TOKYO — Her father was nearly killed by the Japanese more than 50 years ago. Now, Caroline Kennedy, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, is bringing history full circle.
“I think that my story in a way is a great metaphor for the US-Japan alliance,” Kennedy told ABC’s Jonathan Karl in an interview here. “Countries that were once adversaries and enemies in war are now the best of friends and allies.
“That I could be here and receive the kind of welcome that I did, I think is an unbelievable tribute to the United States,” she added.
Her father, John F. Kennedy, was nearly killed during World War II when a Japanese destroyer rammed his Navy “patrol torpedo” boat PT 109 sending the crew into the water. He survived. The U.S. and its allies won the war.
Now, a Kennedy is a celebrated figure on the streets of Tokyo, where she received an almost royal welcome here five months ago.
“It was really kind of moving for me… to get the kind of welcome and to hear people that are older talk about President Kennedy and his legacy has been a very moving experience,” she said.
Kennedy has not shied from the public spotlight in her new role. She said she regularly leaves the embassy compound for a run or bike ride around the Imperial Palace. Sometimes people notice her on the streets.
“Depends how fast or slow I’m moving,” she joked.
But being the highest-profile American in Japan has cost her the privacy that had been a defining feature for so many years.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the United States,” she said. “Democracy, freedom, rule of law, is really, you know it’s, it doesn’t, it isn’t even about me at all.”
Kennedy has demonstrated that she isn’t afraid to rock the boat. Shortly after arriving in Japan, she stirred up controversy with a Twitter condemnation of the annual dolphin hunt, a Japanese tradition.
She called the slaughter “deeply concerning” for its “inhumanness,” raising eyebrows among many Japanese.
“The reaction was mixed,” she said of the spat, but “think that the whole point of being allies is that we can you know express our disagreements.”
Opposing the large-scale hunt of dolphins “is US policy, it’s longstanding US policy, it wasn’t my personal opinion,” she said. “It’s an evolving process, and I hope that I’ll be able to be an effective ambassador and work publicly and privately and make connections with people as well as the political leadership here.”