COLUMBUS, Ind. — The consul-general of Japan for 10 Midwestern states paid his first visit to the city on Tuesday, meeting with the mayor and representatives of Japanese-based companies that operate in Columbus.

Naoki Ito met with Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop to discuss U.S.-Japan relations as they pertain to the Midwest, and to see Columbus for the first time. The visit included a tour of the Toyota campus on the west side of Columbus, plus areas of the city such as Friendship Alley.

Columbus is home to 27 Japanese-owned companies. The city’s pursuit of Japanese investment dates to the early 1980s, and paid off when Enkei America, which makes aluminum wheels, opened in 1985.

The office Ito heads serves the Midwestern states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb will host the governor of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture Tuesday evening, as well as Ito and representatives from several Columbus-based, Japanese-owned businesses.

Read more in Wednesday’s print edition of The Republic.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at or (812) 379-5639.