|By G. Michael Dobbs
Sue Root (left) spoke with Mount Holyoke Professor Emeritus Tadanori Yamashita at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts.
Reminder Publications submitted photo
HOLYOKE Sue Root knew "something was in the works," by the series of calls she received from the Japanese Consulate in Boston, so she wasn't completed surprised when she learned that she was the recipient of Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays from the Japanese government.
The Holyoke resident and the former executive director of the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts said she was surprised when she researched the award online. The order was established in 1875 by the Emperor Meiji and is the third highest order that can be bestowed by the Japanese government.
The order is awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in social/occupational welfare or preservation of the environment. It is awarded in the name of the emperor.
The award was officially announced on April 29.
Root has spent much of her time with the World Affairs Council working to establish relations between Western Massachusetts and Hokkaido, the island north of the main island of Japan.
Root is a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Hokkaido Association since its establishment in 1990 and has participated in cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States.
Her relationship with the Japanese people came about from a tour of the nation in 1988. She was part of a delegation that was invited to Japan to help stem anti-Japanese feelings in the United States about car imports.
She called the experience " a fabulous study tour," and added, "It worked. Once you do something like that you find that you want to increase what you know."
In her case, her interest in Japan led to establishing tied with Hokkaido, which shares an interesting link with Western Massachusetts. William Smith Clark, a 19th century leader in agricultural education was the third president of Massachusetts Agricultural College, now known as the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 1876, he was hired by the Japanese government to establish the Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University.
In 1990, Hokkaido and Massachusetts became "sister states" and Springfield and Takikawa are "sister cities," Root said. In 2000, Root received a delegation of 70 members led by the governor of Hokkaido and conducted various memorial events on the tenth anniversary of the relationship between the two states.
Root said that over the years she has been responsible for leading visitor from Japan through Western Massachusetts and noted that in the past several years, the Japanese have been very interested in Springfield's vocational education system with visits to Putnam Technical and Vocational High School.
Still active on the board of the council, she said, "I loved working for the World Affairs Council."
She has asked that, if possible, the Japanese officials could come to Springfield to present the award.
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