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Ex-U.S. envoy John Roos among Japan’s spring decorations recipients

TOKYO — Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos is one of the 112 foreigners recognized in this year’s spring decorations for their notable contributions to relations with Japan, the government said Friday.


Roos, who served in the post from 2009 to 2013, will be among those receiving the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, the highest honor to be given to foreign nationals in this spring’s commendations.


The 67-year-old told Kyodo News he was “deeply honored” by the recognition and wanted to thank the Japanese people for the “amazing years” he spent there.


Roos was the first U.S. representative to attend the annual ceremony in Hiroshima in 2010 to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing by the United States at the end of World War II. This eventually led to the historic visit by then-President Barack Obama six years later.


Speaking of that time, Roos said he felt that the two countries “continue to hold a special position in attempting to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth,” an objective also sought by Obama.


Roos’ tenure was also marked by the 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

As the ambassador, he was at the forefront of “Operation Tomodachi,” a rescue and relief operation jointly carried out by the U.S. military and Japan’s Self Defense Forces, which came to symbolize the bilateral alliance.


“When you have the bond that our two countries have, it wasn’t a difficult decision to do everything we could to address the crisis,” he said.


The foreign recipients, from 59 countries and regions, include Abbas Araghchi, who served as Iran’s ambassador to Japan from 2008 to 2011. He will be conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.


“I did my best to promote the relationship between Iran and Japan. I am extremely happy,” he said.


Araghchi, 59, played a major role when then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran’s capital Tehran and then Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Japan, both in 2019.


His embassy also aided the Japanese people in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster, for example serving Iranian dishes to people in Iwate Prefecture.


Among 4,034 Japanese nationals to be decorated, 453 are women, the highest number since the honors system was reformed in 2003. A total of 1,862 recipients come from the private sector.


Bunmei Ibuki, 84, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, will be conferred the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, the highest honor in this spring commendations.


Makiko Tanaka, 78, Japan’s first female foreign minister and daughter of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, will be one of the 11 recipients of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.


Award-winning actress Kaori Momoi, 71, who had a role in Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs of a Geisha,” will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.


Honorees for industry promotion include Kenji Fujiyoshi, 78, former president of Mitsui Chemicals Inc. He will get the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.


The award ceremony will be held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 10.


[The following is a list of American recipients of the spring decorations. It was compiled by JMH based on the list published on page 19 of the Asahi Shimbun morning edition on April 29, 2022.]


The Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun 

  • John Victor Roos, former Ambassador of the United States to Japan (67 years old)


The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star 

  • Wendy Cutler, former Acting Deputy United States Trade Representative (65)
  • John Wright Hickenlooper Jr., former Governor of State of Colorado (70)
  • Philip N. Bredesen, former Governor of Tennessee (78)


The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon 

  • Michael Paul Winkler, former Vice Commander of 5th Air Force (52)
  • Joel L. Carey, former Commander of 18th Wing (52)
  • Paige Cottingham-Streater, Executive Director of the Japan United States Friendship Commission and Secretary-General of the United States-Japan Conference on Cultural & Educational Interchange (60)
  • Laurence Richard Kominz, Professor of Japanese Language and Literature, Department of World Languages and Literatures, Portland State University (70)
  • Arthur Katsumi Taniguchi, Honorary Consul of Japan at Hilo (70)
  • T.J. Pempel, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley (79)


The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette 

  • Thomas Vernon Easterday, former President, the Japan-America Society of Indiana (66)


The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays 

  • J. Bernard Henry Van Lierop, former Executive Director of the Japan America Society of Minnesota (75)
  • Lori Lei Matsukawa, former KING-TV News Anchor (65)


The Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays 

  • Takeshi Furumoto, Honorary Chairman of New York Hiroshima-Kai (77)
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