This is an archived article that was published on in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Japan and Utah have a lot in common: well-educated, hardworking people who are dedicated to their families — and snowy mountains.

The two also are trading partners, with about two dozen Japanese companies operating in Utah and providing about 3,500 jobs.

Beyond that, Japan imports $1.1 billion in Utah goods each year, according to Japanese statistics.

That could be just the beginning of a renewed and beneficial relationship.

Kenichiro Sasae, Japan's ambassador to the United States, visited Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday in an effort to spur further trade.

"This is a business-friendly state in many ways," Sasae said in a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board. "There is now a trend in Japan to look toward the United States more. And the state of Utah is one of the places we should do more business."

Natural gas is among the resources that Japan is seeking after the March 11, 2011, disaster when a tsunami hit the nuclear reactors at Fukushima. The country is now seeking alternatives to nuclear energy.

Utah also exports commodities such as food and agricultural products, medical devices and machinery to Japan.

The future looks bright for Utah in international trade, including Japan, said Derek Miller, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, which seeks to bolster international trade in the Beehive State.

Japan is this state's seventh-largest trading partner and acts as a gateway to other Asian markets.

Because of its stability and predictable regulatory environment, the United States is seen throughout the world as a good place to invest, Miller said. Utah's economic performance during the recession demonstrated it is better than most places in the country to invest.

"If the U.S. is a bright star," Miller said, "Utah is the nebula of that bright star."

Reflecting on the Japanese partnership, the ambassador noted the coming in August of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender to the Allied Powers in World War II. The alliance between the United States and Japan is stronger than ever, Sasae said. Japanese investment in this country is equivalent to $40 billion, making it one of the largest foreign investors in the economy.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address Congress at the end of April, further strengthening those ties, Sasae said.

The Japanese are aware of Utah from the 2002 Winter Olympics, he said. Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Games.

But Tuesday marked the ambassador's first visit to Salt Lake City, and he noted his surprise at its beauty and cleanliness.

"This is a great opportunity for us," he said, regarding investment in Utah. "We are not fully tapping the potential of this great state."