scale, in our region I look forward to finding new ways to encourage and support the collaboration between Japan and America.  At this time I ask all of my Japanese colleagues present here tonight to double their efforts, because that is what you are here for.  Of our American friends in attendance I ask for your continued support and cooperation. 

I thank you all again for joining us in celebrating the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, and I wish you a very good evening with omotenashi, Japanese hospitality and washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine which was just added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list yesterday.

Thank you.