Japan Honors Alexander with Emperor’s Award

Consul-General of Japan says then-Gov. Alexander “saw beyond the supposed competition between our two countries to the reality that Japanese investment in American states would result in positive growth for both parties.”

Posted on October 18, 2012

NASHVILLE – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Wednesday evening was honored with the government of Japan’s “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star,” a national decoration conferred by the Emperor of Japan “in recognition of [Alexander’s] abiding service and dedication to Japan-U.S. friendly relations.”


Alexander said at the ceremony: “I accept this on behalf of the people of Tennessee, whose friendship with the Japanese has been a great source of enjoyment to us over the last 30 years and has helped raise our family incomes more than any other event in our state’s recent history.”


The Order of the Rising Sun was established in 1875 as the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government. The Emperor of Japan confers the Order of the Rising Sun each spring and fall. The decoration is bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to positive relations between Japan and her friends and allied nations, according the Consulate General of Japan. Senator Alexander is recognized “primarily for his outstanding contributions to promoting economic relations and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.”


In presenting the award to Alexander, the Consul-General of Japan in Nashville Motohiko Kato said, “It is remarkably fitting that one of my first official duties as Consul-General in Nashville is to confer this decoration upon Senator Alexander, the very man who set the foundation for this close Japan-Tennessee friendship that brought our consulate to this beautiful state.”


Kato continued: “As governor of Tennessee during the height of U.S.-Japan trade tensions, Senator Alexander was a true pioneer in international investment. He saw beyond the supposed competition between our two countries to the reality that Japanese investment in American states would result in positive growth for both parties.”


As governor, Alexander successfully recruited Nissan to build its first U.S. automobile assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., despite intense competition from other states vying for the plant. Today, Tennessee is home to more than 170 Japanese companies and Japanese investment supports nearly 35,000 jobs in the state.


Alexander wrote about the relationship between Tennessee and Japan in a 1986 book called “Friends, Japanese and Tennesseans: A Model of U.S-Japan Cooperation.” In the book, Alexander writes: “During my first 24 months as governor, I spent eight working weeks solely on Japan-Tennessee relations—three weeks in Japan, the rest with an endless stream of visiting Japanese.”


Nissan eventually chose to locate its first U.S. plant in Tennessee, Alexander wrote in the book, because “Tennessee is in the center of things—within 500 miles of three-fourths of the U.S. population. This minimizes transportation costs. … We have low taxes and right-to-work laws…There were also less tangible reasons. We can’t take credit for the fact that Tokyo and Nashville are on the same latitude, that the dogwoods bloom when the cherry blossoms do…There’s another factor. I like to say that tomorrow’s jobs are coming our way because Tennesseans still hold to yesterday’s values. In this, we’re a lot like the Japanese. Our workers believe in working, and in doing quality work.”


The Consulate-General of Japan became the first and only country to have a Consulate-General in Tennessee when it opened its office in Nashville in 2008.


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