As The Oregonian reported today, Portland Mayor Sam Adams is heading to Japan for six days. The reasons for this diplomatic visit are many, but the paper has distilled the mayor's mission down to two key points: bring Mitsubishi's zero-emission cars to Portland, and bring Pink Martini to Japan.

Like its competitor the Nissan Leaf, which will be sold in five U.S. markets including Oregon next fall, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is powered solely by electricity, and can be recharged from a regular home socket. The four-seater vehicle can run up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) after charging seven hours at 200 volts. While any electric car is good news in my opinion, the part that I still don't understand is how the i-MiEV, at reported retail of $47,000, can compete with the Leaf, which most industry observers say will retail for $20,000 to $30,000. And there's no word yet on whether the Mayor plans to lobby Detroit to sell Portland a staging ground for the new Chevy Volt.

Whomever we are trying to woo, perhaps Thomas Lauderdale and friends can help. The Mayor is taking several autographed copies of Pink Martini CDs as gifts for Japanese dignitaries. After all, the French are in love with them, and Pink Martini has dabbled in Japanese a fair amount.

Sympathique features “Song of the Black Lizard," taken from the soundtrack of a Japanese cult film of the same name, and Hey Eugene! includes a Japanese-language track, "Taya Tan." In a reworking of the Japanese song “Kikuchiyo to Mohshimasu” for Hang on Little Tomato, Pink Martini collaborated and recorded in Japan with Hiroshi Wada, the slide guitarist whose group originally recorded and released the song 40 years ago. Splendor in the Grass doesn't have any Japanese inspired music, so we can only hope that our Japanese friends won't take it personally that critics are calling this the best and prettiest album of them all.

The Mayor will also be giving away Japanese-inspired blown glass orbs and vases from Portland artist Andy Paiko, and framed woodblock prints (you know, the Japanese printmaking process) by Carole Zoom. For our sister City of Sapporo, the Mayor is bringing a 1985 hand-colored etching by George Johanson. It's called "Waiting for the Parade I," and captures the true character of our world-famous Rose Festival better than most glossy photos.

The Mayor's office also tells me that Portland jazz performer Patrick Lamb is playing (or, played) in Sapporo tonight, and provided tickets to the U.S. Consulate General Sapporo as a pre-thank you for the Mayor’s hosted dinner there.

Now go get us some electric cars!

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