Honorary Consul General to Japan
He may not speak Japanese, but ask Barnes & Thornburg’s Bob Reynolds about the country’s fabric arts, koto playing or sake ceremonies, and he’ll leave no doubt in your mind that he’s qualified to be Indiana’s Honorary Consul General to Japan.
In 1987, after noticing the trend of Japanese companies establishing manufacturing facilities in Indiana, Reynolds decided to join a group of state business leaders for a Japan trip with the governor. During the next decade, he became increasingly involved with the country. In addition to wooing more foreign-owned businesses as clients as chair of Barnes & Thornburg’s international practice group, Reynolds became president of the Japan America Society in the state.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government decided it wanted better representation in states and cities where it lacked foreign ministry representatives. With the nearest consul in Chicago, and a huge interest in Indiana’s auto industry, Japan saw the state as a natural fit for diplomatic and business efforts. “When it came time to pick a consul general, I think I was the most visible, logical choice,” Reynolds says. He was appointed in 1999.
Unlike a professional consul general, who handles passport and visa issues, Reynolds says an honorary consul general is more of a goodwill ambassador. In his case, it’s an ambassador who is determined to bring the seemingly disparate worlds of Indiana and Japan together with as much harmony as a koto tune.
“I see this as an opportunity to help Indiana understand the culture of Japan, and for each to become more interested in the other,” Reynolds says. The relationship hasn’t always been a friendly one. Fifteen years ago, when Japanese companies first started building factories in the state, some residents were “not necessarily enthusiastic about their arrival,” according to Reynolds.
Through recent efforts like a celebration of 150 years of the U.S.-Japan relationship, an exhibit of Japanese fabric artist works and plenty of diplomatic initiatives, the levels of parochialism and xenophobia have declined considerably. Reynolds says that with about 225 Japanese-owned firms in the state, better cultural understanding is imperative. As he tries to bring more foreign companies into Indiana, and to assist Indiana companies trying to do business in Japan, Reynolds is eager to boost cultural awareness. “We’re constantly thinking of ways to show people how the relationship with Japan is an important one, and worth building,” he says.
He’s even thinking of taking Japanese language lessons, which are offered at the Japan America Society. But, he admits, he does so much work as consul general it’s hard to find the time. “Until I can focus on it,” he laughs, “maybe I’ll just stick to talking about Japan.”
Honorary Consul to Denmark
When asked how one becomes Honorary Consul to Denmark, Steve Tuchman of Lewis & Kappes replies, “One gets appointed by the queen and a foreign minister. It comes to their attention that it might be in their best interest to have one do that work. So one does it.” As the first and only official representative of Denmark in Indiana and Kentucky, Tuchman is certainly a formidable force of one.
After graduating from law school at Indiana University in the early 1970s, Tuchman craved adventure, but had already done the Eurail pass routine while in college. He decided to live abroad instead of just traveling there and settled on Denmark because a bank there appreciated his knowledge of the Uniform Commercial Code. Basically, it was “have skills, will travel,” leading to two years in Denmark.
A few years later, Tuchman felt he needed to make a decision. He could stay in Denmark and become a Danish lawyer –– which required another hitch through law school –– or he could return to the United States. “I concluded that, as long as I wasn’t attached to anyone, I should come back, before the adventure ended and complications began.”
After moving back to the United States, Tuchman fondly remembered Danish hospitality and, over time, gravitated to immigration law. He says, “It’s a satisfying outlet that enabled me, in addition to achieving a degree of success, to repay so much of the helping hand which was extended to me.”
In March 2003, he got a larger chance to stay connected to Denmark when some old friends who’d moved into Danish politics recommended him for the honorary consul position. Although Tuchman is still getting adjusted to the job, he has worked out the details of issuing passports and opened a few Denmark-owned high-tech manufacturing plants in Indiana. His favorite detail was hosting the Danish national swimming team during a world championship event. “I’m sad to say that no Danes established a world record that day,” he notes. “But on a brighter note, I can say I’ve never had to attend to Danes in distress by posting bail.”
He adds that although he hasn’t developed any long-term initiatives for a Denmark-Indiana partnership, he’s looking forward to enabling more business investments between the two countries and simply promoting awareness of the country. “Like so many things, being an honorary consul is what you make of it,” he says.