National / Politics

Caroline Kennedy calls ambassador role in Japan her 'greatest privilege' in farewell message

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy called her three years in Japan “the greatest privilege of my life” and said in a farewell video message released Monday that she hopes to come back for a visit.

Her duty will end in tandem with Donald Trump’s formal transition to the U.S. presidency on Jan. 20, Washington time.

Kennedy, the first female to serve in the role, punctuated her four-minute speech with words of gratitude for everyone from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the people of Japan.

She thanked Abe for his efforts to strengthen what she called an “alliance of hope” and echoed President Barack Obama’s comments on the “power of reconciliation” made in a speech at Pearl Harbor in December.

She also praised Abe for “many landmark achievements” over the past three years, an apparent reference to Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima in May and Abe’s reciprocal visit to Pearl Harbor in December.

She said people in Okinawa helped her “better understand their struggle and our shared history,” adding she is “proud” that Tokyo and Washington were able to conclude a return of around 4,000 hectares of land in northern Okinawa last month — the largest such return in 30 years.

Kennedy extended her gratitude to people who helped her track down the late Tsuyako Matsumoto, who had sent a set of hina dolls to a young Kennedy in the White House in 1962 and “sparked my love of Japan.” Matsumoto passed away last year.

The clip, uploaded to YouTube by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, was immediately met with a deluge of comments from Japanese thanking her for her service and begging her to come back.

“You made us feel that Japan and the U.S. understand each other heart-to-heart. Thank you,” one commenter wrote.

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