President Ichiro Fujisaki
Ambassador Okawara passed away on the 29th of March. He was 99 years old. The funeral service was held by his immediate family members. After retiring from the government as the Ambassador to the United States, he took posts such as the Advisor to the Keidanren (Japan Federation of Economic Organizations) or the President of the Institute for International Studies. Meanwhile he served as the President of America-Japan Society for 18years. The longest in our more than 100years history. During his term, he worked hard to fortify network among America-Japan Societies in Japan and our relations with Japan Societies in the United States.
As he was 26 years ahead of me in the Foreign Ministry, I have not actually worked with him. I was just looking upon him from below as such a refined and dignified diplomat. I have never dreamed that one day I will be his immediate successor. I have two stories to tell.
The first is when I was chosen at the general assembly in 2013 to become the President of this Society after him, Ambassador Okawara said to me “It’s a great society. Please take good care of it. I will count on you.” I thought he truly loved this society. The Ambassador attended almost all of our monthly meetings thereafter.
The second is regarding the centennial anniversary in 2017. As all of you know, it turned out to be a great success. The Emperor and the Empress honored us with their presence at the commemorative ceremony as well as the reception. Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe, Foreign Minister and Mrs. Kishida, Honorary Chairman of Keidanren and Mrs. Toyoda, Chairman of Keidanren Mr. Sakakibara, representatives of many America-Japan Societies in Japan and Japan Societies of the United States participated as well. Also we are successfully launching several future-oriented projects. In 2014 and 2015, I was taking time pondering what to do for the centennial. One of those days in 2015, Ambassador Okawara came up and asked me how was the situation regarding the preparation. I answered that I am considering many possibilities. He said “But two years is just there you know.” His facial expression was such as to say “Young man, do you know what you are saying? Get started right away!” I again thought he loved our society so deeply.
Ambassador Okawara please warmly continue to guide us from heaven. Our hearts are with Mrs.Okawara and other members of the bereaved family.