Naval Intelligence Officer Honored with Award of "Order of Rising Sun"

COMMENT:  I was directed by JMSDF to report to Grand Hill Ichigaya hotel by 09:00 on 10 November 2017.  Once there, I joined a roomful of elderly Japanese men (and their kimono-clad wives) and was briefed by Maritime Staff Office escorts on the day's schedule.  Thereafter, we were put on a bus and then driven to the Ministry of Defense (MOD) Tower A, in the Ichigaya compound, and herded up to the second floor large auditorium.  After being shown (twice) the choreography for "how to accept the decoration," MOD Vice-Minister Yamamoto entered the venue and made the presentations (and I was the only foreigner in the room.)  Subsequently, it was "back on the bus" and we drove through Tokyo traffic to the elegant Chinzanso Hotel for a lunch hosted by JMSDF's top officer, Admiral Murakawa, who was mainly responsible for getting me the award.  

Following lunch, we were taken back to Ichigaya, and then spent about an hour (mainly sitting in the bus) while having our photos individually taken by JSDF staff.  Then came the climax of the day (now late-afternoon), as we we transported to the Imperial Palace.  Our bus entered the large open parking lot of the "Chowaden Hall" (above) .... and there were literally about a hundred other buses lined up and full of awardees from the other GOJ Ministries, and we all waited for a while until the Imperial Household Agency escorts got ready.  Then, upon signal from someone, we disembarked from our buses and were arranged into a "phalanx" of men (there must have been several hundred of us), and another for the kimono'd spouses ... and off we were marched into a football field-sized room inside Chowaden Hall.  

After getting settled into a formation facing a small stage, a large shoji-screen door along the wall opened-up, and Emperor Akihito came in and made a short congratulatory speech.  Following his sincere remarks, the Emperor walked around the room making personal greetings, and we bowed and we bowed.  Then he disappeared behind a different shoji-screen door and we were taken, according to bus assignment, to get a "palace photo" taken ... and after that it was back to Grand Hill Ichigaya, and sayonara time.  So, there it is, how to get an Imperial decoration, Japanese style...      

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== Navy Civilian Employee in Japan Receives Imperial Award After 30 Years of Service

[Story Number: NNS171117-03;  Release Date: 11/17/2017 8:20:00 AM; Email this story to a friend    Print this story]

(By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McKay, Commander, Naval Forces Japan Public Affairs)

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The Japanese government presented the former director of the Japan Liaison Office and Political-Military Officer for Commander, Naval Forces Japan, with the Order of the Rising Sun, Fourth Class, Gold Rays with Rosette Award during a ceremony in Tokyo, Nov. 10.

John Niemeyer, a Nebraska native who spent 30 years fostering relationships between the U.S. and Japan during his career as a U.S. Navy officer and again after leaving military service and working for the Department of the Navy as a civil servant, is the first U.S. Navy civilian employee to receive this award.

The Order of the Rising Sun is the oldest national decoration awarded by the Japanese government. Established in 1875, it is the third highest award the Japanese government bestows upon recipients.  The award recognizes those making distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in welfare, or preservation of the environment. It is also awarded for exemplary military service.

"I am deeply humbled that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and Japan Ministry of Defense (MOD) nominated me for this decoration, and that it was subsequently approved by the Japanese government," Niemeyer said.  "It was bestowed upon me based on their recognition of, and appreciation for, the 30 years I worked in Yokosuka as a linguist and liaison 'kake-hashi' (human bridge) between Japan and the U.S."

When asked what it took to be recognized for the award, Niemeyer reflected on his efforts to serve steadily with patience, a positive attitude, and a constructive spirit.

"Always support the boss and the team," he said.  "Work smartly and, as the old Japanese saying goes, 'if asked to bring a chisel, also bring a mallet.'"

He advised those who might follow in his footsteps to make sure to laugh and enjoy life.

Although Niemeyer received the award in recognition of his professional accomplishments, he wishes others to view the award as recognition for all Navy civilians in Japan for the work they do to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance.

"What I would like to say to those who might read this article, or otherwise hear about it, is that, yes, I happened to be the one who received an imperial decoration, but I have known so many other Navy civilians who have quietly worked long, hard and effectively in Japan," he said.  "I hope this award can also be seen symbolically as recognition for their superb service and contributions."

Though he has received other personal awards and commendations over the course of his career and has been deeply honored by and grateful for receiving them, the Order of the Rising Sun is special because it was signed by Japan's Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"It's in a different league, so to speak," he said.

Niemeyer said he believes the kind of work he performed is significant because the U.S.-Japan alliance is a crucial one.

"What I have learned after my time in Japan, is that there is no stronger or more important bilateral relationship than that between the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S.-Japan defense alliance is a main pillar supporting that relationship," he said.  "The U.S. Navy and JMSDF operational partnership is the dynamic core of that alliance. All of us, uniformed or civilian, should be aware of this, and be proud to be part of it."

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