By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador, quickly won fans for his wit and self-deprecation when he spoke in Seattle on Oct. 25.
“I can say anything I want (from now on),” Fujisaki recalled when he told his wife, Yoriko, he was retiring from his diplomat post in 2012.
“No one cares,” as Yoriko’s response, according to Fujisaki.
As part of his West Coast tour on U.S.-Japan relations, Fujisaki was in Seattle with a delegation of yousng men and women, including staff from the Prime Minister of Japan’s office.
Fujisaki is not stranger to Washington state. He went to Blaine Junior High School in Seattle as an exchange student.
“Japan’s relationship with his neighbors, such as China and South Korea, thanks to North Korea, has improved,” he said to an audience of over 200 at the Seattle Rotary Club, at the Renaissance Hotel.
Later, meeting with about 10 Rotarians, Fujisaki said, “China has every right to be angry (with Japan),” he said. “South Korea has every right to be angry (with Japan).” “Japan invaded China,” he said. “Japan occupied South Korea (for 35 years).”
However, Fujisaki said, “We shouldn’t talk about it (all the time).” For instance, Japan doesn’t talk about (the bombing of) Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and America doesn’t dwell on Pearl Harbor all the time, he explained.
“We remember it like once a year during Remembrance Day,” he said. What is important is, all parties should focus on the future, he added. Also, it is not a good idea for parents to constantly talk about past hostilities and conflicts between China, Japan, and South Korea to their kids, he said. “The kids will just repeat what their parents say” without any understanding, he said.
On U.S-Japan relations, Fujisaki said it has been a good partnership. He thanked Americans for their support of Japan, including churches and community organizations, to private citizens, to soldiers and the government during Japan’s tsunami in 2011.
Although he didn’t say which presidential candidate he favors, it is not hard to guess which side Fujisaki is on.
“It’s like a Christmas gift. You don’t say anything until you open it, then say, ‘It’s just what I wanted.’” This is the same answer he gave to the media when asked about his choice of presidential candidate in the 2012 election.
He said he read a book by Hillary Clinton about her experience as First Lady, and how she identified with the Japanese Empress Michiko. He once saw a photo of Clinton hugging the Empress.
The former ambassador spoke English without any hint of an accent. He studied political science at Brown University and Stanford University.
Fujisaki is now a professor at Keio University and president of America-Japan Society in Japan.
The Japanese government funds the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” program.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.