Chicago Shimpo
Emperor’s Birthday Celebrated with Moving Story


• The Emperor’s Birthday was celebrated on December 5 at the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. The celebration became the last one because of the Emperor’s abdication on April 30 in 2019.
• Consul General Naoki Ito said that the Emperor would become 85 years old on December 23, and has visited 58 countries during his tenure of more than 30 years. Ito also told an interesting story that the only American President who played tennis with the Emperor was President George H. Bush.

• Consul General Ito looked back the eventful of the year of 2018. He has been bringing grass root caravan with JETRO Chicago to the Midwest, and his visits included Minnesota, Nebraska, and Schaumburg where Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Shinsuke Sugiyama, Ambassador to the U.S. accompanied the caravan.

• The Midwest U.S.-Japan Association celebrated its 50th anniversary last September at Omaha, and had the highest participation of governors from eight states. The states of Kansas and North Dakota are joining the Association as new members.

• Osaka-Chicago sister cities celebrated their 45th anniversary, and Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and Osaka’s Midosuji Boulevard became sister streets. Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel first visited Tokyo and signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Japan’s government for close economic and business partnership. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura also visited Chicago. The Osaka-Chicago relation also brought a garden designer from Japan to redevelop the Garden of Phoenix in Jackson Park.

• Chicago’s public schools welcomed two new Japanese language teachers from Japan.

• The excitement of Midwest-Japan relations will continue to 2019. “American Dream”, a Japanese American story during internment tragedy, will be performed by Lyric Opera in March. Japan Festival will be held in Chicago’s Millennium Park in June.

• Leo Melamed, who was honored by Emperor’s award in 2017, told a story about how one person could make a difference.
• Melamed is one of the Jewish survivors who were saved by Chiune Sugihara, then Consul General in Lithuania. He was seven years old at that time of 1941. Sugihara issued about 2,000 transit visas to Jewish people by his own discretion. The 2,000 visas eventually saved 6,000 Jews, who wanted to escape to the U.S. or somewhere else through Japan.
• Melamed said that he has taken every proper opportunity to speak about Sugihara’s story. “One man could make a difference. He saved so many people, and later on they used their lives to the nation of liberty of being able to do something with their lives that they otherwise could not do.” He made a toast to celebrate the Emperor’s longevity and to honor Sugihara’s contribution.

• The celebration was zested by koto music played by Tokiko Kimura, and tea ceremonies were offered by the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Chicago Association.
• Green tea was introduced by Shizuoka City officials, Japanese sake was brought by Tenzing and Vine Connections, whiskey was served by Beam Suntory, Japanese crackers were offered by TH Foods, and Kagoshima wagyu was served to taste with sake.


Leo Melamed (L) and Consul General Naoki Ito