WASHINGTON — Despite the demanding schedule for newly arrived heads of diplomatic missions of a major country, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae visited the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism on Nov. 21, within one week of his arrival in Washington, D.C.
He paid his respects to the Nisei who died in U.S. military service during World War II and to the 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated in internment camps. The memorial, maintained by the National Park Service and located just one block from the U.S. Capitol, is a legacy of the Japanese Americans who served their nation in combat and endured hardships on the home front.
Washington observers perceive Sasae’s visit as an indication of his strong commitment to continue to build on the sound relationship between the government and people of Japan and Japanese Americans.
The ambassador laid a floral wreath at the Heroes Wall on which the names of more than 800 Japanese Americans who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces during World War II are inscribed. He also paused at the names of each of the ten internment camps and read the description of the memorial and quotations that are inscribed on the granite walls.
Dr. Ray Murakami, former board chairman of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, and his wife, Mary, were invited to brief the ambassador on the background of the memorial and life in the camps. They also briefed the ambassador on Nisei who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service, as well as on the roles of various organizations, such as the Japanese American Veterans Association, that have been instrumental in publicizing the Japanese American story.
During the discussion, Sasae asked a number of penetrating questions indicating his considerable knowledge of the history of Japanese Americans.
Sasae appeared to be visibly moved by his visit to the memorial. He assured the Japanese American community that he will do his utmost to pursue the goals of his government and the U.S.-Japan Council, chaired by Irene Hirano Inouye, and to continue to strengthen and deepen the Japan-Nikkei relationship.
Sasae, 61, graduated from Tokyo University in March 1974, when he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). His first diplomatic assignment was to Washington, D.C., and he also served in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. He held key positions at MOFA, including vice minister for foreign affairs for two years.