Fifty years of friendly relations

A Japanese economist, soldier and journalist came together at the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Monday to discuss Japanese-American relations.

The visiting dignitaries, which included Japanese editorial writer Keiko Chino, Lt. Col. Riichi Furugaki of the Japanese military and economist Takashi Kiuchi, are members of an initiative known as A50, in which the ?A? stands for appreciating America and the 50 represents both the 50 states and the 50 years of friendship between the United States and Japan. The initiative was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the San Fransisco Peace Treaty on Sept. 8, 1951, which formally ended World War II and to express appreciation to the United States for aid in rebuilding postwar Japan.

Mark Orr, director for the Florida Japan Institute, said the dignitaries hope to show their gratitude while bringing up important issues which affect relations between the United States and Japan in today?s world.

?I am very pleased the Japanese people have taken the initiative to commemorate the signing of the peace treaty and to use this occasion to express their gratitude and appreciation for our assistance during the entire postwar period,? Orr said.

He said the Japanese are appreciative of the security arrangement between the United States and Japan, and want to reaffirm this friendship for the long-range future.

Orr said the Emperor of Japan surrendered to the United States on Aug. 15, 1945. This began six years of Japanese occupation by American forces. It was during this time the United States aided Japan to help the nation rebuild both structurally and economically.

The peace treaty, which A50 commemorates ended the war and returned sovereignty to Japan, started the 50 years of friendly relationships between the two countries that continue today.

Kiuchi is an economic adviser to a Japanese bank and studied in Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s. He has since traveled to the United States several times. He said he is very appreciative of the friendships he?s made and for the opportunity to become an economist, which he said he owes to United States efforts.

?(The efforts) laid a very good foundation for postwar Japan,? Kiuchi said. ?We agreed we should demonstrate that we are grateful for this role the United States played for Japan.?

Kiuchi said besides Tampa, this A50 group will visit West Palm Beach and another delegation will visit Pensacola. He said his group will travel to 14 other states. The hope, he said, is to start a dialogue about world relationships throughout the United States.

?When we explain this grassroots dialogue, the relationship should not be limited to Tokyo and Washington, D.C.? Kiuchi said. ?It is an extra effort on our part to reach out to the rest of the nation.?

Furugaki is a lieutenant colonel with the Japan Defense Agency for which he has served for 20 years. He said he joined A50 to answer public questions about the security relationships between the United States and Japan.

?Unlike the United Kingdom, the U.S.-Japan relationship is more difficult to maintain with continuous effort,? he said. ?I?m very happy to take the opportunity to explain these public questions.?

The A50 tour began Friday with celebrations in both Tokyo and San Fransisco. Kiuchi said the celebration in San Fransisco included Secretary of State Colin Powell. The tour includes 45 Japanese citizens in groups of three members each, which will cover all fifty states.

Kiuchi said the name of the tour explains its purpose.

?The name A50 stands for appreciation of America,? Kiuchi said.

Contact Rob Brannonat