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Ventura Ready for Japan's Stage
By Martin Kaste
November 1, 1999
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Governor Ventura leaves Monday on a ten-day trade mission to Japan. This isn't the first time a Minnesota governor has gone there; Governor Carlson visited there in 1992, but it is safe to say this is the first governor with some name-recognition among the Japanese.

Follow the Trip
MPR's Martin Kaste will accompany Ventura on his trip to Japan. Each day, we'll present an updated slide show of his trip as well as stories and audio from Japan.
JESSE VENTURA wrestled only once in Japan, in the early 1980s, against Japanese wrestling star and future Japanese Senator Antonio Anoki. David Meltzer, editor of "The Wrestling Observer," says the fight didn't make much of a splash.
Meltzer: The Japanese were very much into technical athletic ability in wrestling, as opposed to interviews, and Jesse was a talker not a wrestler. So there's a reason Jesse had only one match over there, because it was a terrible match.
Despite the disappointing fight, Meltzer says Jesse Ventura's name is well-known in Japan, especially once Japanese fans heard about a wrestler getting elected governor.

Ventura seems convinced the Japanese know who he is.
Ventura: Japan covered my inauguration live, that's never been done before for any governor, any inauguration in the United States of America, so there's great interest in the Japanese people in my administration over here.
Wednesday's Schedule
9 am - Visit Sumo Shrine.
3:30 pm - Visit Warren MacKenzie pottery exhibit.
4:00 pm - Friends of Minnesota reception at TGI Friday's.
8:00 pm - Live interview with NBC's "Today" Show.
And Ventura says he wants to use that fame to help Minnesota sell things to the Japanese. His itinerary in Tokyo and Osaka is crowded with meetings with business people, trade officials and anyone who might be involved in a decision to "buy Minnesotan."

Mike Spronk, a pork producer from Pipestone, says he welcomes any help Ventura can offer in distinguishing Minnesota pork from its competitors in the minds of Japanese consumers.
Spronk: I think we've got to tell people about what we've got. And quality assurance, drug-free meat and stuff like that, people will come and start eating more of it.
But will this trade mission, costing the state an estimated $100,000, really make any kind of economic impact? Will the purchasing agent for a Japanese grocery-store chain remember Ventura's visit the next time he decides where to get bacon? Peter Coffee, a professor of international management at the University of St. Thomas, has his doubts.
Coffee: So long as the agricultural products are not contaminated with mad cow disease, so long as they remain healthy and acceptable to the Japanese, I don't think the trade mission will make much difference. However, the high visibility of Governor Ventura could make a difference in more-personalized areas.
Such as tourism. Coffee says Ventura's celebrity will probably bring in new foreign visitors. Just a few weeks ago, the German ambassador made a rare trip to Minnesota expressly to meet Ventura. Given Northwest Airlines' routes between Asia and Minneapolis, Ventura says promoting tourism will be one of his priorities in Japan.
Ventura: You know, when Japanese tourists or businesses come to America, the chances are extremely good, the first place they're going to set foot is in Minnesota, and we want to be there to catch them.
For some Minnesota manufacturers, tourism is the only way they can increase sales to the Japanese. Red Wing Shoes are hot among young Japanese, and the company already exports the maximum quota allowed by Japanese law. So the company has set up a special store in the Mall of America to try to encourage Japanese visitors to stock up on its shoes when they fly into Minnesota.

Former Lieutenant Governor Joanne Benson traveled to Japan on a trade mission in 1996, and she says such trips do have a real impact on Minnesota's economy. She says the personal contacts are especially important when doing business with the Japanese.
Benson: There is a protocol and there is a ceremony to doing business. And basically, what you find in that sort of arena is the same as what you find in daily life. You make your contacts and make your friends and a lot of what happens after that is those contacts, who you know, how well you know them, how well you understand them, and then how can you be mutually beneficial?
Benson offers this advice to Ventura for his first foreign trade mission.
Benson: Maybe he will have to be a bit more reserved than he is used to being. But, he will be greeted very warmly; just remember to take off his shoes when he enters a home.