Close ties between Japan and Michigan

Mitsuhiro Wada and Takashi Omitsu

The opening of the new permanent gallery of Japanese art at the Detroit Institute of Arts represents the latest example of the long-enjoyed special bond of shared achievements and friendship between the community of Japanese residents in Michigan and the citizens of the state.

Over many years, this strong and enduring connection has been growing and prospering. We feel sincere mutual respect and equally obligated to the community in which we live and work. One of the best examples of this was expressed when 36 corporate members of the Japan Business Society of Detroit, though still in their own recovery, contributed more than $3.2 million to the DIA toward the “Grand Bargain,” to help preserve and protect the art collection of the DIA.

Additionally, a quarter of the donation was designated for the reinstallation of the DIA’s Japanese art and the new Japanese Gallery. The Japanese business community was compelled to support the museum as they feel it is essential for the DIA to be indefinitely entrusted with the masterful works and exhibition of its carefully curated Japanese collection.

In 1974, when Michigan native Gerald Ford visited Japan — the first U.S. president to ever do so — he spoke of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and promoting economic ties. Today, Japan remains a leading foreign investor in the industrial Midwest and Michigan. Five hundred Japanese companies provide more than 40,000 well-paying jobs for the Michigan economy. Michigan business leaders, including Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, continue productive discussions about future economic relations and cooperation between Japan and Michigan. Japan is in the top five foreign importers of goods from Michigan.

Most importantly, the friendship and understanding between our communities continue to grow deeper and broader. Twenty-seven Michigan cities enjoy sister city relationships with Japan, along with two friendship cities, a friendship library, and the Michigan-Shiga sister state/prefecture relationship.

Especially encouraging, this state’s young people are embracing an exploration of other cultures and nations, including Japan. Many of Michigan’s universities, community colleges and K-12 programs have exceptional Japanese language and culture programs, including opportunities for study and work-study abroad programs. Also, Japanese students studying in Michigan universities contribute $12 million annually to Michigan’s economy.

Our economic, academic, cultural and grass-roots ties bind Michigan and Japan closely. And our common goals of friendship and prosperity will continue to inspire and benefit us.

Mitsuhiro Wada is consul general of Japan in Detroit. Takashi Omitsu is executive adviser to IMRA America Inc. and the Japan Business Society of Detroit.