Itâ€™s not often that Denver receives visitors at the highest levels of the foreign diplomatic corps, but the 25th anniversary of the start of the Colorado-Yamagata Sister State relationship brought Ichiro Fujisaki, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United State of America, to the Brown Palace on August 6.
Fujisaki gave a keynote speech during a luncheon hosted by the Japan America Society of Colorado, which was also attended by Takashi Takahashi, vice governor of Yamagata Prefecture (state), and Kozo Taira, Chairperson of the Yamagata Prefectural Assembly. Also with the Yamagata delegation were several assemblymen, the assemblyâ€™s Chief Secretariat, and representatives of the Yamagata International Affairs Office.
The local speakers included Morgan Smith and James Terada, former chairs of the Colorado-Yamagata Friendship Committee. Smith helped forge the Sister State relationship when he served under then-governor Dick Lamm, who was not initially supportive of the idea. Smith recalled his efforts to get the relationship approved, and the accomplishments since then that have come out of the Sister State compact. Gov. Roy Romner, who followed Lamm, was much more supportive, as was Bill Owens after that, and Gov. Hickenlooper already has strong ties to Japan and with Yamagata through visits he made while he served as Denverâ€™s Mayor.
There were also remarks by Colorado state officials including David Thomson, Director of Global Business Development in the stateâ€™s Office of Economic Development and International Trade; Sen. Brandon Shaffer, President of the state Senate; and Rep. Frank McNulty, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives.
But the luncheon never felt like a dry political summit.