Tag Archives: Japan

OMAHA – Governor Pete Ricketts was joined by 400 U.S. and Japanese delegates for the third and final day of the 50th Annual Conference of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association (MWJA) in Omaha.  The Governor presided over closing ceremonies this afternoon.

“It’s been an honor to host the 50th annual anniversary of this important conference, which helps us strengthen the ties between the Midwest U.S. and Japan,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Midwestern states provide a great opportunity for Japanese companies to be able to invest and grow, and while doing so create great-paying jobs.  We’re grateful for the business and cultural relationships we share, and look forward to creating new opportunities and partnerships, while continuing to build upon our bilateral trade going further into the future.”

The MWJA conference is considered to be the pinnacle forum for discussion on strengthening business and trade relationships between Japan and the Midwestern states.  Omaha was selected to host this year’s special 50th anniversary.  The longstanding and important economic ties between Japan and the United States have been a focal point of the event, the theme of which is “Growing Together in a Global Economy.”

Featured speakers at today’s closing session included Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer; Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; Shizuoka Prefecture Vice Governor Akihito Yoshibayashi; MWJA Japan Conference Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi, MWJA U.S. Conference Honorary Chairman Gordon Dobie; and the Honorable Mitsuhiro Wada, Consul General of Japan in Detroit.

During the ceremonies, Governor Ricketts presented a token of appreciation to Koji Nagasaka—Director of Nebraska Center Japan, a division of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) devoted to Nebraska-Japanese economic relations—for his service.  The Governor also presented Consul General Wada with a gift on behalf of the State of Nebraska.

The conference kicked off Sunday at Anthony’s Steakhouse before a welcoming event at Kaneko gallery.  On Monday, daily proceedings commenced at the downtown Hilton.  Monday night, the Governor hosted the delegates for MWJA’s 50th Anniversary Gala at the Durham Museum, sponsored by Union Pacific (UP) and Kawasaki.  UP Chairman, President, and CEO Lance Fritz and Kawasaki President Yoshinori Kanehana joined Governor Ricketts on stage for keynote remarks.  The evening closed with music by Omaha’s own Mannheim Steamroller.

Today’s slate began with a breakfast featuring keynote speaker Ted McKinney, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.  Governor Ricketts presented Under Secretary McKinney with a Sandhill Crane painting in appreciation of his advocacy for the Midwest and Nebraska agriculture.

Breakfast was followed by a plenary session that highlighted success stories on trade and investment between Japan and the Midwest.  Featured private sector participants included J.P. Morgan and Co., Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd, Nebraska-based Preferred Popcorn, Marubeni Corporation, and Keizai Doyukai.  The session was moderated by Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Chairman and CEO Hiroyuki Ishige.

Nebraska and Japan share their own success story, with Japan being the second-largest importer of Nebraska products outside of North America and third-largest agricultural export market overall. Nebraska’s exports to Japan topped $1.03 billion in 2016, while beef and pork exports to Japan increased by 26 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

Governor Ricketts also met one-on-one today for an interview with the financial publication Nikkei, followed by a meeting with Shizuoka Prefecture Vice Governor Akihito Yoshibayashi, in which the leaders discussed the decades-long friendship between Nebraska and Shizuoka.  Omaha and Shizuoka, the prefecture’s capital city, have had a sister city relationship since 1965.

The delegates wrapped up the conference this afternoon with a tour of Kawasaki’s facilities in Lincoln.  Kawasaki USA, a subsidiary of Japan-based Kawasaki Heavy Industries, has been investing in Lincoln since 1974, and recently expanded with a first-in-the-U.S. aerostructures division.  The company employs over 2,000 Nebraskans.

More information about the conference proceedings can be found at midwest-japan.org.

Lincoln, Nebraska,  – Ikuo Kabashima, University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumnus and governor of Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, will speak Sept. 7 at a forum of the university’s Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance. He will address the impact of a changing trade environment on prefectures and states.

The keynote address will be at 1:30 p.m. in the Nebraska East Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Kabashima will discuss his efforts to promote international trade in Kumamoto Prefecture. He will also speak about his response to the earthquakes in Kumamoto in 2016 and describe how he drew upon his experiences in the United States, especially in Nebraska, to implement smart-agriculture systems and measures against bird flu. Following his remarks, he will participate in a panel discussion with Ralph Inforzato, chief executive director of the Japan External Trade Organization, on trade, investment and agriculture.

Japan is Nebraska’s fourth-largest international trading partner and the world’s No. 1 importer of Nebraska beef, pork and eggs.

Kabashima has been governor of Kumamoto Prefecture since 2008. As governor, he led the development of Kumamon, a promotional mascot that has driven product sales and gained popularity in Japan and beyond. Prior to his political career, he was a professor of law at the University of Tokyo. He holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Nebraska, along with a doctorate in political economy and government from Harvard University.

“Gov. Kabashima’s leadership of Kumamoto Prefecture in the areas of agriculture and export promotion, among others, provides an excellent foundation for dialogue about agriculture and trade with one of Nebraska’s key trading partners,” said Yeutter Institute Director Jill O’Donnell. “We look forward to welcoming students, faculty and members of the public to this event.”

LINCOLN – The Office of Governor Pete Ricketts urged Nebraska agriculture and business leaders to register for the 50thAnnual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference in Omaha this September 9th-11th.  Each year, the conference attracts 400 U.S. and Japanese business executives, and will highlight the strong relationship between Japan and Midwestern states.


“Our state has the great honor of hosting the 50th Annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Governors, business executives, and hundreds of people from both Japan and the United States will converge on Omaha for a three-day conference focused on growing trade and job opportunities between our two countries.  This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to highlight Nebraska as a great place to do business and invest for major companies.”


The conference is known as the pinnacle forum for dialogue on Midwest U.S.-Japan business relations.  Event highlights will include globally recognized speakers and panelists, an opening luncheon at Jun Kaneko Gallery, a celebration of Nebraska agriculture dinner, and a gala dinner sponsored by Kawasaki and Union Pacific at the Durham Western Heritage Museum.


For more information about the conference, or to register, click here.


Japan is Nebraska’s fourth-largest international trading partner and largest foreign investor.  Governor Ricketts has led two trade missions to Japan.  Lt. Governor Mike Foley will be joining a Governors Forum hosted by the National Governors Association next week in Tokyo.

Wagyu beef companies from across Japan exhibited their products on Monday at a food showcase celebrating the return of Japanese beef to Australia after 17 years.

Sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization, the Premium Japanese Food Showcase featured nine Japanese beef companies, many of which were eager to explain the differences between the wagyu beef from Japan and so-called “Australian wagyu” founded on live animals and genetic material imported from Japan in the 1990s.

“Personally, I think Australian wagyu is wonderful; it’s of a very high quality,” said Hideki Tabata, 62, of the Omi Beef Export Promotion Cooperative.

“But no matter how high a quality it may be, it’s still a little different to wagyu made in Japan with all that tradition and such a long history.”

Tabata said the flavor of Japanese wagyu is “completely different” to Australian-raised wagyu and recommended Australians consumers try it for the first time as part of a Japanese dish such as sukiyaki or shabu-shabu.

“But our ultimate goal is to broaden how wagyu is recognized so it can eventually be used in all kinds Australian cooking, too.”

Australia banned all beef imports from Japan after the discovery of mad cow disease in 2001.

Japanese wagyu beef is recognized as a delicacy around the world for its high marble-scoring, or fat distribution throughout the meat. However, such gourmet quality comes with a high price tag that is so far untested on Australian consumers.

“Are Australians going to accept paying that extra money for (Japanese) wagyu, because it is very expensive,” said NH Foods Ltd. general manager Michael Davidson, 55.

“If you’re looking at cuts of meat that could be up to A$300 per kilo, how’s that going to translate over to here? We just have to wait and see how it goes.”

However, Japan’s Parliamentary Vice Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ryosuke Kozuki said he was confident Australian consumers would be willing to pay top dollar for the product if they had the opportunity to taste the difference.

Phil Waddington, 53, and Karen McLaughlan, 47 — both caterers for consulting firm Ernst & Young — shared Kozuki’s sentiments, saying they look forward to the possibility of including Japanese wagyu on the menu of future business functions.

“Because it’s so rich, you only need to have a little, so I think it lends itself very well to those standing and networking dinner events,” McLaughlan said.

The Premium Japanese Food Showcase also featured 11 Japanese companies specializing in products unrelated to beef such as yuzu pepper and wasabi condiments.

Australia is currently the ninth-ranked export destination for Japanese agricultural, forestry and fishery products.