National

Hundreds of dignitaries honor Yoshio Okawara, former Japanese ambassador to U.S.

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Several hundred top diplomats, politicians and business people gathered Monday at a Tokyo hotel to honor Yoshio Okawara, a former Japanese ambassador to the United States who died of pneumonia March 29 at age 99.

Okawara served as Japan’s man in Washington from 1980 to 1985, a period of intense trade friction with the U.S.

After leaving the Foreign Ministry in 1985, he went on to hold a number of important positions, including as president of the America-Japan Society.

“He was a real gentleman,” Gerald Curtis, professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University, said in Japanese during the gathering. “He had kept thinking about how we can make better the Japan-U.S. relationship, probably until the very last minute.”

Among the organizers of Monday’s gathering were former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, former Toyota Motor Corp. President Shoichiro Toyoda and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale.

Those who attended included former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Kenichiro Sasae, Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba and Yuzaburo Motegi, honorary CEO and chairman of soy sauce maker Kikkoman Corp.

“Mr. Okawara was a top diplomat of Japan who strengthened the presence of our country in the world,” Motegi said.

“In particular, he played a key role in building up a strong Japan-U.S. relationship.”