Some American governors are calling for more corporate investment and tourism from Japan, the top direct investor in the United States, hoping it would help local economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have great expectations for Japanese companies," Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said at an event in a Washington suburb earlier this month to promote foreign direct investment.

"For example, Panasonic is making the largest investment in the state's history, and we want to continue this trend," Kelly told Kyodo News during the SelectUSA Investment Summit.

The U.S. Commerce Department organized the event as most countries have done away with the bulk of COVID-related border measures, making it easier for people, including tourists, to come from Japan and other countries.

Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Arnold Palacios (L) and Edmund Villagomez, speaker of the territory's House of Representatives, are pictured in Washington on May 3, 2023. (Kyodo)

Kelly also pitched business opportunities in her state to Japanese companies and government officials during a related event held at the official residence of the country's ambassador in the U.S. capital.

Kelly, who lived in Kobe for a few years until she was 4, even joked to the audience, "My first language is Japanese."

At the event organized by the Japanese government, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged hundreds of Japanese attendees to increase their U.S. investments.

Whitmer, recently named a campaign co-chair for Democratic President Joe Biden's re-election bid next year, is considered a possible future contender for the party's presidential nomination.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also said, "We welcome all companies here."

Japan remained the top provider of cumulative direct investment in the United States as of 2021, accounting for $721 billion, or 14 percent of the total, according to data from the department.

Japan also topped the rankings in 2020 and its direct investment reached $39 billion in 2021 alone.

Toshiaki Higashihara, chairman of the industrial conglomerate Hitachi Ltd., was among the summit's attendees. He said, "The U.S. market is economically stable and some financial measures in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Chips Act will support more investment in the U.S. in terms of both infrastructure and operational technology."

The Northern Mariana Islands called for more Japanese tourists to visit the U.S. territory in the Pacific, which includes Rota, Saipan and Tinian.

"We are also putting forth our own efforts going to Japan directly," Gov. Arnold Palacios said, noting he went to Japan earlier this year and asked Japanese politicians and government officials to help encourage more people in Japan to visit the region.

Edmund Villagomez, speaker of the territory's House of Representatives, said its tourism industry suffered serious damage from the pandemic and saw a significant decrease in tourists from Japan.

"The opportunity in Japan now is opening up a lot of traffic to travel around the world...It's the time to reconnect," he said.