Jieun Kim, left, representing L.A. City Councilmember John Lee; Eric Moon, representing Assemblymember Miguel Santiago; His Eminence Hovnan Derderian, Armenian Church of North America; Consul General Kenko Sone; Patricia Wyatt, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center; and Hironori Kobayashi, Japan Business Association.

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

Ten weeks after arriving in Los Angeles, new Consul General Kenko Sone outlined the tenets that will guide his leadership while serving Southern California’s population of about 90,000 Japanese nationals, the largest outside of Japan.

At a kick-off reception Thursday afternoon, Sone pledged to carry on the work begun by his predecessors to strengthen cross-cultural ties and connect with the region’s 280,000 Japanese Americans.

He noted that Japanese businesses have brought at least 75,000 jobs to Southern California. Arizona is becoming America’s semiconductor hub, “a huge opportunity for Japan’s semiconductor-related companies to further expand their businesses…” he added. “The task ahead of me is enormous and very challenging.”

Sone announced that he is a proponent of subnational diplomacy, a concept that involves solving the increasingly complex national security challenges of the 21st century by collaborating with local and state officials.

Consul General Sone speaks to the gathering.

Simultaneously, he plans to implement his three-point program, dubbed E-S-F. The “E,” he explained, stands for exchanges with various communities, such as Asian American and Pacific Islander, LatinX, African American, Armenian, youth, and next-generation leaders. He also plans to stimulate interest in tourism through cultural traditional arts as well as manga, anime, music, and movies.

“S,” he said, “stands for sustainability and includes global sustainable development goals.” Sone noted that his son is studying sustainability at the University of Tokyo. According to Sone, California is leading the country in policies designed to protect the environment.

“F” is from the acronym FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific), a concept that was developed through Japanese and American cooperation under the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and involves the strategies of countries with similar interests in the Indo-Pacific area.

Hironori Kobayashi, Japan Business Association of Southern California president, discussed Sone’s background growing up in Hokkaido and dreaming of becoming a professional baseball player. Although he did not realize his baseball dream, Sone is looking forward to 2028, when Los Angeles will host the Olympic Games.

Sone shakes hands with Ryan Lee, director of Terasaki Budokan, as Yasuko Sakamoto and Margaret Shimada look on.

Kobayashi pledged JBA’s support for Sone in strengthening the bilateral relationship between Japan and the U.S.

Patricia Wyatt, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center president and CEO, emphasized the importance of continuing the work of the Issei and Nisei “to unapologetically celebrate our art and culture.” Wyatt said she is looking forward to working with the consul general “to ensure that Little Tokyo continues to be an artistically vibrant home for the Japanese American community as well as a welcoming neighborhood for all people.”

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian commended the consul general for bringing people together and for his goal of creating exchange programs and facilitating visitations between the U.S. and Japan. “In a world where there is so much suffering, I believe this kind of call should be taken with a warm heart, especially on a day when we are inaugurating the consul general in the great city of Los Angeles.”.

Photos by JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo

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