The International Advisory Board (IAB) supports Portland Japanese Garden by sharing its mission of inspiring harmony and peace to a global audience and by making connections with leaders in Japan and around the world. In 2021, the Garden announced the appointment of Asian art scholar and philanthropist Mimi Gardner Gates to the IAB.
Today we are pleased and honored to announce the appointment of two more towering figures to the IAB. They have shepherded change and have dedicated their life to service: His Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America Koji Tomita and pioneering actor and activist George Takei.
Ambassador Tomita’s diplomatic career in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spans 40 years. In 2021, President Joe Biden received his Letter of Credence accepting Tomita as Japan’s Ambassador to the United States. Prior to this appointment, Tomita served as Japan’s Ambassador to South Korea and Israel and as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Personal Representative to the G20 Summit in Osaka in 2019. Having been Director-General of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ North America Bureau and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Tomita has helped foster friendship between Japan and the United States and add to a foundation of mutual support and respect he has described as “unshakeable.”
Ambassador Tomita’s relationship with the United States began when he spent a year studying abroad in North Carolina in 1977. He has helped lead efforts to strengthen the Japan-US relationship. He was also responsible for the preparation of Prime Minister Abe’s highly successful official visit to the United States in 2015.
Ambassador Tomita writes in his spare time and has published two books (in Japanese): Churchill: Leadership in Crisis and Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady Who Changed Politics. The latter won the Yamamoto Shichihei Award.
Beloved by many, George Takei first became known to worldwide audiences as helmsman Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek and many more movies and television series. Blessed with a warm, baritone voice, Takei has also lent his vocal talents as a narrator to works such as the Peabody Award-winning radio documentary Crossing East. Takei is also best-selling author—his fifth book, an Eisner Awardwinning graphic memoir titled They Called Us Enemy was released in 2019.
Dedication to his craft is only outmatched by Takei’s care for his fellow person. Understanding his fame gave him a platform to speak on behalf of the marginalized, Takei has become a powerful advocate of social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and marriage equality. His advocacy was born from a personal place. During World War II, Takei and his family were unjustifiably imprisoned in United States internment camps along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans.
Takei fosters bonds between the United States and Japan. Chairman Emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum, he previously served on the board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission under President Bill Clinton and in 2004 was conferred with the Gold Rays with Rosette of the Order of the Rising Sun by Emperor Akihito of Japan.