Japanese official talks business relationships


Takashi Shinozuka, consul general for the Consulate of Japan, spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Jasper earlier this week about the strong business bonds that have been built in recent years between Japan and Alabama.

“Good afternoon, y’all,” is how Shinozuka opened his speech, adding, “I’m getting to know Jasper very well. I was just here three weeks ago for Yorozu grand opening ceremony.”

Shinozuka said he hoped his visit was a mirror of the positive visits that had been taking place between earlier in the week between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“Japan and United States have a strong relationship,” Shinozuka said. “It is just like Japan and Alabama have strong relationship, and Japan and Jasper, Alabama, have built a strong relationship now. Jasper now has three Japanese businesses.”

Shinozuka is consul general for the southeastern states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. His office is located in Atlanta. He said there are currently 150 Japanese companies in Alabama, which accounts for 24,000 jobs in the state.

“Alabama has done a great job in attracting these companies, especially in recent years,” Shinozuka said, mentioning the Honda plant in Lincoln that employs 6,000 people. He also hyped the announcment of the new Toyota/Mazda plant coming to Huntsville. “We hope that will bring even more Japanese companies as suppliers to Alabama. We know Jasper is ready to add to their number of jobs and that could happen.”

When asked by a member of the Jasper Rotary Club which of the states in his district is the best at attracting new businesses, Shinozuka did not hesitate in naming Alabama at the top of the list.

“To get Toyota and Mazda speaks for itself,” he said. “The other states do a good job, but Alabama is doing the best job right now.”

Shinozuka said many cultural bonds have been built between Alabama and Japan, naming sites in the state that celebrate Japanese culture, including Japanese gardens in all areas of the state.

“Jasper’s own mayor, David O’Mary, is planning a trip to Japan,” he said. “I want the thank the mayor for that, because we appreciate his friendship.”

O’Mary, a member of the Jasper Rotary Club, said he appreciated the consul general making the trip to Jasper from Atlanta. O’Mary introduced Shinozuka at the meeting, which was held Tuesday at Bevill State in Jasper.

“Mr. Shinozuka is a very busy man,” O’Mary said. “We are thankful for him to come and speak to us today.”

Shinozuka is a member of the Atlanta Rotary Club, and he brought a gift to the Jasper club, a flag from his home club in Georgia. The Jasper club returned the favor with a flag of their own for Shinozuka to take back to Atlanta.

“Jasper is a friendly city,” Shinozuka said. “I am always happy to visit here.”