First Lady of Japan Yuko Kishida visits Duke Gardens, Japanese Prime Minister greets Duke students in Raleigh

Yuko Kishida, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens Friday morning to meet with Japanese students and participate in a tea gathering. In the afternoon, both Kishidas met with six Japanese students, including some from Duke, in the offices of the Nagoya University Global Campus at North Carolina State University.

The visits were part of the Kishidas’ tour of North Carolina, following their trip to Washington D.C. that included a trilateral meeting with President Joseph Biden and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, a state dinner in the Kishidas’ honor and an address to a joint meeting of Congress. 

Fumio Kishida is the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit North Carolina. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed Friday as “North Carolina and Japan Friendship Day” earlier this week.

On Friday morning, Fumio Kishida and Cooper traveled to the Greensboro area to tour a Honda Aircraft Company production facility and the construction site for a Toyota battery manufacturing plant expected to create over 5,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Yuko Kishida met with students at Chapel Hill High School before arriving at the Duke Gardens.

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Both Kishidas then joined Cooper for a luncheon and celebration at the North Carolina Executive Mansion. In the afternoon, they visited students at NCSU and toured the school’s Japan Center.

Yuko Kishida’s visit to the Duke Gardens

Yuko Kishida was joined by North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper and officials of the Duke Gardens for her visit. After Yuko Kishida’s arrival, they went on a brief walking tour of the Gardens’ Culberson Asiatic Arboretum and Ruth Mary Meyer Japanese Garden, including stops at the Pine Clouds Mountain Stream and the arched bridge over the Garden Pond.

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Paul Jones, founding curator of the arboretum, led the tour, explaining the stories behind some of the Gardens’ plants to Yuko Kishida. At the arched bridge, Yuko Kishida privately greeted three Duke students who have connections to Yuko Kishida’s hometown in Japan. 

The group then proceeded to the Durham-Toyama Sister Cities Pavilion and Garden where Chizuko Sueyoshi, certified instructor of the Urasenke tradition, led Yuko Kishida and Kristin Cooper in a traditional Japanese tea gathering. 

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“I really can’t overstate the importance of the relationship that developed between Duke Gardens and the Durham Sisters Cities program, which in time led not only to the establishment of the Durham-Toyama Sister Cities Pavilion and teahouse, but ultimately the further expansion into a culturally significant garden display in the best tradition of Japanese garden design — the Ruth Mary Meyer Japanese Garden,” Jones said in a statement to The Chronicle. “Beauty, collaboration, appreciation and exchange of ideas are just a few of the benefits we as participants in this community enjoy every day.”

Yuko Kishida and the Duke Gardens officials exchanged gifts at the Doris Duke Center before the Japanese first lady left for the luncheon in Raleigh.

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"It was an incredible honor to host First Lady Kishida and First Lady Cooper for a visit to Duke Gardens. We want all Duke Gardens visitors to feel a sense of belonging and connection to this place, and to find plants and landscapes that are personally meaningful and relevant to their lives,” said Kavanah Anderson, director of learning and community engagement for the Duke Gardens, in a statement to The Chronicle. “We are so glad to be able to offer a sense of home to our very special visitors today through the plants and landscapes of Duke Gardens.”

The Kishidas greet students at NCSU

In the first NCSU campus visit by a foreign head of government since 1954, Fumio Kishida, along with Yuko Kishida, stopped by the offices of the Nagoya University Global Campus at the Partners I building on NCSU’s campus in Raleigh. The Nagoya Global Campus was established last year, though the Japanese university’s presence at NCSU has lasted more than 15 years.

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After arriving in a massive motorcade that drew crowds on the sidewalks near the building, the Kishidas received a briefing from Nagoya University President Naoshi Sugiyama on the global campus. They then met with six Japanese students from NCSU, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke. 

According to a press release, Fumio Kishida discussed his goal of “more than doubling the number of Japanese students studying abroad to 500,000 per year over the next 10 years” through the “Japan-Mobility and Internationalisation” initiative. He then pledged additional measures, including expanding projects that support the overseas expansion of Japanese universities and enhancing financial support measures for students studying abroad.

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The Kishidas then departed the building for NCSU’s Japan Center, where they were briefed by the center’s director Stephen Sumner on the center’s activities. They also spoke with other university students and adults studying Japanese at the center, and later with junior high school students who had recently visited Hiroshima Prefecture.

Growing Japan-NC ties

“The US-Japan alliance has reached unprecedented heights, Japan and the United States are now global partners in upholding and bolstering the free and open international order based on the rule of law,” Masachi Mizobuchi, assistant press secretary of the Japanese foreign ministry, told The Chronicle. 

“To advance our global partnership, we announced several new strategic initiatives to strengthen our defense and security cooperation, reach new frontiers in space, drive technological innovation, bolster economic security, accelerate climate action, partner on global diplomacy and development and fortify the ties between our peoples,” he said.

As to why the Kishidas chose to visit North Carolina, Mizobuchi listed building “people-to-people ties” and large Japanese investment in the state as some of the reasons. He also noted that Fumio Kishida “wanted to confirm that the Japan-US relationship is supported by a  broad cross-section of society in both countries.”

“More than 255 Japanese-owned companies have established operations in North Carolina, creating more than 30,000 jobs,” Mizobuchi said, noting that direct Japanese investment into the state reached $17.5 billion and that Japan is importing more than $1 billion in goods from North Carolina. 

The Kishidas’ visit comes just hours after a subsidiary of Japanese company Fujifilm announced an additional $1.2 billion investment towards a biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in North Carolina atop an initial $2 billion investment announced in March 2021.

Japanese companies have announced more than $6.6 billion in investment in North Carolina between 2018 and 2022, promising more than 5,166 new jobs. Japan recently overtook Germany as the largest source of foreign direct investment in the Tar Heel state, with its companies employing more than 30,500 people. 

Mizobuchi attributed the large Japanese investment in North Carolina to the business environment, bolstered by the many incentives given to Japanese companies. He also cited the state’s culture, saying the values of “resilience” and “tenacity” embodied by North Carolina are very similar to those in Japan.

Jazper Lu profile
Jazper Lu | Managing Editor

Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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