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 4, 2014

December 4, 2014

Distinguished Guests, Honorable Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you so much for joining us this evening.  My name is Nozomu Takaoka. I have been so privileged to serve as Consul-General of Japan in Houston for the past one year because, as I always say, this city produces an excellent combination and happy marriage of economic prosperity, cultural beauty and international diversity. This is my image of Houston and all of you tonight represent this beautiful tradition, led by Honorable Councilmen Mr. Richard Nguyen and Mr. Jack Christie.

The Honorable Mr. Christie accompanied Mayor Annise Parker’s visit to Japan this fall.  I truly admire her thoughtful initiative to strengthen the bilateral ties with Japan, as well as the other gracious visits to Japan that were paid by leaders in our region over the past few months; by Texas Governor Rick Perry, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere.

I am also glad to recently welcome my new Deputy Consul-General Mr. Iwasaki and new Director of JETRO office Mr. Kurokawa. With these new colleagues of mine, we look forward to promoting further exchanges between Japan and Texas and Oklahoma with valuable help from all of you.

His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan will turn 81 years old this month. This year also marks 160 years of Japan-U.S. diplomatic relations.  When President Obama visited Japan in April this historic year, His Majesty hosted a state banquet for him, and actively engaged in the enhancement of U.S-Japan relations.

As we are in December, this reception is an opportunity for me to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has done so much to promote this precious bilateral relationship between Japan and the U.S.  This is also a good opportunity to review what has happened in 2014.  We have seen many positive developments, which is a strong sign for bright future of Japan - Texas and Oklahoma relations.

In my view, there are three pillars that promise this bright future. I explained this conviction personally to Governor Mary Fallin and Governor Rick Perry when I paid courtesy calls to them, and both leaders have kindly agreed with me.  So I would like to share these with you tonight.

The first pillar is energy. Recently I attended two groundbreaking ceremonies celebrating the start of two mega projects, of more than 10 billion dollars and more than 3000 jobs each; the Cameron LNG Project and the Freeport LNG Project.

Both of them are big success stories realizing the first-ever export of American natural gas to Japan as early as 2017 and benefit both Japan and the U.S. Japan can fill the shortage of its lost power source after the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant incident. The U.S. can generate more revenue and more jobs using its increased production of natural gas, thanks to what is called the Shale Revolution. 

Moreover, in my view, these projects will also benefit the entire international community as Japan and the U.S. will cooperate in strengthening the free-market price mechanism in the global energy market. This is what I call the democratic energy alliance; between the world’s largest importer of LNG, Japan, and the world’s largest producer of natural gas, the U.S. I am happy to note that Texas and Oklahoma will occupy a central part of this alliance.

I would like to commend Japanese companies and their American partners in these great undertakings. Many of these companies’ representatives are with us tonight. From Mitsui we have Vice President Mr. Taichi Nagino; Mitsubishi General Manager Mr. Tadashi Takasugi; Mr. John Hoss, Chairman of Port Freeport; Osaka Gas USA President Mr. Hisashi Yoneyama; and of Chubu Electric USA, Director Mr. Keiji Shiraki.  We lack representation today, but Toshiba is also included.

The second pillar of our partnership is high technology.  The creation of a high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas would begin a new age of U.S. transportation, which currently based mostly on air and road travel.  This year, the project has made great leaps forward with the official launch of public meetings and safety studies. With the determination and professionalism of Texas Central Railroad and Japan Railway Central, represented by Mr. Naoyuki Ueno of the Washington office, as well as the understanding of the local community, I am convinced that the project will make significant further strides next year.

Another Japanese high technology I want to focus on is in the field of space.  From March to May this year, astronaut Mr. Koichi Wakata served as a commander of the International Space Station. He became both the first Japanese and Asian commander and is present with us this evening.

After the NASA shuttle retirement, this Space Station depends on a Japanese unmanned space vehicle, called Kounotori, for its transport to and from the earth.  This unmanned vehicle employs the unique technology of approaching within a 30 foot distance to the space station, and then is captured by a robotic arm mounted on the station’s exterior. This enables safe trips to the station which you can enjoy in the future if you are rich enough, thanks to the technology developed by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and represented by Houston Director Mr. Junichi Sakai. 

The last high technology involves decreasing CO2 emissions.  Three months ago I attended yet another groundbreaking ceremony of a post-combustion carbon capture-enhanced oil recovery project in Parish, the largest of its kind in the world. This project is financed by JX Nippon Oil Exploration and uses Japanese technology of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to capture more than 90% of unwanted CO2 emissions from a conventional power plant which then will be liquefied and injected it into a depleted West Ranch oilfield so that it produces oil again.  Good for environment and good for energy; therefore both Republicans and Democrats should like it.

The third pillar of this partnership is the strategic positioning of Texas and Oklahoma, occupying the center of the U.S.  As Japanese companies are shifting their strategy from exporting Japanese products to direct investment in the U.S., they are practically becoming an American company.  Therefore, more Japanese companies will flock to this strategic central location within America.  This is true of Toyota’s move to Plano, near Dallas, as well as Daikin’s acquisition of Goodman in Houston and opening offices of several Japanese companies in this region. This trend will gain momentum, leading our region to be a key player in the U.S.-Japan economic partnership.

We are glad to have two Toyota representatives tonight; President and CEO Mr. Osamu Nagata, who has recently arrived from Michigan for the relocation of Toyota’s headquarters; and San Antonio Corporate Advisor Mr. Kyogo Onoe who was kind enough to drive to Houston in the Toyota Tundra truck made in Texas that you all have seen out front again this year.

Before concluding, I should also recognize the honorable guests who traveled 200 miles from Dallas to attend this reception; Mr. John Stich, Japanese Honorary Consul there, and Principal Timothy Isaly, and those who braved 400 miles to graciously show their presence here; Mayor Dewey Bartlett of the City of Tulsa; Senator Randy Bass of the Oklahoma State Senate, and Japanese Honorary Consul, Lloyd Hardin.  I am thankful to the milder weather we are having tonight compared to last year, and hope that their journey was easier.  I am also glad to know Senator Bass will make his regular Christmas visit to Japan again this year to rekindle our memories of his great feat in Japanese baseball in the 1980s.

Before inviting our honorable guests to take the floor, I am glad to note that, built upon a foundation reflecting the prosperous and growing economy in this region, more and more Japanese people have relocated to Texas and Oklahoma, and they will enjoy the gracious hospitality of wonderful people like all of you.  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. Thank you.