Several months ago, O’Mary enlisted the help of the Walker Area Community Foundation staff to help him make good on the promise.
The result is “Journey Through Japan,” an exhibit that recently opened at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center.
“Nagoya, Japan, is a long way from Jasper, Ala. It’s important for us to embrace the leadership who are coming here from Japan and to let them know about the great resource they have in the Foundation,” O’Mary said.
Paul Kennedy, president of the WACF, said he and his staff were honored to give the HTNA leadership team a tour of the Heritage Center more than a year ago.
It was at that meeting that discussions of hosting a Japanese exhibit began.
“We wanted the people of Walker County to learn about Japan, but we also wanted the Japanese to know that we appreciate their presence here and that we want to learn more about them as they learn about who we (WACF) are and why we are here,” Kennedy said.
The local exhibit is inspired by the Japan-America Society of Alabama’s “Japan in a Suitcase” educational outreach program.
Tamara Moriya, wife of HTNA assistant project manager Kazuo Moriya, is the executive director of JASA.
Highlights of the exhibit include a woven picture of the oldest Pagoda in Japan on loan from the Suminoe Textile of America, 1,000 origami cranes on loan from JASA and pottery manufactured in Echizen, Japan on loan from Robin and Ted Metz of the University of Montevallo.
Norio Takami, a calligrapher and former production manager at HTNA, donated one of his pieces titled “Having a ‘heart’ for something.”
Visitors can also try on a traditional kimono, see a samurai helmet called a kabuto and learn about chaji, a Japanese tea ceremony that can last up to four hours.
Since opening in Jasper in 2011, HTNA has expanded its operations in Jasper. O’Mary said approximately 200 people are currently employed by the global automotive supplier.
Jasper is home to another Japanese automotive company, Nitto Denko.
O’Mary said the greatest opportunity for industrial growth in Jasper is connecting with Japanese manufacturers, and area business leaders look forward to continue building relationships with members of the Japanese community. “We are so delighted to have a company of HTNA’s caliber in our community. The potential for growth in this company alone is tremendous,” O’Mary said.
“Journey Through Japan” will be open through April 25. Admission is free.
The Bankhead House and Heritage Center is located on 9th Avenue and 7th Street West in Jasper.