Hideki Matsuyama received the Prime Minister's Award Friday after becoming the first Japanese to win the prestigious Masters Tournament golf major in the United States.
Matsuyama, 29, was recognized for encouraging people in northeastern Japan, hit hard by the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 and the nuclear crisis that followed, and giving them courage in the 10th anniversary year of the calamity by claiming the title at Augusta National Golf Club, according to the government.
In 2011 at the time of the quake-tsunami incident, Matsuyama was studying at Tohoku Fukushi University in Miyagi Prefecture, an area affected by the disaster.
"We want to thank you for bringing courage and hope to the disaster-hit areas," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said as he handed over the award at his office, noting U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated him on Matsuyama's win when the two leaders met earlier this month in Washington.
"I will work hard to win a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics" this summer, Matsuyama told reporters after the ceremony.
The government gave the award last year to the Hayabusa2 space probe project team, which successfully brought home soil and gas samples from a distant asteroid to aid research into the origins of life and the evolution of the solar system.
Matsuyama's award is the 34th to have been handed out to an individual.