skip to main content
caption: Hisao Inagaki, Consul General of Japan in Seattle; Lori Matsukawa, former King 5 anchor; Tomio Moriguchi, former President of Uwajimaya; Koji Tomita, Japanese Ambassador to the United States
Enlarge Icon
Hisao Inagaki, Consul General of Japan in Seattle; Lori Matsukawa, former King 5 anchor; Tomio Moriguchi, former President of Uwajimaya; Koji Tomita, Japanese Ambassador to the United States
Credit: Courtesy of Lori Matsukawa

Former King 5 anchor awarded medal from Japanese government

Former King 5 anchor Lori Matsukawa was awarded one of Japan's highest honors Friday by the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., who was in Seattle to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Seattle’s sister city relationship with Kobe, Japan.

The ambassador recognized Matsukawa's work promoting friendly relations between the U.S. and Japan.

The medal, "The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays," is awarded in the name of the Japanese emperor. Traditionally, it was only given to Japanese citizens. Now, the award is also given to foreigners, often recognizing military or government service. In 2003, women became eligible to receive the medal.

"It's especially meaningful for me to receive the award as a foreign woman," Matsukawa said. "Primarily for my efforts in building mutual friendships between the people of Japan and the people of the United States."

Growing up in Hawaii, Matsukawa said sometimes she felt people from Japan didn't respect Japanese Americans.

"It was as if we left the motherland, and we were somehow 'persona non grata.' You are dead to us because you have left," Matsukawa explained. But she said that characterization was unfair.

"We came to American seeking better opportunities," she said.

Matsukawa said she dedicated her work to the U.S.-Japan relationship because she felt that Japanese who immigrated to the United States were ignored by those who stayed in Japan.

She remembered how former Gov. Garry Locke, who is Chinese American, was treated when he went to China for his first trade mission.

"He was treated like a rockstar," Matsukawa said. "The police had to hold hands and make a human fence to hold back the photographers and the people from rushing the motorcade."

Matsukawa said she turned to a Chinese American woman and asked her why they were so excited.

She said the woman responded: "The Chinese people are just so happy and proud that someone with Chinese ancestry has done so well. It's like little brother has come home."

That stuck with Matsukawa.

She said she thought: "The Japanese people would be happy about what Japanese Americans accomplished. But, they have to know about it."

Matsukawa said she realized many Japanese people were not aware of the way Japanese Americans were treated during World War II.

"I think if they realized Japanese Americans were put into these camps for four years, left the camps with $25, a train ticket in their pocket, in the face of extreme discrimination, and make a go for themselves, they would be so proud of what Japanese Americans were able to accomplish," she said.

While Matsukawa raised awareness about the experience of Japanese Americans, she directed America's attention back to Japan. She covered the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 in eastern Japan. She also shared stories of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

"I was able to talk to the people in the United States about how the Japanese were very resilient in the face of disaster, particularly, the recent Fukushima disaster, which really was a triple disaster — an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. How did these people come back, and start their new lives?" Matsukawa asked. "That was really important for people in the United States to hear. Especially in an earthquake-prone area like the Pacific Northwest."

She said she wanted to focus on building "person-to-person relationships." Matsukawa said those relationships allow people to learn about each other's stories, and become "brothers and sisters across the Pacific." She said being a journalist has given her the opportunity to share such stories.

Matsukawa said she wished her parents and grandparents could see her accepting the award. She said they would be amazed that, "in just three short generations something like this would happen in their family."

Her grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late Meiji-era in the early 1900s. Matsukawa explained that at the time one could not even look at the emperor, much less stand in his presence.

"Here I am getting an award from the imperial family, recognizing my efforts to bring the Japanese and Japanese Americans together," she said.

Matsukawa served as president of the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington. It hosts the oldest Japanese language school in the continental U.S. She also co-founded the Seattle Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.