Skip to main content

Japan Consul General in Houston Discusses Trade and Investment in the Region

Published Jan 25, 2021 by Javier Vargas

Japan Consul General in Houston

Houston is widely regarded as a great global city, with one of the most diverse populations anywhere in the United States. As the top exporting metro in the U.S., our economy is also deeply tied to global trade and foreign investment. 

The region has trading relationships with more than 200 countries, which collectively logged $237 billion in trade in 2019. Japan ranks as Houston’s 9th largest international trade partner with trade between the two regions valued at $9.2 billion in 2019.

Japanese companies have invested significantly in the Houston region in recent years. Several notable corporations now have a large presence in Houston including Daikin North America, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kuraray, Mitsubishi and Toshiba.  

Over the years, the Partnership has worked closely with the Japan Business Association, Japan-America Society, and the Consulate General of Japan to welcome numerous Japanese delegations to Houston, support business recruitment activities and lead notable international trade missions.

In December, the Partnership and Mayor Turner hosted a virtual multi-day investment and trade mission focused on reinforcing key relationships and establishing new avenues for cooperation and investment with government stakeholders and business leaders in Japan. 

The Honorable Hideo Fukushima, Consul-General of Japan in Houston, has been instrumental in creating an environment supportive of the full range of ties between Houston and Japan. Following the recent investment and trade mission, the Partnership met with Consul-General Fukushima to discuss the special relationship that exists between Houston and Japan. 


Can you provide some insight on why it has been important for Japan to have a consulate presence in Houston?  

Japan first established a consular office in Houston almost 80 years ago in 1941 as a branch of the former Japanese Consulate-General in New Orleans. The history of the Japanese community in Texas is even older than that. Japanese immigrants first settled in the state around the year 1900, becoming Texas’s earliest rice farmers. The community has been steadily growing ever since then, but the prosperous post-war years of the 1960s are when relations really started to boom, with growing bilateral trade and Japanese companies, mainly in energy and manufacturing, establishing operations in the region. At that point, it became clear there was a need to further provide for the welfare and safety of the growing Japanese community while promoting even stronger business relations. So, the Houston consular branch office was upgraded to a full Consulate-General in 1965, and the Japan Business Association of Houston was established soon after in 1967.  

The decades since the 1960s have seen the relationship grow even stronger, with Japanese people and businesses becoming integrated into more aspects of life in Texas. Japan now has 18 diplomatic mission across the United States. But, the presence of our office here in Houston holds special importance since the region it covers is among the fastest growing in the country, with so much potential for current and future exchange.

How have the ties between Japan and Houston brought new business opportunities to your country? 

Just like the rest of Texas, the bond between Japan and Houston has grown steadily over the decades. But, the pace of that growth has been especially strong over the last five years or so. In business, this is mainly due to Houston’s robustly growing economy, which been a beacon of innovation attracting more and more Japanese companies. Over the last decade, Japanese businesses have more than doubled the number of jobs they have created in Texas. Houston is a real bright spot in that regard, with the number of member companies of the Japan Business Association of Houston increasing by 40% during the 2010s. 

As more business opportunities become available in Houston, Japanese companies are increasingly seizing them. A typical case-in-point is the Houston energy sector. Texas is the driving force behind US energy production, which is playing a bigger and bigger role on the global stage. Japanese companies have benefitted tremendously from building relationships with Texas energy companies and investing in energy export projects. For example, the massive Freeport LNG joint-project is key to a bright new chapter in Japan’s energy diversification strategy. But, energy is far from the only sector to be investing in the area. Daikin opened their large Technology Park and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has moved their American headquarters to the region. So, Japan is clearly positioned to benefit from further business exchange with companies in Houston, which show enormous potential for growth. 
How have the business ties between United States and Japan evolved in recent decades? 

The economic relationship between Japan and the US has changed significantly over the last 30 years or so. When I joined the Japanese Foreign Service in the mid-1980s the most pressing issue in the bilateral relationship was the large trade deficit the US had with Japan - driven mostly by automobile imports. At that point in time, Japanese imports accounted for nearly half of the total US trade deficit with all nations. But now, Japanese imports only account for about 8% of the total US trade deficit, whereas Japan has risen to become the top foreign nation investing in the United States as of last year. The economic partnership between Japan and the US has transformed at the fundamental level, with both sides taking a win-win approach on working together. Typically, Japanese companies act by making their products at the local level, creating jobs for local people and producing essential goods and services for businesses and consumers in the region. About 6%, or $95 billion worth of US exports are now produced by Japanese manufacturers in the United States.

A key indicator for how strong Japan-Houston business relations have grown was the recent virtual seminar “Doing Business with Houston” hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership and JETRO. That event was a huge success that brought together over 500 Japanese companies interested in possibly doing business in the region. In the course of the seminar, Mayor Turner provided a strong invitation for Japanese businesses to consider the area’s economic potential - and I am certain that many of them will.

What has surprised you most about Houston during your time here? 

Coming from Japan I of course am impressed by the size of everything in Texas and in Houston. For one thing there is the food - the size of a Texas barbecue plate or Texas steak is so huge compared to Japan. But it’s not just the food - I am always amazed at the massive scale businesses like the Buc-ee’s gas stations in the region. I guess the saying is true - “everything is bigger in Texas!”

What do you think would surprise Houstonians who visit Japan? 

Many Houstonians have told me how surprised and delighted they were by the technological conveniences they encountered on trips to Japan. One that is especially surprising to many of them is the technology found in most Japanese bathrooms. It is pretty common in Japan for toilets to have built in “washlets” or automatic bidets. Other features, like heated toilet seats and touchless lids that automatically raise and lower are also fairly widespread.

How do you see the ties between Houston and Japan changing in the next 10 years? What factors might impact the relationship? 

Over the medium and long term I absolutely expect the trend of increasing economic cooperation and closer integration between Japanese and Houstonian companies to continue. But, in the short term the impact of COVID-19 cannot be ignored, and by all accounts it will continue to cause disruptions for several more months. We all face the same daunting challenges in the wake of the pandemic, and therefore must seek new socio-economic solutions that emphasize resilience and sustainability for the current situation and others like it that may arise in the future. In that regard, Japan and Houston both have uniquely skilled workforces and the technological know-how to break new ground on these issues and pave the way for long-lasting fruitful business partnerships. 

Case in point are the industries that will play a major role as digital technologies like artificial intelligence and the internet of things transform society. Another key sector will doubtlessly be in medical technology, where Japan as the society with the most aged population, can share its knowledge and technological expertise on caring for the elderly with the world-class medical research institutes in Houston. Another promising area for cooperation is investment in clean energy, including hydrogen and renewables. Those sectors are just a few of the many potential areas for future-looking collaboration between Japan and Houston. 


For more information about the Houston Region's international ties, click here

Related News

Economic Development

Rising in Houston: Projects to Look Forward to in 2024 and Beyond

Houston experienced significant economic resilience and growth amidst looming concerns of a recession. Despite slowdowns across sectors, the Bayou City continued to create jobs, adding 53,700 in the first 10 months of ’23, according to the Partnership’s Houston Region Economic Outlook report. While the real estate market faced challenges, the greater Houston region saw many dynamic projects come to life, including the opening of Helix Park, the Texas Medical Center’s first phase of its new 37-acre campus.  Looking ahead, here are a few developments that will impact Houston’s economy in 2024.  Arco Del Tiempo Serving as the centerpiece in Houston’s East End Guadalupe Plaza Park, Arco Del Tiempo is a new environmentally sustainable art installation aiming to advance the region’s transition to an energy abundant future. Standing at a 100-feet tall, Arco Del Tiempo will not only generate power for the nearby City-owned Latino multicultural performing arts theater, Talento Bilingüe de Houston, but it also will offer a gathering space for the community. Arco Del Tiempo is set to be installed in 2024.  Click to expand Austin Point Austin Point is a first-of-its-kind 4,700-acre master-planned town that will feature 1,600 acres of mixed-use commercial development space and a walkable downtown area with hospitals, life sciences labs and corporate headquarters. The first phase of the development will include The 1824, a central park and community center with a café, wine bar, large front porch, an event lawn, children's play area, beer garden, food truck court, walking trails and a dedicated space for outdoor fitness activities and games.   Autry Park Spanning 14-acres in Montrose, Autry Park is an urban village designed to increase connectivity and walkability to food, entertainment, retail and living in the area. The project's first phase includes two apartment buildings, Hanover Autry Park, a 24-story apartment tower with 324 units, and Hanover Parkview, an eight-story mid-rise with 421 units, both have already opened. Phase two is projected to open at the end of 2024 with additional commercial tenants and retail space. BioHub II at Generation Park Generation Park, Northeast Houston’s massive commercial development, is set to open its new state-of-the-art, 45-acre biomanufacturing hub – BioHub II this year. The new master-planned campus will include 500,000 square feet for cGMP manufacturing, lab and office space and house the biomanufacturing workforce institute that will offer certificate coursework in bioprocessing to students, further expanding the region’s life sciences ecosystem and workforce.  Click to expand East Blocks  A redevelopment project led by Houston-based Pagewood and Wile Interests aims to transform former warehouses in EaDo into a walkable 10-block mixed-use district. East Blocks is expected to break ground in the second quarter of 2024 and will encompass 513,000 square feet southwest of Shell Energy Stadium. Phase one will include a unique blend of restaurants, shops, office and green space and will include existing tenants 8th Wonder Brewery and Pitch 25, while phase two will focus on additional retail and restaurant space. The Allen The Allen, a sophisticated new mixed-use development is currently underway in Houston’s Allen Parkway corridor. The first phase, The Residences at The Allen, includes the development of a $290 million, 35-story skyscraper that towers over Buffalo Bayou Park. The stylish new building offers luxury condos, high-rise penthouses and a sleek 170-room Hotel – the Thompson, which opened earlier this year. Phase II of The Allen is anticipated to break ground in early 2024 and will include more retail and restaurant space and luxury multi-family living.  Click to expand The Commons at Hermann Park Hermann Park is changing the game for green spaces in the Houston area with its new groundbreaking 26-acre development – The Commons. Slated to open to the public this week, The Commons aims to revolutionize the beloved park with a unique collection of play areas, including an immersive space-themed area and a life-sized carousel. The commons also features many new gathering spaces including a Central Lawn and the Live Oak Terrace.  The Houston Astros Entertainment District  The Houston Astros expect to break ground on a new entertainment district adjacent to Minute Maid Park in Nov. 2024 The district will feature a 17-story hotel, 60,000 square feet of retail space for restaurants and shops and a three-level gathering area for fans to watch Astros games and other major sporting events on a massive outdoor screen. The venue will also host live music performances. The Grand at 249 Situated at the corner of the Grand Parkway-Highway 249 intersection, the groundbreaking 65-acre retail center dubbed The Grand at 249 will span 404,256 square feet in Tomball, making it the largest retail concentration within Houston's northwest submarket. Slated for completion in 2025, The Grand at 249 will boast 12 pad sites and include tenants such as AT&T, Boomer Jack's, Gringo's, Jersey Mike's, Milano Nails and Two Pho Nine Asian Fusion.   Learn more about why businesses are choosing Houston and what it means to live, work and play in the Bayou City. 
Read More
Economic Development

Houston House Spotlights Major Advancements in Tech and Innovation at SXSW

The Greater Houston Partnership returned to Austin to host Houston House at the 2024 South by Southwest conference, highlighting the strides made in technology and innovation within the city. Throughout the one-day program, discussions delved into the essence of collaboration as a driving force behind success in startups and industry advancement within the Houston region. Startups face formidable odds, with up to 90 percent failing within the first few years. However, the consensus among successful Houston startup founders and investors is clear: collaboration is key for scaling effectively. Sunny Zhang, Founder and Chief of True Leap, stressed the importance of cultivating diverse perspectives and networks, emphasizing to “surround yourself with different minded people in every spectrum to maximize your collective intelligence and your network.” Amidst the evolving landscape of remote work and the rapidly changing tech industry, startup CEOs prioritize fostering positive work cultures that revolve around strong team dynamics. This emphasis on collaboration ensures cohesion and resilience as companies navigate the challenges of scaling up effectively. Co-Founder and CEO of Hello Alice Carolyn Rodz shared fostering teamwork through shared responsibilities, even tasks like taking out the trash, binds teams together towards a common goal. Throughout the discussion, panelists consistently underscored the magnitude of activity burgeoning within Houston. From Greentown Labs and the Ion to the Texas Medical Center and Generation Park, Houston’s vast portfolio of thriving industries and innovation hubs have paved the way for opportunity and collaboration across sectors, driving growth and success in the region. “Houston has a cornucopia of opportunities for people looking to switch industries,” said Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy Plasmonics. “There is a lot of overlap across industries. At Syzygy, we got people who come from the oil industry and aerospace who bring in different skill sets.” Yet, with growth comes the imperative of nurturing talent pipelines. Education leaders emphasized the need for community collaboration in preparing students for evolving industries. “If you look at low-income students in Texas, only 23 percent of students are completing secondary education," said Raj Salhotra, Executive Director of Momentum Education. “Most jobs require experience and education past high school. We have to build a pipeline to get people there.”  Houston House at SXSW 2024 showcased the region’s unwavering dedication to propelling its tech ecosystem forward, spotlighting its collaboration efforts and the groundbreaking advancements driving growth and innovation in the Bayou City. “There is a revolution happening in Houston, said Best. “There are signs pointing to a lot of success in the future. We are on the cusp of something huge.” View Houston House at SXSW Panel Recordings. 
Read More

Related Events

International Business

International Investment and Trade Forum

Houston, a global economic hub, thrives on international investment and trade. Boasting a strategic location and diverse industries, the city attracts foreign investors, fostering economic growth. A strong port…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners