About the Author: Foreign Service Officer Matthew G. Fuller serves as Ambassador Roos' Staff Aide at U.S. Embassy Tokyo.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos traveled to Okinawa, June 18-21, for a four-day stop to meet with local government officials, community leaders, and students to discuss economic, business, and educational opportunities for Okinawans. The Ambassador has spoken at length about the critical role of the U.S. Marine Corps presence in Okinawa like he did in his speech at Waseda University earlier this year. Recognizing the important contribution of Okinawa to the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the Ambassador sought to hear from the Okinawans themselves by traveling from Tokyo to the island and listening to their ideas for Okinawa's future.
Having signed, along with Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, the Okinawa-Hawaii Clean Islands Partnership on green energy the evening prior to his arrival in Naha, the Ambassador took up a full agenda, crisscrossing the island to discuss ways in which the United States can deepen its engagement with Okinawa. He addressed the 10th Anniversary event of the Obuchi Fellows program, which sends researchers between Okinawa and Hawaii to meet with education officials and English language educators to discuss ways to promote English education. Ambassador Roos met with a diverse group of college students for an open discussion ranging from study abroad opportunities to President Obama to the presence of U.S. troops on the island.
Touring the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology (OIST) and receiving an update on their latest research, the Ambassador was impressed with the Institute's progress and the breadth and potential of their work. He offered insights based on his Silicon Valley background on how to leverage and commercialize their development in a way that will benefit the Okinawan economy. He later hosted a reception for Okinawan entrepreneurs and business leaders where he had a chance to have more in-depth conversations about economic development on the island. He took time to discuss his observations with the Governor, the Speaker of the Prefectural Assembly, and the Chairmen of the Northern and Central base hosting mayor's associations.
Although he and his staff were dressed in suits, Ambassador Roos noted at each meeting the kariyushi shirts worn by Okinawans in the hot and humid climate. He later made a special visit to local artisans where he selected and ordered a kariyushi shirt for himself that he plans to wear on his next visit to Okinawa. The Ambassador also enjoyed visiting the Nakamura House, an historic Okinawan home explaining traditional Okinawan lifestyle, culture, and history. Ambassador Roos looks forward to visiting Okinawa again soon and throughout his time in Japan.
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