Japanese Ambassador Returns to the Start of His Diplomatic Path: Davidson College

Koji Tomita '77

His Excellency Koji Tomita, Ambassador of Japan to the United States, returned this week to where his relationship with this nation started.

In the fall of 1977, then-19-year old Tomita began a year at Davidson College, his first visit to the United States. He was the first in his family to study abroad and one of a small cadre of international students visiting for the year. This week he returned for the first time since that year and as his nation’s emissary. 

Tomita spent an hour answering questions in front of and, then, from a crowd of students on everything from his experience at Davidson to tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, or what he described as Japan’s “rough neighborhood.” Students Ann Nishida, Sena Koga and Ray Nishimura, all of Japanese descent, led him on a tour that included a 1977 photo album from the college’s archives with snapshots of the future diplomat.

Tomita expressed delight at walking up to his old residence hall room and astonishment at the transformation of what was then Johnston Gym to the Alvarez College Union. Before he departed, President Doug Hicks presented Tomita with a turned wood bowl, made by College Union Director Mike Goode, from the remains of a maple tree that would have stood on campus during Tomita’s student days. “It feels like,” Tomita said, “my life has come in full circle.”