On September 7, a reception hosted by Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda marked the 20th anniversary of Indiana’s sister state relationship with Tochigi Prefecture. Governor Eric Holcomb, in his second official visit to Japan, led the Indiana delegation which included state Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger and representatives from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).
“We’re proud of our shared business, education and cultural exchange successes that continue to deepen to this day,” said Governor Holcomb. The two governors participated in the centuries-old ceremony called kagami biraki (“opening the mirror”), breaking a symbolic sake barrel to celebrate the occasion.
The special partnership between the two states has been instrumental in making Japan the largest foreign investor in Indiana, with investments amounting to $2.5 billion in goods and services and employing over 50,000 workers, many in Tochigi-based companies operating in the state.
Among the sectors benefitting from this trade partnership are agricultural production and the automotive manufacturing industry. Car makers operating in the state include Toyota, Honda, and Subaru, providing thousands of jobs to Hoosiers. In a separate business conference in Tokyo, Governor Holcomb met with top officials of Toyota Motor Corporation and discussed potential opportunities to increase collaborative growth.
In the realm of culture and education, Indiana hosts more than 200 international students from partner schools in Japan, such as Utsunomiya and Hakuoh universities based in Tochigi. Several colleges and universities in the state offer coursework in Japanese language and culture, including Indiana University at Bloomington and Ball State University in Muncie.
Just recently, in 2017, a new Japan Culture Center has been planned by the Japan-America Society of Indiana (JASI). According to Melanie Walker, President of JASI Board of Directors, the goal in launching the new center is to “bring the ‘Japan brand’ front and center to the State and [Indianapolis] City” and provide space that “allow[s] JASI to greatly expand its offerings, providing a venue for tea ceremonies, classes, cultural workshops, training, meetings, and receptions.”
Among the 50 states, Indiana receives the largest investment from Japan-based firms. This fruitful economic exchange with Japan is a template Governor Holcomb seeks to follow in his efforts to expand Indiana’s engagement with Asian countries. Following Japan, the Indiana delegation went to South Korea, and is scheduled to visit China and India.
Jonathan Baldoza is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.