Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki addressed a full crowd Friday at the state Capitol, denying as false any reports that his country was suffering an extended economic downturn, then affirming that recovery from last year's earthquake and tsunami is well under way.
Fujisaki's “friendship” visit was attended by representatives of four Oklahoma cities — Tulsa, Shawnee, Norman and Stillwater — that have “sister city” relationships with cities in Japan.
Lloyd Harden, honorary consul general of Japan, noted the country has important economic ties to the state, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tulsa and Hitachi Computers in Norman.
“Japan for many years has been second or third in exports for Oklahoma,” Harden said.
Fujisaki criticized American news organizations that reported Japan had plunged into financial stagnation and never pulled out as leaders failed to seize on opportunities to fix their economy or build a consensus.
He called such reports “stereotyping,” adding “things are not as simple.”
Two decades of economic growth were not lost as claimed, Fujisaki said, and deregulation and other changes were pursued in earnest starting in 2000. He said the country's economy grew as fast as those of the United States and Europe from 2003 to 2007.
But the 2008 economic crash hit Japan hard, he added, with industrial production dropping 22 percent and exports dropping 33 percent in 2008. The overall impact on Japan's economy was unprecedented, he said, but recovery was under way in 2010 with gross domestic production up 4 percent.
The earthquake halted that recovery. He presented a photo series showing the country is rebuilding, and reported 80 percent of the country's industry is coming back online, with the rest expected to recover in September.
Fujisaki said tourism remains down by 30 percent, and he urged the crowd to consider visiting Japan. He said artists including Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have shown the country is safe to visit.
“We appreciate some of the very talented artists coming to Japan and telling the world we are open for business.”