The Japan America Society of Minnesota (JASM) (of which I am a member), and the Minnesota International Center co-sponsored a luncheon where the ambassador spoke to a crowd of, oh, maybe a hundred or so at the Radisson hotel downtown. I sat next to Minami, a Japanese student studying at St. Thomas (and my Japanese tutor), a Japanese student studying at the U of M, two U.S.-American St. Thomas students, a JASM intern, and four older people (two of which were JASM members). We had a super classy lunch (some sort of mystery tofu/egg crossing, under delicious fish, with a corn/spinach/oil topping, and a crazy air-like cake for dessert), and then listened to the ambassador speak about U.S. - Japan relations.
The Ambassador touched on:
x How important a U.S. - Japan (and specifically, a Minnesota - Japan) relationship is. Did you know that out of Minnesota's two-hundred trading partners, Japan is number four?
x Issues the U.S. and Japan are facing together: Economic recovery, the challenges of emerging countries, and terrorism/nuclear non-proliferation.
The ambassador was a fun speaker. He was personable, and utilized silence well. He also had a slight British accent, which is probably because he's also served in London (as well as in Paris and Jakarta).
I understand the basics of U.S. - Japan relations (I read Japanese news almost daily), so what I took most from the luncheon was just how cool it felt to be a part of that room. I met Walter Mondale (former U.S. Vice President, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan), took not one, but two pictures with Ambassador Fujisaki (he was super friendly), and managed to scribble down some good quotes from the ambassador's speech:
"If you're told a tsunami [is coming], who would invest? Who would consume?"
-speaking about the recession and how scaring people only worsens the problem
"It's inevitable that everyone's coming up."
-with regard to emerging economies/developing countries like China, India, and Brazil
"[North Korea] is not abiding by the rules of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)...We can't let them go nuclear."
"This is my favorite chart. The reason is, I made it myself. Please like it."
-explaining the charts his aides passed out to us
"China will take over us soon."
-with regard to Japan's GDP
"We are not only exporting goods, we are exporting jobs."
-talking about how Japanese invest heavily in the U.S. in different ways
"English is the world language now."
-in response to the question, "Keeping in mind emergent nations, what do you suggest we do about language? What language skills should people acquire?" (paraphrased)
The picture's fuzzy, but here's us with Walter Mondale
And me with Ambassador Fujisaki!
This was seriously one of the best, and coolest, opportunities I've had as an Augsburg student. Well-respected political figures are my kind of celebrities, so needless to say, I had to frequently stifle schoolgirl giggles at the luncheon today. Thanks to Bryan Barnes, Carrie Carroll, and Undergraduate Admissions for helping me go!
And if you're interested in learning more about U.S. - Japan relations, read the Japan Times, or Asahi Shimbun, both of which are high-quality English language Japanese newspapers.