Thursday’s regular meeting of the Peachtree City Rotary Club was a special affair. Japanese Appreciation Day brought out several members of the local Japanese corporate community, along with special speaker Takashi Shinozuka, Consul General for the Consulate of Japan managing the southeastern states.
As Rotarian Charlie Nelson explained, friendship was the reason for the celebration.
“Why are we meeting today? The simple answer is we have a special relationship between Japan and the United States, we have a special relationship between Japan and Georgia, and we have a special relationship between Japan and our city.”
That bond with Peachtree City goes back some 40 years. TDK became the first Japanese company in the city back in 1979, with Hoshizaki to follow five years later, and Panasonic in 1987. In 1991, the Japanese Friendship Society, with backing from nine Japanese companies, donated the iconic fountain in the plaza at city hall.
“It’s a real special friendship,” said Nelson. “I’d like to see it expanded.”
The mission of the Rotary Club is one that has hit the mark in Japan, with over 2,200 clubs and over 80,000 Rotarians in the country, one of the highest rates of membership in the world. Japan has three times hosted Rotary’s international convention, breaking the attendance record each time. When Osaka was the host in 2005, more than 43,000 Rotarians were in attendance, nearly double the amount who attended the conference in Atlanta last summer.
Shinozuka, himself a Rotarian, received his first United States appointment in January of 2016. Showing his fondness for the south, Shinozuka kicked off his remarks with a bit of twang.
“Good afternoon y’all,” he said to a room of laughs.
He called Peachtree City a special place for its number of Japanese companies based in town, as well its sizable Japanese community. It helps knowing that the lion’s share of golf carts on the paths in Peachtree City are built by a nearby Japanese company too.
Shinozuka also fielded questions from members about Japan and unrest in the region, particularly in regards to escalating tensions with North Korea. He expressed a need to work together, including leaning on China, to determine the necessary sanctions. South Korea would also be an important partner.
“Our two countries (Japan and South Korea) should stand hand in hand as close allies with the United States,” he said.
The stresses of international conflict won’t go away, but for a one lunch at least, there was plenty of time to celebrate countries getting along beautifully.