Judge Raymond Uno, Ogden native, introduces five speakers from the Japanese Foreign Ministry. (Photo by Keela Disterhaft / The Signpost)

On Thursday night Weber State was visited by the Japanese ministry. Their mission was to highlight the culture of Japan and to learn more from people here in Utah.

Ken Shimanouchi, a former ambassador to Spain and Brazil, introduced the group that came to speak at Weber. He states that they were all private individuals who decided to take part in the “Walk in U.S., Talk in Japan” coalition. They had the support of the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to come to America and speak their mind.

“We have an [interest] in a strong commitment to the Japan and U.S. relationship even stronger and better,” Shimanouchi said.

Shimanouchi cleared rumors that there was a rise of militarism in Japan. He explained that this information was false. Security arrangements in Japan are a combined effort between Japan and the United States.

There was a diverse group among the Japanese ministry. Akemi Takayama, former employee at the Bank of Tokyo, presented information on Japan and its harmony with nature. She was fired from her job when she was 50-years old and questioned what she had done wrong. She soon found herself going on the Shikoku pilgrimage, which is about 750 miles long, where she would walk 17 miles a day by herself.

Ken Shimanouchi, former ambassador to Spain and Brazil, speaks at a visit to Weber State University by the foreign ministry of Japan Nov. 12, 2015.
Ken Shimanouchi, former ambassador to Spain and Brazil, speaks at a visit to Weber State University by the foreign ministry of Japan Nov. 12, 2015.

“I deeply felt my connection to nature through this pilgrimage,” Takayama said. “I felt like life had been given to me from nature.”

Takayama also described traditional Japanese houses like the one she grew up in. Although she lives in a condominium, she often likes to visit her childhood home so that she can feel closer to nature. She lists many things in Japanese culture that have been influenced by nature like haikus, painting and music.

Seeing the world was Norimichi Hayashi’s focus during his presentation. He shared his experience of coming to America, 50 years ago, when he was 18-years old and living with a host family in New Jersey. The only experience he had with America prior to his visit was what he saw on television.

“To my surprise they were just normal people. [They were] just people with warm hearts,” Hayashi said.

He is still in contact with his American family that hosted him years ago. They have even taken many trips to meet each other as their families grow. Hayashi believes that in order to accept another person, one must meet them. After his visit to America, he explains that the U.S. is not a faraway country as he once thought.

Note: This story was updated to correct the captions. Ken Shimanouchi was misidentified in a photo in the previous version.




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