Corporate Executive Who Worked as Counsel for Three Honolulu Mayors Meets with Japanese Prime Minister and Presents to Fukuoka Legislators

HONOLULU – Carrie Okinaga, First Hawaiian Bank, traveled to Japan from March 7 to 15 on the 2014 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program, which brought ten prominent Japanese Americans to Japan for a week-long trip dedicated to building people-to-people connections with Japanese leaders. In its 14th year, JALD provides opportunities for Japanese Americans to establish a meaningful role in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations across all sectors of society.

Okinaga and the other delegates met with Prime Minister Abe on March 12 to discuss issues pertinent to the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship.  The Delegation and U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye shared that a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship benefits not only both countries but also the entire Asia-Pacific region.  They also described the purpose of the trip as building people-to-people relationships with Japanese leaders from all sectors of society in order to strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations.

Prime Minister Abe thanked the delegation for demonstrating their continued support for Japan and said, “I would like to renew my appreciation for the Japanese American Leadership Delegation.  For Japanese Americans, JALD provides a better understanding of Japan.  I am counting on your continued cooperation to build bridges across our two nations in the future. I also would like to express my sincere appreciation for the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s great contributions to the strengthening of Japan-U.S. relations.” 

Prior to visiting Tokyo, Okinaga and the other delegates visited Fukuoka in the Kyushu region, an economically and culturally dynamic prefecture where many Japanese Americans, including Okinaga, have their ancestral roots. They met with Governor Hiroshi Ogawa, and discussed how ties between Fukuoka and states and cities in the United States can contribute to opportunities for new business, government and community collaborations.  The delegates also participated in a seminar “Finding a Voice in Government: Japanese Americans Making a Difference in their Communities and in U.S.-Japan Relations,” co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Council, with support from the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka and the Japan-America Society of Fukuoka, which was attended by nearly 150 people. Okinaga presented at this seminar, discussing her Fukuoka roots, Japanese American leaders in Hawaii and tourism in Hawaii. She also presented to members of the Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly, some of whom had visited Hawaii earlier this year.

Okinaga is General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for First Hawaiian Bank, the oldest and largest financial institution in Hawaii. She is a member of senior management and oversees legal matters as well as corporate secretary functions of the bank and its subsidiaries. As the Corporation Counsel of the City and County of Honolulu from 2005-2011, Ms. Okinaga served as the chief legal counsel and officer through three different mayoral administrations, overseeing a department of over 80 people and a budget in excess of $9 million. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), Honolulu's semi-autonomous governmental entity responsible for the planning, operation, maintenance and expansion of the City and County of Honolulu's first elevated fixed guideway mass transit system. Okinaga earned a B.A. in Government/Public Policy from Pomona College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School, where she currently serves as a member of the Board of Visitors. 

The ten participants of the program are active in their communities, engaged in U.S.-Japan relations and committed to deepening ties between Japanese Americans and Japan. JALD is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and organized by the U.S.-Japan Council, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to building people-to-people relations between the United States and Japan. For more information, visit www.usjapancouncil.org.

** Okinaga is available to comment about her trip to Japan. Contact USJC Communications Manager Shiori Okazaki at sokazaki@usjapancouncil.org or 202-223-6843 to arrange an interview. For more information about JALD and the biographies of all ten delegates, visit: www.usjapancouncil.org/programs/program/JALD

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