A delegation of diverse speakers from Japan, led by former Ambassador of Japan to Brazil Ken Shimanouchi, made their way from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego in mid-February for short, friendly presentations to community audiences.
Arriving in San Diego on Valentine's Day, Amb. Shimanouchi and the group first stopped at the Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego, where a few cherry blossoms were also making first appearances. They spoke at a program billed "An Evening on Japan" to members of the Garden and others curious about this unique slate of speakers – which included a former defense intelligence director and 7th-dan iaido practitioner (Dr. Fumio Ota), a young international businesswoman (Megumi Inoue), and a college junior in political science (Yui Ozaki). Guests, who had battled San Diego’s rain-flooded streets to come, heard these four tell their stories about Japan or how the Japan-U.S. friendship meant something to them personally. Cameras lined the back when Dr. Ota demonstrated Japanese swordsmanship – iaido – then gave way to chopsticks and chatting to end the evening.
The next morning, delegates addressed a full hall of San Diego State University students and faculty members in a visit organized by SDSU professor Yoshiko Higurashi. Ms. Ozaki, about the same age as many in the audience, described her emotional experience of being comforted by American friends after the Great East Japan Earthquake and disasters of March 11, 2011: the kindness of her then junior-high friends marks for her the tangible people-to-people benefit of the Japan-U.S. friendship. Attendees listened to topics ranging from robot clerks to geopolitics, to how American and Japanese business people can avoid misunderstanding "yeses" and "noes." They, too, saw and heard the clean swish of sword slicing air during another demonstration of iaido by Dr. Ota. The delegation turned back toward home after a visit with the U.S. Navy and a lively dinner hosted by Honorary Consul in San Diego Kate Leonard.
Walk in U.S., Talk in Japan is sponsored by the Prime Minister's Office of Japan, assisted by Japanese overseas missions such as the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, and hosted on individual occasions by local organizations. Since the program's inception in 2014, more than 20 delegations have visited 37 states. Delegations, comprised of speakers from various walks of life, set out to engage a wide range of participants in grassroots exchange.
For more information on Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan, please visit https://www.japan.go.jp/walkinus/.
Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan: Dr. Fumio Ota demonstrates iaido at San Diego State University