JOHNSON CITY –Mariko Terasaki Miller, East Tennessee State University's 1998 Outstanding Alumna and an Honorary Consul-General of Japan, will return to her alma mater to deliver the fall 2000 commencement address on Saturday, Dec. 16. The graduation ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in Memorial Center.
On May 1, 1995, the Government of Japan officially appointed Miller an Honorary Consul-General of Japan in Casper, Wyoming -- the first woman ever to hold the title. That achievement was announced a week early during her April 1995 visit to the ETSU campus to speak about her personal multicultural odyssey.
“I am an internationalist. I was brought up as an internationalist. And I come, by rights, to this internationalism. I was born in the international section of Shanghai with an American mother, a Japanese father, a Scottish doctor, and Chinese and British nurses,” Miller has said.
Mariko Terasaki Miller is the daughter of the late Gwen Harold Terasaki of Johnson City and the late Hidenari Terasaki, a Japanese diplomat, who met at the Japanese Embassy in Washington and were married in 1931. The story of the Terasaki family's early life, the return to Japan after Pearl Harbor and the war years there, Japan's surrender, and the American occupation is told in Gwen Terasaki's book Bridge to the Sun, published in 1957. A movie based on the book had its world premiere in Johnson City in 1961.
Miller received her childhood education in Shanghai, Havana, Peking, Washington, and Tokyo. In 1941, her father was again posted to the embassy in Washington. “Our family arrived back in this country on March 20, 1941, and I spent the most wonderful, lyrical summer, which, in retrospect, became so poignant, at my grandmother's home on Holston Avenue (in Johnson City). I had never lived in this country before. I had never had the freedom to play in the neighborhood,” she said.
Hidenari Terasaki played an important role in the desperate, last-minute efforts to avert war between America and Japan. After the end of World War II, he was appointed advisor to the Emperor and as the official liaison between the Palace and the Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Mariko Terasaki left Japan in 1949 to pursue a much-interrupted education and earned a B.A. degree from ETSU in 1953 with a major in English and a minor in French. She married Mayne Miller, an attorney active in politics, and they moved to Wyoming, where she still resides in Casper. As an Honorary Consul-General, her role is “to strengthen and expand good relations between the people of Wyoming and Japan.”
Though raising a family of four sons, Miller found many issues, both domestic and international, so compelling that she became involved in politics at the state and national levels. She served on the Democratic National Committee for five years and was elected to the executive committee of the DNC in 1976. She has served on the steering committee of the National Women's Political Caucus, as board member of Americans for Democratic Action, and on the Wyoming Commission for Civil Rights and the Wyoming Commission for Women.
In 1981, Mariko, a book by the well-known nonfiction writer Kunio Yanagida, was published in Japan. And, on Aug. 15 that year, the anniversary of the Japanese surrender, NHK (public) Television presented a three-hour docudrama about Miller and the experiences of the Terasaki family. This film, described as “profoundly anti-military and anti-war,” caused a sensation in Japan and was viewed by an estimated 80 percent of the population.
Miller made her first speech, at the age of 17, to the Johnson City Rotary Club in 1949 -- beginning several decades of speaking engagements with civic, political, academic, cultural, and church groups in America. She has also traveled extensively in Japan and spoken to a wide variety of business groups, women's groups, and at universities and junior colleges. The Tokyo Jaycees hosted a 1983 multi-city tour that was co-sponsored by the American Embassy and the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
In 1990, Miller learned that included among her father's diaries and papers was a document revealing the Emperor Showa's reflections and comments on the major events occurring after his ascension to the throne in 1928 and continuing until the end of the Pacific war in 1945. It is considered to be one of the most significant discoveries in contemporary Japanese history.
A book containing the “Emperor's Monologue,” passages from the diaries of Hidenari Terasaki, and a chapter of reminiscences of Miller's parents, written in Japanese by Ko Shioya, was published in March 1991 by Bungei Shunju Publishing Company.
ETSU's commencement ceremony is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the ETSU office of university relations at (423) 439-4317. For special assistance or seating for persons with disabilities, contact the ETSU office of the registrar at 439-4230.