The Congressional Study Group on Japan

In 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin. Since then, the countless flowers each year continue to symbolize a unique and enduring relationship that has survived tragedy and fortune alike.

To honor the centennial anniversary of this gift, as well as to mark last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, the Congressional Study Group on Japan (CSGJ) and its Co-Chairs Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) –in partnership with the U.S.-Japan Council—hosted a reception for Members of Congress and representatives of the Japanese-American community. Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki was the featured speaker.

Ambassador Fujisaki spoke of the importance of U.S.-Japan relations and the how the strength of this relationship was seen in the outpouring of support following the disaster that befell Japan on March 11, 2011. He also encouraged everyone to visit Japan.

Former Member of Congress and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta spoke about the recovery efforts in Japan and America’s cooperation via the TOMODACHI Initiative at USJC, a joint private-public partnership.

The Study Group was also delighted to welcome seven Cherry Blossom Princesses and the Cherry Blossom Queen, who hails from West Virginia, home state of CSGJ Co-Chair Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Rep. Capito herself was once a Cherry Blossom Queen.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, concluded the program with a toast to the centennial of the Cherry Blossoms and a swift recovery for Japan.

Upcoming CSGJ events include a Members luncheon on May 17 featuring Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and, on May 31, a roundtable on trade with featured panelist Tom Shoupe, President of Honda Alabama, along with former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL, 87-07) and the Hon. Mike Oxley (R-OH, 81-07).