Kenji Hirata is Consul General of Japan for Florida. Yesterday, he wrote an opinion piece on the relations between the US state and the Asian country, as a guest columnist for Florida Today.
"The year 2021 marks a key milestone in the economic relationship between Japan and the state of Florida. This year will be the 50th anniversary of the import liberalization of grapefruits in Japan. Once considered a very expensive fruit only to be enjoyed on special occasions, the 1971 decision to remove trade barriers made Florida grapefruits accessible to all Japanese families.
February 26 is designated as “Grapefruit Day” in Japan. Every year on this day, many events are held to promote the consumption of Florida grapefruits in the country. This celebration falls during the fruit’s peak season, when it is at its sweetest and juiciest.
It was in the early 1970s when I first encountered a Florida product in Japan. One day my mother bought a big fruit that we had never seen before. The whole family got together with curiosity, and we were excited to enjoy its exotic taste. It was a Florida grapefruit.
Japan remains the largest export market for Florida grapefruits in the world. Following the import liberalization of 1971, Florida quickly overcame its competition from other U.S. states in the Japanese market due to the high quality of its fruits.
Citrus fruits have been an important link connecting Japan and Florida for years. In 1995, Wakayama Prefecture and the state of Florida signed a sister state exchange agreement due to their mutual connections with oranges."