Consul-General Naoki Ito of Japan in Chicago, Ill. and his delegation spent Saturday, March 24, touring Chimney Rock, the Scotts Bluff National Monument and visiting the Legacy of the Plains Museum among other areas.
Ito and his delegation visited the area as they are traveling across Nebraska, to become more familiar with the state and its people. This September the 50th annual conference of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association will be held in Omaha.
The delegation also learned more about the Japanese immigrants, who came to the Panhandle and put down roots, as farmers.
One such farmer, is Nick Sakurada of Bayard. He met the delegation at the Western Sugar Factory in Scottsbluff.
“My dad was in Colorado in 1912 with the railroad, during the winter and while he was at the section camp a rancher came looking for people to raise sugar beets,” Sakurada said. “So, my dad decided to leave the railroad and farm.”
Sakurada’s father would eventually move to Scottsbluff on the advice of his brothers, who said the beets were easier to grow in the sandy soil. He began by renting 80 acres and five years later rented 160 acres, where he grew corn, dry beans, cabbages, onions and other vegetables.
“It was how most Japanese survived the Depression,” Sakurada said. “We grew the vegetables to sell and then were able to pay rent to the landowners.”
Sakurada said the Japanese were good farmers, and brought many skills with them to the U.S. in raising crops. His father had a “hot bed” or greenhouse where he would plant his crops first and then transplant them in the spring.
Along with the history, Ito and his delegation also visited the Western Sugar Company, where they learned about the sugar beet to packaged sugar process and then finished the day at the High Plains Feedlot learning more about the cattle industry in Nebraska.
“I look forward to visiting beef in Nebraska and see how it is produced” Ito said. “See how we can build on partnership between Nebraska and Japan.”
Ito stated that Japan is one of the largest exporters of beef and pork from Nebraska and can see increasing economic ties with the state.