Mrs. Naoko Shirane dedicated her life to building deep ties between Japan and Texas. She was instrumental in creating a sister city relationship between Kumamoto City and San Antonio. She also assisted in bringing Japanese business to Texas. These efforts culminated with the opening of the Toyota Motor Company in San Antonio in 2003. To honor her legacy, The Shirane Foundation was created by Toyota Tier 1 suppliers, as a non profit that gives back to the community through educational programs.
Mrs. Shirane's History
Mrs. Shirane was born on November 28, 1926 in Ashiya city, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan into one of Japan’s most powerful business families, headed by her uncle, the Baron Hachiroemon (Takamine) Mitsui. In the year 2000, Japanese citizens were amazed at the merger of the Sumitomo and Mitsui banks. Long before this, both families merged through marriage when Mrs. Shirane’s grandmother, a Sumitomo, married into the Mitsui family. Mrs. Shirane’s grandfather was the head of the entire Mitsui Zaibatsu, one of the great family-controlled banking and industrial conglomerates of modern Japan. In December, 1950, Naoko Mitsui married Seiichi Shirane, the son of Baron Matsusuke Shirane which launched a partnership of mutual devotion and global relations.
Mr. and Mrs. Shirane ties with San Antonio
In 1984, Mr. and Mrs. Shirane met with Texas Mayor Henry Cisneros, and learned of his commitment to developing “long term relationships” in Japan. Based on these shared goals, they embarked upon what has become known as an exemplary Sister City relationship between San Antonio and Kumamoto City, Japan. Before Mr. Shirane’s passing, this model served as the basis of long-term citizen exchanges and foreign direct investment projects embraced by successive local leaders across all sectors. After 20 years of steady exchanges, the crowning event occurred with the establishment in 2005 of the Toyota truck assembly plant in San Antonio.
Awards and Recognitions
Mrs. Shirane was awarded the International Citizen of the Year Award in 2006. In 2013, Mrs. Shirane received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays and Rosette given by the Emperor of Japan for her dedication to the enhancement of relationships between Japan and the United States of America. After a long life full of achievements, Mrs. Shirane passed away in Japan on June 18, 2013. Her sculpture at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens commemorates the life and legacy of this exemplary global citizen.