Silicon Valley remembers Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Japanese-American community in San Jose is getting ready to celebrate the Obon Festival this weekend.
The festival is one of the longest-running traditions in the city and honors deceased ancestors. But as Obon is celebrated locally, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also remembered as a friend of Silicon Valley.
Setup on Friday was well underway for the festival where ancestors’ spirits return to the world of the living and Japanese people welcome their arrival.
But the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe already weighs heavily on the event.
"We are deeply grieved with the death of prime minister Abe," said Rev. Gerald Sakamoto of San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.
Rev. Sakamoto said Obon also serves as a reminder of the value of human life.
"The grief that we share is not because we are Japanese it is because someone’s life has been taken," Sakamoto said.
Prime Minister Abe was the first sitting Japanese prime minister to venture beyond San Francisco to the tech centers of the South Bay.
On April 30, 2015, he held both a roundtable discussion and private meetings with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.
"Prime minister Abe was a courageous and energetic man," said Dr. Dan Okimoto of the Silicon Valley Japan Platform, which helped to organize Abe’s visit here.
Okimoto says the visit was a game-changer for Japan.
"So the message that it sent to Japan, which was covered by all the mass media, was that Silicon Valley is the key to Japan’s future," Okimoto said.
Abe also held discussions in 2015 with the Gladstone Institutes, an independent nonprofit life sciences research organization that partners with UCSF.
Abe was seen in photos during a meeting with researchers and other leaders at Stanford, which was also part of his tour in 2015.
Okimoto said he doesn't have any doubt that Prime Minister Abe’s interest in Silicon Valley has helped the tech relationships on both sides of the Pacific.
"He was a real pioneer in attempting new policies that would reshape Japan in the 21st century," Okimoto said.
While he visited Silicon Valley Abe announced what he called a "bridge of innovation between Silicon Valley and Japan."
Okimoto said that also included absorbing the Silicon Valley culture of creativity, disruption, and risk-taking.
The Obon Festival takes place at 5th and Jackson streets in San Jose from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.