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NDTO News Article

Japanese Ambassador Visits North Dakota July 31

Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki, spent one full day in North Dakota on July 31 and brought laughter, praise and wishes for strengthened relationships between the state and Japan.  Ambassador Fujisaki began his day in Bismarck where he met with Gov. Dalrymple, then traveled to Grand Forks where he made a public presentation at the University of North Dakota.  The culmination was a community welcome held at the Grand Forks Japanese Gardens, hosted by Mayor Mike Brown.

Ambassador Fujisaki said Japan sees North Dakota as a top supplier of food products, including soybeans, corn and wheat.  Currently, the Red River Valley region supplies over 65 percent of all the soybeans used in the production of natto in Japan.

A major point of concern for the Ambassador, however, is current issues related to beef imports into Japan.  When the U.S. discovered cases of BSE – or mad cow disease – in late April, 2012, Japan dramatically tightened restrictions on beef cattle imported from the U.S.  With concerns about BSE waning, Japan is considering loosening restrictions on beef imports, opening its markets to more U.S. exports.

The Ambassador said he had taken note of North Dakota’s growing success and was impressed with the state’s growing wealth and unemployment rate below 3 percent.  Because of this stability, the Ambassador said he sees possibility for collaboration with North Dakota.

The Ambassador also touted Japan’s accomplishments saying Japan leads the world with $3.1 trillion in net external assets.  According to the Ambassador, 82 percent of Japanese feel an affinity towards the U.S., which means great investment and partnership opportunities between the two countries.

In Grand Forks, Ambassador Fujisaki made a public presentation to a group of approximately 80 at the University of North Dakota.  Attendees included local business leaders and government officials as well as approximately 50 Japanese students from Tokai University in Japan, who are a part of a student exchange program with  UND’s Aerospace Foundation which allows them to live in Grand Forks for 16 months and become pilots through UND’s world-class aviation program.  Upon the completion of the fixed-wing training program, the Tokai students leave with both Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Japan Civial Aviation Bureau (JCAB) certificates.  Since the program’s conception, UND has hosted a new class of forty-plus Tokai students each April.

Beyond business, there was a warm reception for Ambassador Fujisaki in North Dakota, and vice-versa.

On two occasions the Ambassador surprised his audience by singing Woody Guthrie’s folk tune, ‘Red River Valley’ – first at a meeting with Gov. Dalrymple, then during a live interview on WDAZ TV in Grand Forks.  Ambassador Fujisaki’s openness to North Dakota was reciprocated, and the Ambassador said he hopes to visit our state again in the future.

The North Dakota Trade Office plans to visit Japan in 2013.