The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

It’s a big year for anniversaries in Nagoya. The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Chubu chapter turns 20 in November and will be celebrating two decades of partnerships that have benefited US businesses in Japan’s third-largest metropolitan area.

One of the strongest of those partnerships is with the US Consulate in Nagoya, which will reach a milestone of its own in 2020: the cen­tennial of its opening on July 3, 1920. Since that day, 100 years ago, the Consulate has walked in lockstep with Nagoya on its astounding journey to become Japan’s manufacturing capital and busiest port.

While it may seem obvious that the United States should have a diplomatic presence in Nagoya—Aichi Prefecture has led Japan in industrial output for 43 straight years, and Nagoya Port has handled the most cargo for the past 18 years—things didn’t always look that way. Nagoya emerged as an industrial center in the 19th century, led by textiles and ceramics. But the city lacked a deep-water harbor, so it was Yokkaichi, on the other side of Ise Bay in Mie Prefecture, that got the nod when the United States decided to open its first outpost in central Japan in 1909.

All that changed over the next decade as Nagoya’s harbor was dredged and upgraded to become an international gateway. In 1919, Harry Hawley was given the job of moving the Consulate from Yokkaichi to Nagoya. The New Jersey native applied for an appointment as a consul at the age of 37, after a long career as a globetrotting State Department secretary who accompanied US officials to Manila, Shanghai, and Tokyo. On July 3, 1920, Hawley raised the Stars and Stripes above a two-story Western-style residence near Nagoya Station that was rented from the city for a whopping ¥150 per month.

Hawley stayed on as Consul until 1925 and laid the foun­dation for today’s close commercial partnership between the United States and Nagoya. The rapid development of trade was showcased at the 1937 Nagoya Pan-Pacific Peace Exhibition, Japan’s first expo. Several US cities, including Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York, took part in that pioneering 10-week interna­tional gathering.

The Consulate closed on the eve of World War II, but reopened in Nagoya’s Sakae business district in 1950. The late 1950s and 1960s were boom times for Nagoya, and the Consulate matched the city’s impressive growth spurt. The United States scaled up its diplomatic presence with a three-story complex in Naka Ward that housed seven American officers. US Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II came from Tokyo for the grand open­ing on December 12, 1958. But budget cuts prompted the shuttering of the Consulate in 1970, an era during which Nagoya’s industrial economy was facing its own challenges from oil and currency shocks.

Happily, the Consulate got a new lease on life in the 1980s, when events focused attention on the value of diplomatic outposts in promoting trade and investment flows. In 1986, four years after Honda Motor Company, Ltd. became the first Japanese automaker to open an assembly plant in the United States, an American consul was seconded to Nagoya from Osaka. By 1993, Nagoya was once again home to a US Consulate of its own, which was inaugu­rated by US Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale.

The final chapter in the 100-year story began in 2005, when the Consulate moved to its current location on the sixth floor of the Nagoya International Center Building. That was an equally historic year for Nagoya, as the city hosted a world expo that attracted 22 million visitors.

As we celebrate the past, we at the Consulate are looking forward to another 100 years of building bridges between the United States and central Japan, in partnership with Nagoya’s US business community.

And, of course, we wish a very happy 20th to all our friends at the ACCJ-Chubu!

Gary Schaefer is principal officer at the US Consulate Nagoya and a member of the ACCJ-Chubu executive committee.
We at the Consulate are looking forward to another 100 years of building bridges . . . in partnership with Nagoya’s US business community.