Hiroyuki Kobayashi, consul general of Japan in Nashville, gave a public lecture on US–Japan relations at UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy this past Tuesday.
The event was organized by the Japanese program in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures and was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Asian Studies program, and the Center for International Education.
In his lecture, Kobayashi discussed several points of connection between the United States and Japan, including support for human rights and democratic institutions, promotion of political and economic freedom, and the desire for stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Kobayashi also emphasized several reasons Tennessee plays an important role in the two countries’ relationship.
“Much like the Japanese concept of omotenashi, Tennessee has a Southern hospitality that makes it a great state for Japanese businesses and people,” Kobayashi said.
The Japanese consulate was established in Nashville in 2008 and oversees United States–Japan relations for Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The consulate manages political, economic, and cultural affairs between Japan and the region, and handles consular issues such as securing a passport or visa for travel.
The Nashville consulate is one of 14 Japanese consulates in the US.
During his lecture, Kobayashi cited several strong points detailing the Japanese connection with Tennessee.
- Merchandise exports—There are $1.7 billion in merchandise exports from Tennessee to Japan, behind only Canada, Mexico, and China.
- Foreign direct investment—Over the years, Japan has invested $17.8 billion in Tennessee, far ahead of the next two countries: Germany ($5.5 billion) and Canada ($2.4 billion).
- Japanese businesses—There are currently 193 Japanese-owned businesses in the state. Some of the major businesses operating in East Tennessee include Denso, Yamaha, Komatsu, and SumiRiko.
- Political leadership—The current US ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, is a businessman from Tennessee. The late Senator Howard Baker, the UT alumnus for whom the Baker Center is named, served as ambassador from 2001 to 2005.
- Teacher training—Through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, more than 34,000 Americans teach in Japanese schools. UT alumni account for dozens of these placements, particularly as English language instructors.
- Sister cities—Japan has a handful of sister cities across Tennessee. Nashville’s sister city relationship with Kamakura was established in 2014, while Knoxville’s sister city connection to Muroran, an industrial port city on Japan’s northernmost island, dates back to 1991.
- Day schools—As a means of maintaining and promoting Japanese culture abroad, Japanese Saturday schools exist throughout the United States. Tennessee has three schools—in Maryville, Murfreesboro, and Memphis—with total enrollment of nearly 350 students.
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