The 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation at the Japanese American National Museum. Back row, from left: Bryce Suzuki, Kurt Osaki, Andrew Fujimoto, Mark Nakagawa, Kyle Nakamoto, Britt Yamamoto. Front row, from left: Consul Shigeru Kikuma (facilitator), Kelly Yamasaki, Vickie Sakurada Schaepler, Joy Goto, Mariko Silver, Irene Hirano Inouye (facilitator). (U.S.-Japan Council)

Reaction to the passing of Irene Hirano Inouye has been swift and wide-ranging as dignitaries and world leaders join in expressing shock and sadness.

On Friday, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi issued the following statements upon learning of Irene Hirano Inouye’s passing:

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi

“President Hirano exercised superb leadership in the Japanese American community, not only in her illustrious role as president of the U.S.-Japan Council, but also in her role as the president and founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM).

“As a bridge between two nations, she also contributed to the development of Japan-U.S. relations. By actively promoting various people-to-people exchange programs and strengthening the multi-faceted ties between Japan and the U.S., she made significant progress in relations between Japan and the Japanese American community.”

On April 8, Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Muto commented:

“We are shocked by the passing of Irene Hirano Inouye. It is especially sad at this difficult time. It is now our responsibility to carry on and build on the missions Irene pursued throughout her life, and we are grateful for the solid basis she has left us.

“We will work even more closely with the U.S.-Japan Council towards strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship under the current complex world order, and will also continue to help the Japanese American community in their efforts to shape the history as well as the future of the U.S. – all core missions in Irene’s life.”

Irene Hirano Inouye and Yuko Kaifu (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Hirano Inouye was still refining the framework for JANM when she met a newly arrived member of the diplomatic corps from Japan, Yuko Kaifu. The two built a long-lasting friendship.

“She was such a distinguished visionary leader who has made tremendous contributions to the US-Japan relationship,” said Kaifu, now president of Japan House Los Angeles. “She was a person of integrity, never lost her temper, never spoke ill of others, and was full of compassion.

“I am, however, happy that she is up there, having reunited with her beloved husband, Sen. Daniel Inouye. She was like my big sister, and I will miss her forever.”

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