NCD Keynote Speech (by Mr. Wakao)
(May 12, 2007 at the Symposium
gNikkei Community Dayh)
you for your kind introduction. I
am Tatsuhiko Wakao.
came to the United
States on April 19, 1981.
It has already been 26 years since
then. Time flies.
was when Japanfs
export to the US
was at its peak, and the US trade
deficits had become a political issue. There was an intense trade conflict
and the United
States. At that time, inflation was sweeping
across the world, and overall interest rates were very high; the housing loan interest
rate was 16 to 17%, and the credit card and car loan interest rates were 21%.
which suffered from the twin deficits in budget and trade, was threatened by
the danger of economic crisis and proceeded to successive import restrictions. The Super 301 trade provision was
implemented and hefty tariffs were imposed on steel and automobiles. Due to the
ban on military supply exports to communist countries, a trade practice of Toshiba
affiliate was severely criticized. The
unemployment rate was high, and in Detroit, which was severely
affected by Japanese imports, we had seen on TV people hammering a Japanese car
by paying a dollar a whack.
that time I was assigned to an automobile-related company and spent 10 years
there. During that time, Japan shifted
from a thriving import-based economy to a bubble economy. In the
company, I was working from dawn to dusk spending a lot of time communicating
with our head-quarters and factories in Japan, Taiwan, China and Mexico. On weekends, I spent my time playing golf
and socializing. Although I was in Los Angeles, I was
merely looking at Nikkei Society as an outsider.
I came to
know Nikkei society after I joined the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Southern California in 1995. Gradually I
became more involved in the activities of JCC, and by socializing with various
Nikkei groups and organizations, I came to realize there is a difference in the
frame of mind and behavior among Japanese Americans, corporate assignees and
those settling in the US
after coming from Japan.
Japan is a
democratic society. However, people
think that as long as they pay taxes, their government will take care of
everything. Whenever they have
complaints, they tend to just criticize government or society.
the other hand, people attach importance to their community in the United States. To make the society a better place to
live, each resident participates in the community activities, works hard and
makes donations for the betterment of society. A community where residents are actively
involved has sufficient public services.
The same thing is true for the Federal and State administration.
is truly a democratic country which is run by its citizens. Even though they may complain, they
first ask themselves gwhat can I do to make our community betterh and take the
first step to do what they can do.
The society respects such people and they are rewarded through tax
deduction and gaining social recognition from the communities.
I became deeply involved in Nikkei society, I came to see those who live humbly
donate $100, $200, and sometimes $1,000 out of their pockets and devote
themselves to volunteer activities.
the other hand, looking back the days when I was working as an expatriate from Japan, I was
just thinking about how to allocate the corporate budget for sponsorship of
charity events or contribution. I
never considered donating substantial money out of my own pocket, yet I did
have money to spend for golf clubs and traveling. Such a frame of mind is not peculiar to
me, but is true to most of the assignees from Japan. It is not whether the person is good or
bad, but Japan
does not have the social system or climate as seen in the US.
America is a multiracial
country. According to the November
6th edition of the Rafu Shimpo, in the sate of California, there are 105 different
languages used for court interpreting and 224 different languages spoken among
people. Los Angeles is a typical multiracial
city; in other words, it can be said that it is a future-minded city that is
experimenting using a trial and error process on how people with different
cultural backgrounds and languages will be able to live together in harmony. Each ethnic group has created its
own community and is putting forth effort in seeking a better living
environment. In a democratic
society, public service is not provided equally; much better service is
provided to the community with a stronger voice.
For example, Los Angeles mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa visited Japan, South Korea and China last October. During his visit to Japan, he promoted LA tourism
and made an appearance at an entertainerfs event, but that was about it. And I believe by watching the media,
speech-wise, he did not make a strong impression. However, in Korea, he announced a
redevelopment plan for Koreatown that included 300 million dollars from foreign
investment. In a democratic system,
this is an example of how a community with a stronger voice has been offered a
much enhanced public service. This
is also a result of the Korean communityfs increasing population and active
We, the Southern
California Nikkei society is made up of immigrants who came to the U.S. between the Meiji
Restoration and WWII; Shin-isseifs, who immigrated after the war; and newcomers
such as cooperate representatives (chu-zai-in), students, and long-term
residents. When observed closely,
it can be said that it is divided broadly into an English-speaking community and
a Japanese-speaking community.
Unfortunately, the people who form these two communities hardly have the
opportunity to interact with each other because they have different lifestyles,
and think differently because of differences in the environments they were
raised, their social backgrounds and education. However, we do have the possibility of
interacting with each other through the fact that we share a common Japanese
As all of you know, other
Asian communities are becoming more active with an increasing number of
members. On the other hand, the
Nikkei community, with its low population growth and dispersed residential
areas, is losing its presence. In
order to break through this situation, we need to unite as a community. Thanks to the efforts of the senior
Nikkei, the community has formed networks throughout various industries. The population size may not be affected,
but through us uniting and utilizing these networks, isnft it possible to raise
our presence to a much higher level?
Todayfs Nikkei Community
Day event is the first step in that direction. The Japanese-speaking community
and the English-speaking community both participating in various events and
interacting with each other under the shared theme of gKodomo no Tame Ni: For
the Children who are our Future,h is of great significance. By fostering this kind of interaction
and by encouraging tighter communication between children and youth - the
bearers of the future Nikkei community - I expect that the Nikkei community
will become more powerful and united.
All interaction starts
from encounters with others. I
sincerely hope that with todayfs encounters, the two communities will be able
to have tighter and closer interaction with each other, and the Nikkei society
will be united.
Thank you very much for
May 12, 2007
Speech by Ted (Tatsuhiko)
Translated by Mayumi Usui
and Saeko Dickinson