Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki Dazzles Business Leaders at Fourth Business Advisory Board

October 01, 2015 at 6pm - 9pm
Tokyo American Club

The fourth Business Advisory Board (BAB) was held at the Tokyo American Club on October 1, welcoming astronaut Naoko Yamazaki as the featured speaker.

Paul Yonamine, Chairman of the Board of Councilors of USJC(J), led the discussion. BAB Chairman and Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Masaaki Tanaka welcomed the leaders in attendance and USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye invited the audience to the Annual Conference. 

Masaaki Tanaka speaks with attendees before the event begins 

Mr. Sachin Shah, Chairman, President and CEO of Metlife Insurance K. K., spoke as a new member of BAB. He shared his experience with the Great East Japan Earthquake and the role insurance companies could play to support people, and his joy in supporting theTOMODACHI MetLife Women's Leadership Program

Asian American state legislators participating in the Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program also took part. Representative Kesha Ram of Vermont spoke on behalf of the delegates. "For four out of six of us, this is our first time in Japan," she said. "And we find it to be a nation of great integrity and opportunity, which enjoys a deep friendship with the U.S." 

Representative Ram (State Representative, Vermont General Assembly) addresses the audience

Ms. Yamazaki shared her fascination with space, using powerful, striking photos of the moon and earth. She explored future possibilities like space tourism, space elevators and Japan-based space ports. She then delved into how she was an exchange student at the University of Maryland, and how the desire to study in the United States in turn started in junior high school with a pen pal from Ohio. Through her scholarships she met a female helicopter pilot, over 70 years old, who inspired Ms. Yamazaki to become an astronaut. Ms. Yamazaki now gives back to the community through TOMODACHI, Beyond TOMORROW and other activities. 

Ms. Yamazaki deftly wove science with people-to-people relations. Showing the photo of the International Space Station (ISS), she said, "This is what human power could do with international cooperation." In 2010, while aboard Discovery, she videotaped a bubble she made with a cherry blossom from Seattle-- which had originally been gifted from Japan. "I appreciate all the human bonds between the United States and Japan," she said. "I think the key to any project is strong human bonds."

Ms. Yamazaki shares her experiences and discusses the future in space

She also shared that she was one of four women aboard Discovery-- the first time there were that many women in space simultaneously. Representative Valderrama asked whether she was the first Asian woman in space (the answer is no; Ms. Chiaki Mukai, also of Japan, was the first). Board Member Kathy Matsui asked what could be done to encourage more Japanese women to become engineers, to which Ms. Yamazaki responded that starting at a young age is important. Women shouldn't be afraid to "just apply," she said. "That will already improve results." 

We thank Vice Chair of the Board of Directors Gary Moriwaki and Council Member Yoko Makino, who brought in Ms. Yamazaki as a speaker.