Masachūsettsu-shū e yōkoso!

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(Caption: Governor Deval Patrick and Governor Yuji Kuroiwa at the Massachusetts State House)

As part of the state’s robust global engagement strategy, Massachusetts has strengthened its economic relationship with Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture this month. Governor Deval Patrick and Governor Yuji Kuroiwa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on May 7, 2014 that enhances economic activity between Massachusetts and Kanagawa, while increasing academic exchanges and business collaborations between the two centers of innovation.

The MOU is the product of the Massachusetts-Japan Innovation Partnership Mission in December 2013, during which Governor Patrick met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Governor Kuroiwa and other Japanese officials. The MOU will usher in a new era of collaboration in the innovation economy with a focus on growing jobs and opportunities in the areas of life sciences, big data, clean energy, robotics and healthcare information technology.

“This agreement will foster new commercial partnerships in the vital innovation industries in both Massachusetts and Kanagawa Prefecture,” said Governor Patrick. “That’s how we grow jobs and opportunity in today’s global economy.”

“Today, we are taking another step to ensure that Massachusetts remains an active player in the 21st century global economy,” said Massachusetts Office of Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki. “Through this increased collaboration, we are strengthening our ties abroad and expanding the reach of our innovation industries.”

“We are extremely pleased that our mission to Japan has resulted in this important agreement with Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture,” said Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment Director Richard Elam. “This international collaboration offers the world the best of Japan’s and America’s life sciences and broader innovation technologies.”

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) are among the state agencies involved in this initiative.

Longstanding Cultural Ties

Massachusetts and Japan have longstanding ties dating back nearly a century. The Japan Society of Boston was created in 1920 to strengthen friendship and cultural, business and international relations. Since then the society has honored emissaries who exemplify this friendship. Just last week, the society honored Tony Award winner Diane Paulus, artistic director of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, at its annual dinner. Diane’s mother, Teruko Uchida, was born in Japan, and she met Diane’s father, Laurence Paulus, in Tokyo.

The Japanese have played prominent cultural roles in the life of Massachusetts. One of the world’s great maestros, Seiji Ozawa, was conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 to 2002, the longest-serving music director in the orchestra’s illustrious history. The orchestra performed in Tokyo on May 8-10, 2014, as part of its tour to China and Japan.

Since 1980, the world-renowned Koyo Conservatory of Music has been part of the Berklee International Network and sends many of its best students to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The school’s connection to Japan goes back to 1956, when acclaimed pianist and NEA Jazz Master Toshiko Akiyoshi was the first Japanese musician to win a scholarship to the college.

The Massachusetts-Japan relationship was strengthened in 1959 when Kyoto became Boston’s first sister city. And in 1987, New Bedford/Fairhaven, in southeast Massachusetts, formed a sister city agreement with Tosashimizu, Japan, in honor of Manjiro Nakahama, a young Japanese fisherman who lived in Fairhaven in the 19th century.

More recently, some of Japan’s finest pitchers – from Daisuke Matsuzaka to Koji Uehara - have contributed to the great success of the Boston Red Sox, forging an international fan base. In 2011, the Red Sox Foundation donated $50,000 to relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

In November 2013, the Massachusetts-Japan relationship deepened further when Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Ambassador Kennedy held a reception for Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts trade delegation in December.

Trade & Travel Partners

Today, the Consulate-General of Japan in Boston is active in representing Japan throughout New England. More than 130 Japanese companies support over 10,000 jobs in the Commonwealth and approximately 13,000 Japanese nationals have made Massachusetts their home. In 2013, Japan was Massachusetts’ fifth largest export partner, with Massachusetts exporting approximately $1.762 billion in goods and services, according to the Massachusetts Export Center.

In 2012, Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Port Authority announced the first non-stop flight between Boston and Tokyo (Narita), linking Massachusetts and Japan via Japan Airlines (JAL). Since the commencement of service, the flight has grown in popularity and continues to deepen the connections between the Commonwealth and Japan.

Japan is one of six key global markets actively promoted by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, which has a tourism website in Japanese for tourists who want to visit Massachusetts. In 2012, 70,000 Japanese visitors came to Massachusetts, spending $108 million and generating $7 million in state and local taxes.

In the months ahead, the Massachusetts-Japan connection will flourish on the fashion front, too. Uniqlo, one of Japan’s most popular clothing brands, just announced that it is launching a pop-up store in Boston this summer, followed by six permanent locations in Massachusetts in the coming year.

To all of our Japanese friends, visitors and business partners, Masachūsettsu-shū e yōkoso (Welcome to Massachusetts).