Sweet Caroline in Tokyo

TOKYO – Fifty years have passed since the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, with official ceremonies held in Washington, DC, and Dallas to commemorate the anniversary. But JFK’s eldest daughter, Caroline Kennedy, was not present at either event; she had just taken up her post in Tokyo as the 29th US Ambassador to Japan.

On November 19, thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Kennedy as she made her way from Tokyo Station to the Imperial Palace, around a kilometer away, by horse-drawn carriage to present her credentials to the emperor. Waving to the onlookers, she looked like Snow White.

November 22, 1963, was also the day satellite broadcasting from the United States to Japan began, and many Japanese got up early to watch a speech by JFK in Dallas that began at 5:30 a.m. But, rather than airing the speech, the broadcast brought the shocking news of the assassination.

The image of young Caroline – the inspiration for Neil Diamond’s famous song – solemnly standing beside her three-year-old brother as he saluted his father’s coffin is deeply engrained in the hearts of Japan’s people. So there probably is not a single Japanese who would not welcome her as US Ambassador.