Prime Minister Abe Visit to Los Angeles and Meeting Yoshiki / 安倍首相昼食会 – Yoshiki 氏

May 3, 2015

Prime Minister Abe

Prime Minister Abe (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Prime Minister Abe Luncheon (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Prime Minister Abe Luncheon (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

On May 1, 2015, I attended a luncheon at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel with special guest Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.  Abe’s visit to Los Angeles was a last stop of his US tour, which included a speech in English to a joint session of Congress,  a first for a Japanese Prime Minister.

I am a member of the Japan America Society of Southern California, an organization which was a co-host of the event and gave members an opportunity to purchase tickets.  The event which had a capacity of 750 seats sold out in 30 minutes.

Mayor Eric Garcetti who provided the introduction speech for Abe expressed his fondness of Japan and stated that he studied at Tamagawa Gakuin when he was a high school student.  Garcetti pointed out that Los Angeles has deep ties to Japan with 250,000 persons of Japanese descent living in Los Angeles and 650,000 visitors coming to Los Angeles from Japan each year.

Prime Minister Abe Los Angeles Visit

Prime Minister Abe Speaking of “Abenomics” (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Abe spoke of several hot topic issues including a new defense cooperation agreement with the United States and his views on the three arrows of “Abenomics”: fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms  to open the economy.  Abe was specifically asked about the third arrow of structural reform and whether it will succeed and he responded, “I am often criticized about the third arrow, that it has missed its target.  However, I will tell you this, I was a member of my university’s archery team, so my arrow will definitely hit the target.”

What was refreshing about Abe’s speech was the light-hearted comments he interjected in his speech in addition to providing insights on his background and interests.

Some insights that stood out to me were:

  • Abe attended the University of Southern California (USC) as a foreign student for 2 years in the late 70s.
  • Abe is a fan of Hollywood movies and watching DVDs is a form of distressing after he has been grilled by opposition lawmakers.
  • Abe’s favorite move is the Graduate and one of the things he enjoyed doing as a student at USC is to visit locations where the Graduate was filmed.
  • Abe’s grandfather Nonbusuke Kishi, the Prime Minister of Japan in the 50s, stayed at the same Biltmore Millennium Hotel when he visited Los Angeles as Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Abe Seated Next to US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Prime Minister Abe Seated Next to US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Additionally, I was surprised that Abe actually sat at the head table to have lunch and socialized with guests.  Abe was seated next to the US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.  I’ve been to other events with high-profiled speakers and the speaker usually comes to give the speech and leaves.  Abe allowed photos with guests and even stood up to talk to certain guests.   The luncheon felt intimate and provided special access to a high political official.

Japanese Mega Artist Yoshiki in Attendance (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Japanese Mega Artist Yoshiki in Attendance (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Yoshiki Attended the Prime Minister Abe Luncheon

Another highlight of the luncheon was meeting Japanese musician Yoshiki.  Yoshiki was in attendance as an invited guest.  Yoshiki is a “mega star” in Japan and has also established himself professionally in the United States (he wrote a score for the Golden Globe Awards).   He graciously allowed guests to approach him and take photos with him, which is unthinkable to do in Japan due to his immense popularity.  We briefly chatted with Yoshiki and he said that he has visited Sawtelle Japantown from time to time.

Now if I see Abe on television, I will think of him differently from the insights that I gleaned from the luncheon.  And my encounter with Yoshiki was an extra bonus!

 Yoshiko graciously allowed guests to approach him and take a photo (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Yoshiki graciously allowed guests to approach him and take a photo (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

安倍首相昼食会

2015年5月1日ビルトモアミレニアムホテルで開催された日本の首相安倍晋三氏を主賓とする昼食会に参加した。歴代首相として初めて上院下院議会で英語で演説をした後 ロスアンジェルスは首相の今外遊の最終訪問地となった。

私はこの会の主催者のコーホストであるジャパンアメリカンソサエティの会員で入場する機会が与えられた。750席は30分で完売された。

高校時代時代に玉川学園で学んだ親日家LA市長エリックガルセティ氏が始めに首相紹介のスピーチをした。ロスアンジェルスは250,000の日系人が住み又年に650,000の日本人観光客が訪ねてくる日本とは係わり深い町だと語った。

安倍首相はアメリカとの新防衛協定、景気刺激策安倍ノミックスの市場緩和や金融緩和等今一番熱いトピックについて語った。第三の矢市場開放の構造上の改革は矢が的を外れているのではないかとの質問に対して首相は大学時代アーチェリー部に属していたので確実に私の矢は的に当たると自信に満ちた回答をした’。

安倍首相のスピーチはユーモワ一杯に彼自身の背景や興味を語ったところががさわやかな感じがした。

特に私にとって印象的だった事

首相は70年代 USCに 2年間留学した。

首相はハリウッド映画フアンで議会で野党から吊し上げにあった後はハリウッド映画DVDを見ると非常にストレス解消になるとの事。

首相の一番好きな映画は卒業(THE GRADUATE)でUSC時代にはこの映画の撮影現場を訪ねるのを楽しんだ。

首相の祖父岸信介氏は50年代の日本の首相で彼がロスアンジェルスを訪ねた時も同じビルトモアミレニアムホテルに滞在した。

更に首相はヘッドテーブルで皆と一緒に和やかにお喋りを楽しみながら昼食をとった。隣席は駐日大使キャロラインケネディ氏だった。私は他の同様な会にも出席しているが大抵主賓は講演だけして帰る場合が多い。首相は参加者と写真を撮ったり立ち上がってお話をした。この昼食会はとても親近感があり政治高官にも親しみがもてた。

Yoshiki氏 

昼食会のもう一つのハイライトは日本のミュージシャンYoshiki氏にお会いした事だ。彼は日本ではメガスターでアメリカでも認められている。(ゴールデングローブ賞の曲を書いた。)彼の膨大な人気により日本では考えられないが写真を一緒に撮ったりし周りに親切な対応をしていた。お話をしたが時折ソーテルジャパンタウンにお買い物等来るとの事。

これからは安倍首相をテレビで見る時今回垣間見た洞察により違った感じを持つと思う。Yoshiki氏との遭遇は特別ボーナスだった。

The Meal Served at the Luncheon

The Meal Served at the Luncheon – Beef with Shitake mushroom and shiso (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Nisei Week Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon presented Mrs. Abe with flowers. (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Nisei Week Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon presented Mrs. Abe with flowers. (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

For more photos from Prime Minister Abe’s Luncheon, go to SawtelleJapantown.com’s Facebook Page.

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