Barhorsts join birthday celebration for Japan’s emperor

DETROIT — Consul-General of Japan Yusuke Shindo and his wife Seiko Shindo hosted a reception for invited guests at the Wintergarden in Detroit’s Renaissance Center on Thursday, Feb. 23. More than 500 guests were in attendance, including leaders in various fields from Michigan and Ohio, representatives from the Japanese community, and members of the Consular Corps. Among the invited guests were Councilmember and former Mayor Mike Barhorst and his wife Jenny.

In his prepared remarks, Shindo spoke about the deep connections between Japan and the United States and in particular, the two states under the Consulate’s jurisdiction, Michigan and Ohio. He pointed out that the region is the home to approximately 14,000 Japanese residents in Michigan and another 10,000 in Ohio.

He also noted there are presently approximately 500 Japanese business offices operating in each of the two states, making significant contributions to their local economies. “These operations, anchored in local communities, contribute to the strengthening of grassroots-level connections between the United States and Japan,” Shindo stated.

Although neither Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer nor Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine were able to attend the reception, both sent congratulatory proclamations marking the occasion of His Majesty, Emperor Naruhito’s 63rd birthday.

Naruhito acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019, beginning the Reiwa era, following the abdication of his father, Akihito. He is the 126th Japanese monarch.

In addition to a wide variety of sake, traditional Japanese foods were also served. The formal program also included both the national anthems of the United States and Japan. It concluded with a toast, offered by Shindo, to the Emperor.

Also attending the reception were Troy Mayor Robin Oda and her husband Scott, Bellefontaine Mayor Ben Stahler and his wife Sara, Marysville City Manager Terry Emery, and Dublin Mayor Jane Fox, Dublin City Manager and Sidney native Megan (Blackford) O’Callaghan, and Director of Development Jennifer Ekey.

“Jenny and I had a wonderful time,” Barhorst said upon his return. “It was good to see so many individuals with whom I have worked over the years.

“Sidney and Shelby County have benefitted greatly from Japanese investment,” Barhorst said. “People tend to have short memories, but when I first joined city council in 1977, Sidney had the highest per capita unemployment rate in the state of Ohio. When I left office 12 years later, we had the lowest per capita unemployment rate in the state.

“The dramatic turnaround was the result of a lot of hard work on the part of many, but due to Honda’s decision to locate their engine plant nearby and NK Parts, Advanced Composites, Hexa-Americas and Sankyo America locating in Sidney,” Barhorst said. “We cannot forget that it was Japanese investment that helped to fuel Sidney and Shelby County’s economic recovery.”