February 27, 2016 Vol. 12, No. 3

· Taste of Japan Honorary Award

· Ambassador Sasae's Trip to Texas

· DCM Izumi and RADM Sekiguchi Visit The Marine Corps War College

· Japan Foundation Grant Presentation to Falls Church High School

· Conferral of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun upon Secretary Baker

Taste of Japan Honorary Award

Japanese cuisine has continued to grow in popularity across the U.S. in recent years, stewarded by skilled chefs and restaurateurs who have introduced both modern and traditional Japanese ingredients to hungry diners. The Taste of Japan Honorary award, recently awarded by selection committees comprised of prominent figures in food and cultural professional circles in Washington DC, Chicago, and Silicon Valley, recognizes chefs who have contributed to the awareness of Japanese cuisine in those cities. The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine is reflected of Japanese restaurants: over 89,000 restaurants worldwide and 22,000 in the US alone.

The Washington DC awards event, held at the Residence of the Ambassador of Japan, Ken-Ichiro Sasae, honored two local chefs: Chef Eric Ziebold of Kinship and M├ętier, and Chef Nobu Yamazaki of Sushi taro. The evening included a panel forum, which gave audience members a chance to learn more how both chefs use Japanese ingredients at their restaurants, and a tasting that gave guests a chance try dishes from both chefs.

At an event that included Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado of the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, the Chicago award was given to Chef Mark Hellyar of Momotaro, which was recently named the top Japanese food restaurant in that city by TimeOut Chicago. The Silicon Valley ceremony was attended by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco's Consul General Jun Yamada, where the Honorary Award was given to Chef Toshio Sakuma, known in the area as one of Steve Job's favorite chefs, who now brings Japanese cuisine to Apple employees directly at their headquarters.

Ambassador Sasae's Trip to Texas

While Washington D.C. was quiet last week, Ambassador Sasae was busy on a whirlwind tour of Texas, making stops in 4 cities - Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Laredo - in just 4 days. During the trip he met many people who were helping the Japan-Texas relationship, including Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congressman Henry Cuellar, Mayor of Fort Worth Betsy Price, and Mayor of Arlington Jeff Williams.

Congressman Castro (Co-chair of the US-Japan Congressional Caucus) invited Ambassador Sasae to visit Tafolla Middle School, which Congressman Castro had attended. The school has a Japanese language program, where the Ambassador talked about how good it is for Eastern and Western cultures to learn about each other. In Laredo, the Ambassador attended the Caballeros Cocktail Party, hosted by the 119th Washington's Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA Laredo), where he met with Congressman Cuellar.

Ambassador Sasae also attended the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth luncheon in Dallas, where he talked about the importance of TPP for Texas. The state already exports 54% of its goods to TPP countries, and TPP would lower or eliminate tariffs on those goods. Ambassador Sasae also emphasized that the benefits of TPP extend not just to large businesses, but to small and medium-sized enterprises as well.

DCM Izumi and RADM Sekiguchi Visit The Marine Corps War College

Deputy Chief of Mission Izumi and Rear Admiral Sekiguchi truly enjoyed their discussion last week with the Marine Corps War College class of 2016. Dr. Yung, a very good friend of DCM Izumi, invited him to Professor Morgan's class where they shared a fruitful discussion about broad Asian Pacific issues with 30 students including individuals from each service of the US Forces and additional agencies.

The students had many questions for DCM Izumi, and by the end of the discussion, participants from both sides left with expanded views and broader knowledge on a variety of topics. After the discussion, War College students presented a very thoughtful and handsome hat that reads 'U.S. Marine Corps' as a gift to DCM Izumi, capping off a very positive experience for everyone.

Japan Foundation Grant Presentation to Falls Church High School

Learning another language broadens one's horizons, giving one a more nuanced appreciation of other cultures and peoples. Minister for Communications and Cultural Affairs Tsukada recently visited Falls Church High School in Fairfax County, Virginia which provides Japanese language classes and cultural activities, in order to present the school with a $30,000 grant on behalf of the Japan Foundation to support the Japanese program during the 2015-2016 school year.

During the grant-giving ceremony, Minister Tsukada stated that learning a language like Japanese "opens up a whole other world and culture to you whose experiences might be very different from your own. It builds bridges between Japan and the United States and only strengthens the friendship between us." The grant will enable the school to continue to thrive and broaden its outreach, attracting even more interest in its Japanese language classes and cultural activities.

Following the ceremony, Julia Ford, School Program Coordinator at the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan, engaged the gathered Falls Church High School students in a presentation about Japan, which gave students a chance to show off their impressive knowledge of Japanese language and culture.

Conferral of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun upon Secretary Baker

"I am proud of my role in nurturing the 70-year bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan, one that is of utmost importance to both countries," remarked former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III.

Ambassador Sasae hosted a reception last week to celebrate the conferral of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun upon Secretary Baker. On behalf of Secretary Baker's friends, family and colleagues, Mr. Robert Zoellick raised a toast to the Secretary's many accomplishments, including his contributions to strengthening friendship and understanding between Japan and the US. Ambassador Sasae praised Secretary Baker's foresight and insight in calling for "a new Pacific partnership" and a broader international role for Japan in the 1980s, noting that "what he called for almost 20 years ago is what Prime Minister Abe has been working so hard to bring about."

After the ceremony, Secretary Baker said, "It was a tremendous honor for me to receive the Order of the Rising Sun, and to join previous winners such as General Douglas MacArthur, Sir John Major and Masaru Ibuka." He further praised the intimate gathering as "a rare combination of dignity, elegance and informality."