In February, Madoka Wayoro, director of the Kawasaki Reading Room at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) hosted a chocolate-making event to teach students about Japanese customs. Students filled silicone molds with melted chocolate to make Valentine’s Day gifts for their friends and family. In Japan, it is women who do the gift giving on Valentine’s Day, and a month later on White Day, men reciprocate with gifts. Valentine’s Day chocolate, however, is not limited to just romantic relationships; friends, family, and office workers are on the list as well.
UNL has a close friendship with Japan and many Japan related programs have formed to meet students’ increasing interest in the country. UNL launched a Japanese language and culture program in 2009 for students to learn more about Japan. UNL also cooperated with Senshu University in Tokyo to establish the Business, Culture and Language (BLC) Program. This 12 week fall semester program provides UNL students an opportunity to explore Japanese culture. Global Friends of Japan, founded in 1990, is an officially recognized student organization in UNL, aiming to promote mutual understanding among Japanese students, others at UNL, and community members. Additionally, UNL has an annual Japan Festival in March. This free event is open to the public, and usually includes a cultural presentation and film screening.
For more than four decades, Japan has been a key trade and investment partner for Nebraska. Japan is the state’s largest foreign direct investor, having invested more than $4.4 billion into the state since 2010. Japan is also the third largest trading partner of Nebraska. In 2016, the Cornhusker State exported $4.7 billion in goods to Japan and imported $2.8 billion in goods from the country. Nebraska has now opened its first international office, the Nebraska Center, located in Tokyo. The new office serves as a hub for Nebraska’s international business operations, including the recruitment and expansion of Japanese-owned companies, agricultural market expansion, and the cultivation of multinational partnerships for economic growth. Nebraska also has a strong cultural relationship with Japan, with the two locations boasting three sister city relationships. 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Shizuoka and Omaha.