Remembering Prime Minister Takeo Miki

In my blog “Remembering Former First of Japan Lady Mutsuko Miki” I posted photos of meeting the Miki family on several occasions many years ago. Here is a bit more about Prime Minister Takeo Miki whom I was privileged to meet in the 1980s.

Prime Minister Miki is known in Seattle for his gift of 1000 Japanese Cherry Trees in 1976 that were planted at Seward Park and along Lake Washington. Blossoming beautifully every spring they remind us of how short a beautiful moment of life can be as time moves on so quickly but also how a good deed can have an impact beyond the years of any one person. These Japanese cherry trees and others across the country are symbols of peace and friendship for more than one generation of Americans and Japanese whose parents, grand parents or great grandparents lived at a time when Japan and the United States engaged in a terrible war. As the generation that knew WWII passes on they have also left examples of reconciliation, peace making, and hope for a better future which the Cherry Blossoms are a symbolic part of that story and the annual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival celebrates.

President Ford personally thanked Prime Minister Miki for the gift at a luncheon held at the White House in June 1976 at which time Prime Minister Miki responded with the following remarks:

“Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, you do me a great honor with this festive luncheon. In just 4 days you will observe your 200th birthday as a nation. This is a cause for celebration throughout the world. In Japan we are reminding ourselves how much our friendship with America has meant to us. The United States has played a significant role throughout Japan’s modern history, especially in the past three decades. In those years we have forged the broadest of friendly partnerships. Today we are the two largest industrial democracies on Earth, walking side by side toward a better world, free of war and want.

Japan’s history would be very different if the United States had never declared its independence; so would the history of the rest of the world. That is what your Bicentennial means to the people of Japan. Because of America, democracy is there for many peoples and is a possible dream for the rest of mankind. Permit me in that spirit to offer a toast to the future, to the continuing good health of President Ford, to the deepening of the friendship between the Japanese and American peoples, and to the success of freedom in the world during the third century of the United States of America.” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=6161 )

During the second century of the USA as a young man Takeo Miki first set foot in the United States in Seattle where he worked for a time as a dishwasher at Maneki Japanese restaurant. Returning to Japan with a pro-American attitude he was denounced for opposing war with the United States as Japan invaded China and prepared for Pearl Harbor. He had been elected to parliament on the Minseito Party ticket at the age of 30 in 1937. He married Mutsuko Mori in 1940 and was reelected to parliament after the Minseito Party was forced to disolve during the war and even though he had been opposed to the war. Nearly thirty years after the end of World War II he was unexpectedly raised to power as a result of the scandal in the Tanaka administration and appropriately turned to him to find a clean leader for Japan. He was the first Japanese Prime Minister to have lived, studied, and worked in the United States. He was Prime Minister of Japan when I lived and studied in Japan.

In the 1980s I visited the Miki home several times and treated to a calligraphy lesson by the Prime Minister’s calligraphy tutor. He continued to practice improving his art after retiring from politics and enjoyed oil painting too. The Miki home has now opened to the public as the Takeo Miki Memorial Hall at Nampeidai near Shibuya, Tokyo.

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