I often wonder how familiar the Japanese people are with the State of Indiana. Those familiar with the state are perhaps Indianapolis 500 automobile race fans. Coincidently, a Japanese driver, Takuma Sato, won the Indy500 race this year.
I think Indiana is the most pro-Japanese state among the 50 U.S. states. The reason is simple: many Japanese companies have moved there and employ countless Americans. Subaru was first, followed by Toyota and Honda, which lured many automobile parts manufacturers to set up businesses across Indiana.
There are Japan-America Societies all across the U.S. Their core members visited Japan after WWII, were fascinated by Japanese culture, and worked to promote exchanges between our two nations after returning to the U.S. Meanwhile, Indiana’s Japan-America society was founded in the ‘80s during the height of Japanese firms’ advancement into the U.S. and has been growing alongside Japanese businesses as an organization in the new era. I was very encouraged by its vibrant activities when I was invited to speak at one of its annual banquets.
Although there were concerns of resurgent trade conflicts when the Trump administration came into power, it was decided that Deputy Prime Minister Aso and Vice President Pence would address the matter in the Japan-U.S. economic dialogue. It just so happens that Vice President Pence, who previously held the position of Governor of Indiana, has visited Japan and knows firsthand how Japanese investments have contributed to creating American jobs. This firsthand knowledge is extremely advantageous for bilateral relations. I hope Deputy Prime Minister Aso and Vice President Pence can together visit some Japanese companies operating in the U.S. to showcase their contributions to the American public.