Rafu Staff Report
In what could be the first of similar promotional initiatives, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Miyazaki Prefecture on Aug. 4 inked a year-long pact that will see the JACCC promote the food and culture of the southern Japanese state.
“We’re pleased to launch this very special partnership together with Miyazaki Prefecture,” said JACCC President and CEO Leslie Ito, who participated in a signing ceremony with Miyazaki Gov. Shunji Kono.
Kono said he hoped that the agreement will “provide a stronger bond between the U.S. and Miyazaki, and the U.S. and Japan.” He noted that while Miyazaki has created similar promotional relationships with business-related and academic entities, this agreement is its first with a cultural organization located in a foreign country.
It’s also a first for the JACCC, but Ito noted that if pact works well, the door could open in the future to work with other Japanese prefectures in a similar manner.
“As many of you know, the JACCC also extends its reach beyond just the Nikkei community,” Ito said. “People from Southern California come to JACCC because they love Japan and are interested in the culture, and … I think that will be helpful also in the promotion of the region, as well as the products that come out of that region.”
Ito was referring to agricultural products from Miyazaki, including wagyu beef, shochu (an alcoholic beverage) and green tea, as well as items like the bows used in kyudo (Japanese archery) — Miyazaki in renowned in Japan for the wood grown in the region that is used for that purpose. The goal is also to promote tourism and cultural exchanges, Ito said.
Later that day, the JACCC hosted a Miyazaki-grown tea-tasting event, related to the JACCC’s new Culinary Cultural Center initiative, which was launched to help increase awareness of Japanese cuisine and teach Japanese cooking, food, and food preparation techniques. (See the YouTube video at http://tinyurl.com/ycan6y47)
The pact between JACCC and Miyazaki was helped by Keiichi Nishimoto, chief executive director of the Los Angeles office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). According to Ito, Kono and his team visited the JACCC in February, which laid the groundwork for the agreement.
Since this is a first for the JACCC, it remains to be seen whether more promotional agreements will arise between it and other Japanese prefectures. “I have a strong desire and passion to expose JACCC audiences to Japan’s distinctive cultures, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and every place in between,” Ito said.
Ito added that she looks at this agreement with Miyazaki as a “win-win-win situation” for Japanese Americans who may not know they have familial ties to Miyazaki, with younger Japanese Americans becoming inspired to examine their roots. She said that in the future, she would also like to take Japanese American artists to Japan.
“For me, it’s not just product promotion,” Ito added. “It’s also the cultural ties, what can we learn, what are the cultural riches of these regions and how can we use the JACCC’s physical assets to literally and figuratively set a stage for highlighting the cultures that come out of those regions.”