Source: Oak Ridge Today | Staff | March 4, 2016

Japan Consulate-General Masami Kinefuchi, left, presents Shigeko Uppuluri of Oak Ridge with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation Award in a ceremony at ORAU on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

An Oak Ridge resident who has advocated for a “sister city” relationship between Oak Ridge and Naka, Japan, and proposed the International Friendship Bell in Oak Ridge received a Foreign Minister’s Commendation Award from the consul-general of Japan on Wednesday.

The award was presented to Shigeko Uppuluri by Masami Kinefuchi, consul-general of Japan, during a ceremony at Pollard Technology Conference Center of Oak Ridge Associated Universities on Wednesday. It recognized Uppuluri’s contributions to the friendship and understanding between Oak Ridge and Japan.

Uppuluri is the first Oak Ridge resident to receive the award.

The consul-general honored Uppuluri for her dedication to the creation and maintenance of the sister city relationship between Oak Ridge and Naka, Japan, a press release said. She has advocated for and participated in exchanges between the two cities, contributing to the goodwill and understanding between Japan and Oak Ridge.

The consul-general also recognized her dedication to the International Friendship Bell, a bell cast in Japan and installed 20 years ago to celebrate Oak Ridge’s 50th birthday, the press release said. Uppuluri, who was born in Kyoto, Japan, and her late husband, Ram Uppuluri, originally from India, proposed the bell for Oak Ridge as a symbol of unity and a monument representing peace and friendship with Japan.

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Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, presents Shigeko Uppuluri with a Muddy Boot Award (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

Uppuluri was also presented with a Muddy Boot Award, given by the East Tennessee Economic Council. The Muddy Boot Award is an ongoing tribute to individuals who through their work and activities build Oak Ridge into a better community. Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason presented the award.

The Wednesday ceremony was hosted by the East Tennessee Economic Council.

“The Muddy Boot Award is given to people who get things done, and Shigeko is clearly a person who has gone above and beyond to make this community special,” ETEC President Jim Campbell said. “It’s been a pleasure working with her on many community projects, but especially watching her work with the students in our schools over the past decades. She is a very special person.”

Tennessee State Senator Randy McNally sponsored a resolution from the Tennessee General Assembly to honor and congratulate Ms. Uppuluri for receiving The Foreign Minister’s Commendation Award from the consul-general of Japan. The resolution was presented by Pat Postma during the Wednesday ceremony.

The ceremony also included statements from students who have participated in the Naka Exchange Program and a special song sung by local Girl Scouts.

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Shigeko Uppuluri expresses her appreciation for being selected for the Foreign Minister’s Commendation Award from the consul-general of Japan (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

The press release said Uppuluri and her husband moved to Oak Ridge in 1963. She has been involved in the community as a volunteer for many organizations and a strong advocate for Japanese-American friendship. Uppuluri is a founder, past president, and active member of the Oak Ridge Sister City Support Organization. She assists Oak Ridge middle school students and teachers with language and cultural information as they prepare to travel to Naka for an exchange program each summer.

Kinefuchi began his duties as consul-general of Japan in Nashville in April 2015. The Wednesday visit was his first to Oak Ridge since assuming his post in Nashville, the press release said. Besides Tennessee, the Consulate covers Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where more than 400 Japanese companies are operating and 11,400 Japanese citizens are residing. Kinefuchi began his career at the ministry of foreign affairs of Japan in 1983 and has held office in a variety of responsibilities.

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Girl Scouts sing during an awards ceremony for Shigeko Uppuluri (Photo by D. Ray Smith)