Remarks by Consul General Yoichiro Yamada at Reception for Nisei Veterans (September 30, 2017)

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to begin by thanking you for accepting the invitation to come to the Official Residence of Japan in Seattle today. It is significant that our Consulate could at last host a reception for the Nisei Veterans in this house. I would like to thank Mr. Bryan Takeuchi, President of NVC, for his leadership in making this event possible. I thank Mr. Dale Kaku, who arranged and coordinated the participation of the members and families for this reception. I would like to pay particular tribute to the Nisei Veterans from World War II, Tosh Okamoto, Tosh Tokunaga, Frank Nishimura, and Ed Horikawa.

I must confess that I had not known much about the turbulent history of Japanese Americans until I came to Seattle four months ago. I had read about their forced incarceration, about anti-Japanese immigration law, but my knowledge was superficial. As I met many people in Seattle, I heard from many about the contributions made by the Japanese Americans, and about the hardships and sufferings as well as the bravery and heroic deeds of the Nisei soldiers. The more I read and learned, the more vivid your struggle was felt, and the more I was impressed: I was impressed by your contributions, not just to your country, the United States, but to the trust and friendship we enjoy today between Japan and the US.

On September 2nd, I attended the 75th Remembrance event at the Puyallup Assembly Center. The event was touching. It was an occasion to remember the tragic, unjust chapter of history to prevent similar things from happening again. There were episodes told superbly by Mr. Tom Ikeda of Densho. There were moments of thanking the good American neighbors for defending the names of Japanese Americans and protecting their properties. Throughout the event, there were no recriminations, nor grudges heard. Instead, what I saw were forward-looking attitudes and pledges. I felt my eyes fill with tears, for I felt deeply proud that I share blood and roots with you.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Group and the 100th Infantry Battalion fought bravely in Europe. The Military Intelligence Service provided valuable service to the US Army during the war and occupation. The loyalty, bravery and sacrifices of these men garnered trust and respect in the United States. After the war, the once-incarcerated Japanese Americans worked hard to rebuild their lives and abolish laws that still discriminated against them. Yes, Japan owes the excellent relationship with the United States today to the great attitude of the Japanese Americans before, during and after the war. Your contributions to your country have made an alliance possible between former bitter enemies.

Today, Japan and the US are not just friends, but true partners in every sense. Our military alliance is not just protecting our lives, but also our common values, the principles and institutions that ensure freedom and fairness in our society. The Nisei Veterans are embodiments of the fact that the universal human values and principles have been won and realized through hard struggle and sacrifice throughout history, including tragic wars.
I conclude by once again thanking all of you for attending today’s event. Thank you for being a bright bridge between our two countries. We honor your contributions today, and always.