On September 8, the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies hosted the honorable Hiroshi Tajima, Japan’s Consul-General in Chicago, for a series of meetings with university and school administrators, faculty, students and staff. Organized by the School’s 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative (21JPSI), Consul-General Tajima’s visit to campus culminated in a public lecture and discussion on U.S.-Japan relations and Japan’s Midwest and Indiana connections. The visit underscored the historically strong relationship between Indiana—and Indiana University—and Japan. The fact that the public talk attracted an audience of over 100 was but the latest example of the deep interest among the IU community in Japan and Japanese studies.
The Consul-General’s visit was organized by 21JPSI, which since its establishment in Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) in 2018 has emerged as a Midwestern hub for research, teaching, and programming on contemporary Japanese, politics, society, and international — especially U.S.-Japan — relations. 21JPSI’s director, Professor Adam Liff, also moderated the public lecture and discussion.
During his visit, the Consul-General met with leadership across the University, including the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the Hamilton Lugar School interim dean, and the chair of the School’s EALC Department. 21JPSI also organized meetings with Japan Studies faculty, EALC-affiliated center and institute directors, and students.
Indiana University has a strong and longstanding relationship with Japan, which dates back to 1891 when a student from Japan became IU’s first-ever international alumnus. Today, IU boasts over 1,500 Japanese alumni, and roughly 300 students at the Hamilton Lugar School are currently studying Japanese—making it the most popular language taught in the School. Many more students take additional Japan-focused courses across the social sciences and humanities within the EALC Department. Over the years, University delegations have visited the country to foster educational partnerships and develop student and faculty exchanges.
Consul-General Tajima’s public remarks touched on Japan’s international relations and underscored the U.S. and Japan’s shared commitment to working toward peace, stability, and prosperity in East Asia and the world, including as it concerns not only traditional security and economic issues but also energy security, supply chain resilience, and climate change. He emphasized Japan’s economic ties to Indiana and said Japanese companies in Indiana have proven an ideal environment for its transition to the manufacture of electric vehicles.
The state of Indiana and Japan have a long history of strong economic ties. Japanese companies, including Honda, Subaru, and Toyota have invested in the state, and Indiana companies, including Eli Lilly, Cook Medial, and Cummins have operations in Japan. According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, more than 300 Japanese business facilities operate across Indiana, employing nearly 70,000 Hoosiers. Japan is also one of Indiana’s top trading partners, with approximately $2 billion of Hoosier-made goods exported to Japan annually. Governor Holcomb has made regular diplomatic visits to Japan, most recently in 2019, and has signed a memorandum of friendship and cooperation with the government. Indiana also has a sister-state, the Indiana-Tochigi Prefecture relationship, which was established in 1999.
Consul-General Tajima’s public session concluded with a Q&A session with students. When asked why Japan has identified Indiana as such a critical business partner, he remarked that the main reason was the attitude and work ethic of Hoosiers.
“Indiana’s central location where the automotive industry has thrived, and the people’s attitude and work ethic has made Indiana a good place to invest,” said Tajima. “The greatest factor has been how welcoming Indiana has been and the great workers who are devoted to their work in Japanese facilities.”
Consul-General Tajima joined Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1989, and has previously served in several important posts, including for the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations. He also held the title of Ambassador in Charge of Economic Diplomacy and Senior Official of Japan for APEC.
Among many events and public lectures on Japan, the Hamilton Lugar School’s 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative hosts conferences on U.S.-Japan relations and academic manuscript workshops, provides travel grants to support faculty fieldwork in Japan, and supports undergraduate and graduate courses on contemporary Japanese politics, society, and international affairs.