As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and with the mission to improve the understanding and appreciation of the bonds between Japanese and American culture in the Southeast United States, JapanFest would not be possible without the support of the Georgia Council for the Arts. For many JapanFest participants, this is the first time they are able to witness demonstrations of Japanese traditions firsthand. The impact of JapanFest goes far beyond the festival itself. Through the distribution of free tickets to students and educators across Georgia and also with the participation of groups such as the Georgia Association of Teachers of Japanese, many classrooms are able to benefit from the variety of educational opportunities available at the festival. Furthermore, JapanFest serves Georgia artists by providing the unique opportunity to display and/or demonstrate their work and talents. This provides particular value to artists given the sheer size of JapanFest’s audience – upwards of 20,000+. In keeping with JapanFest’s goal of maintain cultural and artistic authenticity, all participating artists have some connection to Japan. As JapanFest, by its nature, draws an audience of people keenly interested in Japan, the festival, therefore, provides a marked benefit to these artists by allowing them to put their talents before their primary target market. It has been known to happen that some members of the festival’s audience will approach an artist with an opportunity for future work and/or collaboration. With the multitude of participating artists, numerous opportunities exist for those artists to meet each other and, thereby, expand their professional contacts. Official relations between Japan and the state of Georgia were first inaugurated in 1973 with the establishment of a Georgia State Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism office in Tokyo. The opening of the Consulate General of Japan in the capital of Atlanta in April 1974 offered a major boost in bilateral political relations. The visit of the Emperor and Empress to Atlanta in June 1994 was a crowning touch to these developing political ties. Political relations and personal contacts are renewed and reinforced every year by Georgia state government officials at the Annual Joint Meeting of the Japan U.S. Southeast Association. Economically, Japan is one of the top foreign investors in the State of Georgia, as Georgia is regarded as the center of Japanese industry in the U.S. Southeast. Japanese-affiliated companies have invested $10.4 billion in Georgia, where 547 Japanese-affiliated companies currently operate. These companies together employ 37,000 workers. Georgia’s exports to Japan amounted to $1.2 billion, making Japan its 5th largest export market. With such close economic ties between Japan and Georgia, JapanFest only strengthens Georgia’s status as a true international city and also helps the State’s economic development activities helping to bring in more Japanese businesses and companies. As JapanFest grows, the committee will be dedicated to ensuring that the festival is more accessible to various communities and demographics, especially to people who may not have the opportunity to experience Japan in their area.