A delegation of elected officials from Japan’s Saitama Prefecture visited the University of Findlay on Monday, Oct. 17 to connect with students, UF faculty and staff, and City of Findlay representatives, and primarily to learn more about the United States presidential election climate and process at the local level. They also traveled to California to study this unusual election season and how outcomes could influence U.S. and Japanese relations.
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Officials, who are prefectural assembly members of the Liberal Democratic Party, were treated to lunch, a campus tour, and classroom time where they had the opportunity to interact with political science, Japanese language and introductory international relations students about their understanding and opinions regarding the election.
A cherry tree, symbolizing the friendship between the University, City of Findlay and Saitama Prefecture, was planted near the Mazza Museum, and Japanese officials donated books to the Museum authored by a Saitama artist.
The visit also served as a prelude to a trip that University officials, including President Katherine Fell, Ph.D., plan to take on Wednesday to Japan and Hong Kong for educational and economic development reasons. That group, which will also include such community leaders as Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik, The Findlay-Hancock County Alliance’s Economic Development Director Anthony Iriti and others, will visit the Kawaguchi City in Saitama prefecture and Fukui prefecture, where UF and City of Findlay officials will explore new educational and business opportunities based on well-established partnerships. UF’s Hiro Kawamura, Ph.D., associate professor of Japanese and chair of the Language and Culture Department, will serve as the coordinator and translator, as he has done for other similar trips that UF, City of Findlay and economic development representatives have taken as a group in the past.
The University’s relationship with Saitama Prefecture, a Japanese state located north of Tokyo, has been established since 1992, primarily through UF’s support of various educational exchange programs between Saitama and Ohio. This school year, UF is hosting three Ohio Saitama University Scholarship program students, including two who are studying in the IELP (Intensive English Language Program) and participating in mechanical engineering internships at a local Japanese auto manufacturing company. According to Kawamura, UF is the only university in Ohio that supports educational exchange through the Saitama program.
The U.S. Presidential election this year has more closely resembled Japan’s elections in terms of drama, said Shigeru Motoki, an assembly member. “The election coverage seen in Japan is very scandalous,” and focused on attention grabbing rather than issues and platforms, he explained. Japanese candidates do not debate each other, instead opting for one-sided television appearances, he maintained. There is more discourse among United States candidates, but lately more acrimony and finger-pointing as well, Motoki said the delegation is noticing.
While visiting UF, the delegation said it often found students’ interesting, and valued the opportunity to interact with young Americans regarding the upcoming election.