Last week, Caroline Kennedy took her post as the United States Ambassador to Japan. As the first woman to serve in this post, both Japan and the U.S. hope that she will lead both countries to closer ties in the future. Although she has very little political experience, she has close ties to President Barack Obama. Her ties to Japan are less well-founded; she visited Japan once in 1978 with her late uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy and in 1986 with her husband. When she visited along with her uncle, Senator Kennedy, they laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Museum, site of one of the two US atomic bomb attacks on Japan during World War II.
Her father, the late President John F. Kennedy, had hoped to be the first U.S. President to make a state visit to Japan. President Kennedy served in the U.S. Navy and was deployed to the Pacific, fighting the Japanese during the Second World War. At the time of his presidency, Japanese-U.S. relations were quite acrimonious. The Japanese were angry over U.S. occupation of Okinawa and Americans retained bitterness about the 2nd World War. Japanese citizens took to the streets to protest the actions of the United States. To advance the historic visit, the president sent his brother and a delegation to Tokyo in 1962. Sadly, the visit was never to occur. An advance team, including then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk, was in the air en route to Tokyo for talks when Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, 50 years ago next week. The plane turned around in mid-Pacific and headed back. Kennedy's assassination meant that a U.S. president would not visit Japan until Gerald Ford's trip in 1974. When President Kennedy was assassinated in Texas, Caroline was only five days short of turning six years old.
Caroline Kennedy is considered a good choice and the Japanese people are pleased to have a member of such a respected family serve as the ambassador to their nation. She also will serve as an example to the nation, which is hoping to boost the participation of women in government and the economy. For now, she is being treated like royalty by the Japanese media, who are enamored of her style and her family background.
Taking up residence in Tokyo, Kennedy will likely be pleasantly surprised at Japan’s famously clean and efficient subway system. While living in New York City, she was famous for riding the subway regularly.