Sen. Alexander to receive 'Order of Rising Sun'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is receiving a decoration conferred by Japanese Emperor Akihito in recognition of his dedication to Japan-U.S. relations.

Alexander will receive the "Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star" Wednesday evening from Motohiko Kato, the consul general of Japan in Nashville.

While Alexander was Tennessee governor and economic competition between the U.S. and Japan was tense in the early 1980s, he led numerous trade missions to Japan.

The recruitment resulted in Nissan building the first Japanese auto assembly plant in the U.S. at Smyrna.

Alexander said that at the time the $300 million investment was the largest ever by a Japanese company outside of Japan.

"Every state wanted it," he said.

The investment helped bring other Japanese businesses to Tennessee and also helped bring in other automobile manufacturers.

More than 170 Japanese companies now have Tennessee operations accounting for 35,000 jobs.

Alexander also wrote a 1986 book, "Friends, Japanese and Tennesseans: A Model of U.S.-Japan Cooperation."

In a Tuesday phone interview Alexander said, "Of course I'm grateful for the award, but it really should go to thirty years of friendship between Tennessee and Japan. ...I never would have imagined when I walked across the state in 1978 to become governor that in a few years there would be good sushi in Nashville and Saturday school in Murfreesboro" for the children of Japanese residents.