Sen. Jay Rockefeller received Japan's highest honor last week during a special ceremony that honored the ties he's helped bridge between Japan and the United States.
Japanese Emperor Akihito awarded Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the Grand Cordon Order of the Rising Sun. Rockefeller formally received it Wednesday during a ceremony at the residence of Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae.
Established in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun was Japan's first national award; the Grand Cordon is its highest ranking. Rockefeller, whose father received the honor in 1969, was nominated by Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida.
In an acceptance speech, Rockefeller said the recognition was "among the greatest honors of my life."
Rockefeller's relationship with the people of Japan began more than a half century ago. He lived there from 1957 to 1960, studying Japanese at Tokyo's International Christian University.
When he became West Virginia's governor, he said he wanted to open West Virginia up to the world. He said Japan had the ability to advance the state like no other country could.
"The strong cultural similarities between the Japanese and the people of West Virginia had become so apparent to me," Rockefeller said. "They're rooted in their land. They're hard-working. Their histories are filled with stories about overcoming adversity."
"In friendships and business relationships, trust and respect are of the utmost importance to the Japanese," he said. "So too, for the people of West Virginia. The Japanese are honorable and that makes them strong partners. You can depend on them even in the most difficult times — just as you can always count on West Virginians."