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 15, 2015

December 15, 2015

Thank you so much for joining us this evening.  My name is Nozomu Takaoka and I have been so privileged to serve as Consul-General of Japan in Houston for the past two years and two months. I was fortunate enough to benefit from Houston’s excellent hospitality, the esteemed friendship from all those in attendance this evening, and strong relations between Japan, the United States and Houston.

I am grateful for the presence of so many honorable guests, colleagues and friends, including Texas House of Representatives Hubert Vo, and Harris County Judge Emmett.  Governor Greg Abbott, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and Mayor Annise Parker were also kind enough to send their proclamation of support, with Mayor Parker’s being delivered by Ms. Deanea LeFlore, Executive Director of the Houston Office of Protocol. I have also sent congratulatory message to the Honorable Sylvester Turner and looking forward to further development in our bilateral ties.

 I must admit that I have enjoyed Houston the most out of my seven diplomatic posts so far, not only because of its warm and humid climate similar to Tokyo’s, but also thanks to Houston’s positive, dynamic and unique situations.  I have always referred to what I found as an incredible combination and happy marriage of three elements which characterize Houston; economic prosperity, cultural beauty and international diversity. I respect all of you, playing a great part in this positive Houstonian process and I wanted to make sure that Japan was a significant part of this.

There is another set of positive three elements I have been so happy to find are the driving forces for the forthcoming decades in our bilateral relations between Japan and Houston, Texas, Oklahoma and the U.S.

The first driving force is energy. The United States is now the planet’s number one oil and gas producer and Japan is by far the number one importer of LNG, which the U.S. is now starting to export. I am glad to witness this natural link of a great exporter and importer. What I call a Democratic Energy Alliance has developed in a big way, right here in Houston, when I attended two groundbreaking ceremonies, these two 10 billion dollars projects with more than 3000 jobs each; the Cameron LNG and the Freeport LNG Project. I would like to commend all related company and political leaders who have helped realize these epoch-making ventures.

The second driving force is the geographic centrality of this region within the United States. As Japanese companies are shifting their strategy from exporting Japanese products to direct investment in the U.S., they are practically becoming American companies.  Therefore, more Japanese companies will flock to this strategic central location within America.  This is true of Toyota’s move to Plano and has been followed by other Japanese companies. In aviation, in June this year ANA began a daily direct flight from Houston, and Japan Airlines began their direct flight from Dallas two weeks ago.

The third driving force is high technology. The creation of a high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas would be a game changer in the U.S. transportation system.  With the creation of Texas Central Partners, efforts to raise private fund made a steady progress, with the support from JOIN and JBIC. With the determination and professionalism of Texas Central Railways and Japan Railway Central, as well as the understanding of the political leaders and local communities, I am convinced that the project will make significant further strides.

Japanese technology has also contributed to the well-being of inhabitants currently up in space. After two consecutive failures by other nations to supply the International Space Station with food and scientific equipment, a Japanese unmanned space vehicle, called Kounotori, has successfully completed this much needed delivery last May, administered by Japanese astronaut Yui in the ISS and astronaut Wakata commanding the operation from Johnson Space Center. I am sure that this Japan- US Space cooperation based in Houston will continue for decades to come.

Last month, I met with Governor Greg Abbott in Austin and reaffirmed our long term expectations that these three driving forces will continue to promote our bilateral relations.  I was very fortunate that I have shared the same sentiments with Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, Mayor Mike Rawlings Dallas, Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth and Mayor Dewey Bartlett of Tulsa as well as parliamentary members of the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures and City Counsils..

Looking back on the two years I have spent with you all, I am truly grateful for all the kindness that has been shown to us each day in Houston, including the staff members of the Consulate assisting me in their own capacity, such as  with foods, reception, settings, photographs and parking; florist Yoshi who has graciously decorated our house for every important events including today; kimono helpers who wrapped my wife in beautiful Japanese ways; and lastly to my wife Yumi for managing the kitchen and the house, as well as reaching out to the beautiful ladies in Houston, in which I am shy and not good at.

Lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude, as well as my deepest wishes for the continued prosperity of Houston, for all of Texans’ and Oklahomans’ personal happiness, and the continued success for our friendship. I thank you all again for everything you have kindly done for us and for joining us in celebrating the 82nd birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. I wish you a very good evening and a happy new year.