On Mar. 4, through the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu, the Japanese government conferred its 2020 Fall Imperial Decoration upon Mr. Thomas Nobuo Hasebe for “promoting the cooperation program between the Japan Air Defense Force and the United States Air Force,” according to the Honolulu consulate.
The prestigious decoration, The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, was given in recognition of Hasebe helping with this program as both a military officer and as a civilian officer of the USAF. “Mr. Hasebe has been engaged with the defense personnel exchange program between JASDF and USAF as the Chief of Indo-Pacific Military Personnel Exchange Program/Overseas Developmental Education Operations & Continuity, Department of Air Force,” explained the consulate in a press release. Hasebe’s tireless work helped many Japanese and U.S. officers participate in these exchanges, enhancing the “good relationship between JASDF and USAF” and improving JASDF, the release said. Following the government’s COVID-19 restrictions, the decoration ceremony was kept small, with only a limited number of attendees.
The local program consisted of opening remarks before the conferring of the decoration on Hasebe by Consul General of Japan Yutaka Aoki. Next, Hasebe gave his recipient’s speech overviewing his experiences as the Chief of the Indo-Pacific Military Personnel Exchange Program. His speech was followed by a guest’s speech by Col. Kohei Kurachi which included Kurachi’s reading of a congratulatory letter to Hasebe.
In the previous year in Hawai‘i, the consulate gave Japan’s Fall Imperial Decoration (also Gold Rays with Rosette) to Kenneth Tohohiko Ito, former Hawai‘i State House of Representative member and Chair of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Development organization. This 2019 recognition was for Ito’s promotion of friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.
The Order of the Rising Sun (Kyokujitsu-shō) was established in 1875 by the Japanese government as the first national decoration of the post-feudal, Meiji era. Meant to honor those who have made significant contributions to international relations, development in welfare or preservation of the environment (and originally recognizing Imperial military contributions, too), The Order of the Rising Sun includes several levels, of which Gold Rays with Rosette is the fourth class.
Among Hasebe’s cohort of 25 other foreign nationals who received this specific class of decoration in 2020 were Susan Jun Onuma, president of the Japanese American Association of New York and founding board member and former secretary of the U.S.-Japan Council; Bogdan Gabrovec of Slovenia, president of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia – Association of Sports Federations and former president of the Slovenian Judo Federation; and Brazil-based chemistry researcher Tetsuo Yamane, former director of the Molecular Biology Department of the Amazon Biotechnology Center and former director of the Science Development Department of the Butantan Institute, according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (mofa.go.jp/files/100110483.pdf).
In its longer history, earlier recipients of The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, in Hawai‘i, the continental U.S and the world include the late Professor James R. Brandon, who taught kabuki and Asian theatre to UHM students; Keisuke Kinoshita, Japanese film director of popular (if heart-wrenching) postwar dramas such as “Twenty-Four Eyes” and “The Ballad of Narayama”; and “Star Trek” TV and film actor, George Takei, who survived a childhood in a U.S. concentration camp to go on to multi-media success as a groundbreaking Asian American and LGBTQ performer (see wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Rising_Sun).
In his recipient’s speech, Hasebe expressed gratitude to JASDF and USAF, to his own relatives (in particular, his brother who had encouraged him to aim for an USAF career and who had given him the opportunity to start this work) and especially to his wife who supported his efforts for years, allowing him to attain this honor.