Largest Post-Pandemic Award Dinner Celebrates Distinguished Honorees

Video Courtesy of Shota Kosuge

FRISCO, May 15, 2023 – The Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth (JASDFW) hosted its annual Sun & Star Legacy Award on April 27 at the Omni Frisco Hotel. Jim Lentz, former CEO of Toyota Motor North America, received the Sun & Star Legacy Award and Fort Worth Sister Cities International was honored with the Bridges-to-Friendship Award.

The 2023 annual dinner raised over $270,000 through sponsorship, ticket sales, special contributions, and the silent auction. The funds will support the Society’s educational, cultural, business, public policy, social, and language programs that further mutual understanding between Japanese and Americans in North Texas. The platinum sponsor was Toyota Motor North America with 7-Eleven, American Airlines, Fujitsu, Mizuho, MUFG Bank, NEC Corporation of America, ORIX Corporation USA, PwC, Sewell, and SMBC serving as gold sponsors.

More than 440 guests joined the 2023 event, which was the largest attendance for the Japan-America Society’s award dinner since the pandemic began. It was also the Society’s 25th annual dinner, which began in 1998 when The Honorable Walter Mondale, former U.S. Vice President and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, was the inaugural award recipient. The event has been held every year since with the exception of 2020, when COVID caused the cancellation of in-person gatherings around the world.

To view the event gallery, please visit The gallery includes selections from hundreds of images at the event. If you would like to receive a specific photo taken by one of our photographers and that is not already in the gallery, please write to us at info@jasdfw.orgCopyright © Robin Mallon, Kris Ikejiri

Pete Delkus, Chief Meteorologist at WFAA, North Texas’ ABC affiliate, was the evening’s honorary host and presented remarks after master of ceremonies, Adam Zehner, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions and Licensing at Crunchyroll, opened the award dinner. The Honorable Hirofumi Murabayashi, Consul General of Japan in Houston, offered a congratulatory toast, before passing to local harp virtuosa Naoko Nakamura to play a graceful rendition before dinner.

This year’s culinary selection started with a salad of local greens and a tasteful medley on red wine vinaigrette dressing, a main course of beef short rib paired with cedar plank salmon and lemon cream sauce, and desserts of matcha panna cotta or a yuzu chocolate crunch teardrop. Floral arrangements at the head table and podium were generously contributed and expertly crafted by Amira Matsuda. 

During the award presentations, videos produced by Kosuge Productions highlighted the award recipients’ impressive accomplishments. JASDFW American First Vice President Lawrence Howorth introduced 2023 Bridges-to-Friendship award recipient, Fort Worth Sister Cities International, which was represented by President and CEO Mae Ferguson. She highlighted the thousands of volunteers, board members, donors, and staff who have made the Fort Worth-Nagaoka relationship strong for over 35 years. She also noted Fort Worth-based predecessors for the Bridges-to-Friendship Award, including Elaine Yamagata and the Fort Worth Japanese Society

Following Ferguson’s remarks, JASDFW President Harry Whalen introduced 2023 Sun & Star Legacy Award recipient Jim Lentz. During his acceptance, Mr. Lentz focused on the successes of Toyota as a global brand, its initial failure and future growth in the U.S. market, the lasting impact of the company’s move of its North American headquarters to Plano, and its future in electrified vehicles. On a personal note, he also embraced the role that his wife, Barbara, has played in his life and career.

Additional dignitaries and major business representatives in attendance included Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer, U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 2005 to 2009; The Honorable John Muns, Mayor of the City of Plano; The Honorable Rick Stopfer, Mayor of the City of Irving; The Honorable Sam Shichijo, Honorary Consul of Japan in Dallas; Chris Nielsen, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor North America; The Honorable Tammy Meinershagen, Councilmember for the City of Frisco; and Makoto Igarashi, President and CEO of Mitsui Bussan Logistics, Inc. (VIP reception sponsor). 

The Sun & Star Legacy Award is presented each year to a distinguished leaders who have enhanced the relationship between the peoples of Japan and the United States. The award is named for the Sun & Star Festival, which brought Japanese art and culture to Texas for three months in 1996. “Sun & Star” refers to Japan’s Rising Sun and the Texas Lone Star, symbolizing friendship between Japan and Texas. Recent past Sun & Star Legacy Award recipients include Sean Donohue, CEO of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport; The Honorable Kenichiro Sasae, Ambassador of Japan to the United States from 2012 to 2018, and his wife, Nobuko, conference interpreter and founder of Nobuko Forum Japan; Irene Hirano Inouye, founding President of the U.S.-Japan Council; and Governor Hideaki Ohmura of Aichi Prefecture in Japan. The Bridges-to-Friendship Award is given to a local individual or organization for fostering friendship and understanding between Japanese and Americans in North Texas. Recent and past recipients of the Bridges-to-Friendship Award include Hideto Nishitani, a business executive and community leader; Anna McFarland, former Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, Dallas Kiyari Daiko, a local taiko drumming group with over a quarter century of history, and Shinsuke Takahashi, Chairman of the Board and Head of Government Relations at NEC Corporation of America.

The 26th annual Sun & Star Legacy Award Dinner will take place in spring 2024. More information will be available in late summer and early fall 2023.


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