Japanese ambassador addresses students during FIU visit

Japan’s Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki presented a handwritten cipher to a standing-room only crowd of FIU faculty and students on Monday during a presentation filled with economics, humor and some personal reflection.

Decoded, his cipher showed how Japan still ranks right behind the United States in a range of indicators, including contributions to the United Nations, global development assistance and reconstruction in Iraq. His talk followed recent news that China’s economy has outpaced Japan’s to become the world’s second largest.

Fujisaki noted that at one time, Japan itself had an emerging economy. “This is inevitable. All of the countries will come up the ladder, China, India.”

The United States and Japan must work cooperatively to meet the challenges of these emerging economies, he said, as well the problems of economic recovery, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

Fujisaki arrived at FIU earlier in the day with his wife, Yoriko, to have lunch with College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ken Furton along with faculty and community advisors to the Asian Studies Program and the School of International and Public Affairs, and to address a Japanese language class. At the start of his public talk, part of the Ruth K. and Shepard Broad International Lecture Series, he greeted the students warmly, inviting them to gather closer and sit on the floor. After his talk, he answered a stream of questions from students about topics ranging from the plausibility of a world currency and dealing with North Korea to Japan’s education system.

He noted that Japan continues to rely on U.S. deterrence in dealing with threats from North Korea. There has been growing concern in Japan, however, over China’s steady increase in defense spending, he said.

Asked by a student if an American could ever have an opportunity to participate in Japanese politics, the ambassador demurred at first, saying one would need to speak Japanese fluently. Then he added, “Very frankly, I don’t think so. I want to yes, but I’m an honest diplomat. We are not that open.”

As a diplomat, Fujisaki said, one cannot expect to change the world alone. “Representing my country, the most important thing is credibility. We would like to create that image, trustworthiness of my country.”

Fujisaki, who studied at Brown and Stanford, praised the American education system. “In general, the U.S. education system is better,” he said when asked to compare it to Japan’s. “In some areas, Japan has an advantage…but Japan puts too much emphasis on memorizing things at school not discussion and creativity. Some people think that has brought, in the long term, a slow down in the economy.”

He said his time in college was spent preoccupied with learning English and passing the Foreign Service exam. He urged the students to set a goal and work toward it during their college years.

“I envy Americans,” he said. “You already speak a cosmopolitan language. For us foreigners, to speak English, write and listen was the most important challenge we had. If I were you, I would try to identify what you would like to do first and then prepare for that.”

–Deborah O’Neil MA ’09

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