By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
“Honestly, Japan has failed the Japanese American community once. I will see to it Japan will never fail you again.”
Alluding to actions by Japan that led to the incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II, Consul General Akira Chiba put a sharp point on his parting messages as he prepares to leave the Los Angeles post he has held since 2016.
Chiba’s remarks at a farewell luncheon July 18 organized by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California and hosted by Mayor Eric Garcetti at City Hall referenced the regrettable wartime treatment of Korean women and girls by the Japanese Imperial Army.
“Japan is convinced it has acknowledged, apologized, and atoned again and again,” Chiba emphasized. “Another rally or another statue will not move Japan an inch except that the Japanese public might grow so resentful of Korea that they might pressure their government not to give consent to the U.S. forces to use bases in Japan to defend South Korea if the Northern leader makes a wrong decision and attacks South Korea.”
Chiba continued, “In view of North Korean mid-range missiles pointed at Japan, the Japanese are growing weary of what is taking place in East Asia. So, this is not about a bilateral grudge against colonial rule, an idea so readily embraced without scrutiny. It is in essence a security issue.
He called upon Japanese Americans to join hands with Korean Americans “to help them realize they are being taken in by pro-North Korean activists poisoning our community with toxic falsehoods in the Korean language with the aim of turning us against each other.”
During his tenure here, Chiba became a familiar figure at Japanese American community events, participating regularly in numerous local activities, ranging from the requisite formal functions to grassroots projects like the Little Tokyo Sparkle clean-up day and the placing of the final beam at the construction site of the Terasaki Budokan recreation center.
Nina Hachigian, deputy mayor in charge of international affairs, thanked the career diplomat for his assistance with the mayor’s trade delegation and student ambassador program.
Chiba described the granting of redress to former incarcerees as a “shining moment of American history that showed the world that America can correct itself. But the shining moment is prone to erosion. It is constantly under jeopardy. The difference is now you know what you have to do.”
The opening of Japan House became a highlight of Chiba’s service in L.A. He described it as “my personal kunsho (national honor).”
He expressed appreciation to the community for “all the support you gave us, all your confidence and friendship.”
A third-generation career diplomat, Chiba, 60, was born in Tehran, Iran and graduated from University of Tokyo in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in law. He studied two years at Peking University and received a master’s degree in Asian studies in 1988 from UC Berkeley.