WASHINGTON, DC – Five state elected officials from diverse Asian American backgrounds and regions traveled to Japan last month as part of the 2014 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program. From November 14 to 22, the Delegation traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto and exchanged ideas with Japanese political and government leaders, business executives and non-profit leaders, creating networks that can mutually benefit the U.S.-Japan relationship.
The five state legislators are:
- Representative Sylvia Luke – House of Representatives, State of Hawaii
- Assemblyman Raj Mukherji – General Assembly, State of New Jersey
- Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos – House of Representatives, Washington State
- Representative Hubert Vo – House of Representatives, State of Texas
- Representative Donald Wong – House of Representatives, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Japanese and American government leaders the legislators met included Mr. Yasuhide Nakayama, State Minister for Foreign Affairs; Mr. Naoki Takashima, President of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government; and Mr. Jason P. Hyland, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Business leaders included representatives of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives); Mr. Tadashi Yanai, Chairman, President and CEO of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. and UNIQLO Co., Ltd.; Mr. Yorihiko Kojima, Chairman of the Board of Mitsubishi Corporation; and Mr. Yoshiyuki Kasai, Chairman Emeritus of JR Central. They also met with the Japan Foundation and noted American and Japanese scholars. In Kyoto, the legislators met with Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa, the Mayor of Kyoto; Dr. Koji Murata, the President of Doshisha University; and Mr. Seiki Kuroda, the President of Kyoto Shimbun, among others.
On November 21, the last day of the program, the delegates spoke at a panel discussion in Tokyo titled “Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators,” discussing their varied personal and professional journeys as Asian Americans. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye—who accompanied the delegation along with Irene Kawanabe, Director of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators—served as moderator. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nakayama came to the reception afterwards and delivered a toast. “Tonight’s gathering is something that means a lot to the development of Japan-U.S. relations,” he said, explaining that he wanted to do this as his last duty before he returned to his constituency (the House of Representatives had been dissolved earlier that day). “I sincerely hope that everyone gathered here today could join me to expand and strengthen Japan-U.S. relations, and actively contribute to promoting peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific [region].”
Representative Luke was born in Seoul, Korea, and was awarded the Korean American Coalition Pioneer Award in Leadership in 2003. Assemblyman Mukherji is the son of Indian American immigrants and the second South Asian legislator in New Jersey history. Representative Santos is the first Japanese American woman elected to the Washington State Legislature, and is the daughter of an immigrant father and an American-born mother who was incarcerated during World War II because of her Japanese ancestry. Representative Vo is a successful Vietnamese American entrepreneur and speaks Spanish, Vietnamese, French and English. Representative Wong is the grandson of Chinese immigrants and is a co-owner of Nam Pai Academy, which teaches martial arts, and his family's restaurant Kowloon.
AALD is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and implemented by the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC), a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to building people-to-people relations between the United States and Japan, in collaboration with the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators and the National Conference of State Legislatures. For more information on the program and full biographies of the delegates, see: http://www.usjapancouncil.org/aald.
Back row (left to right) – Representative Hubert Vo, Representative Sylvia Luke, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and Representative Donald Wong
Front row (left to right) – Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yasuhide Nakayama and USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye