Mrs. Naoko Shirane made a lifelong commitment to building strong international relationships based on people-to-people relationships. As Senior Advisor to the State of Texas, based in Tokyo, she developed many business and cultural relationships across Texas, including San Antonio, Houston, Austin and the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
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.
In 1984, Mr. and Mrs. Shirane met with San Antonio, 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.
Mrs. Shirane was awarded the International Citizen of the Year Award in 2006 from the World Affairs Council of San Antonio, and the Japan America Society of Houston 40th Anniversary Award in 2008. 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.[/vc_cta]