On October 9th, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye accepted the Japan Foundation Award in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. In its 40th year, the award is presented annually to individuals and organizations that have significantly contributed to the promotion of international mutual understanding and friendship. Irene was honored for her career in promoting a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship through the Japanese American National Museum, U.S.-Japan Council and TOMODACHI Initiative. The award ceremony was attended by her husband, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Crown Prince Naruhito, HRH Princess Takamado and Ambassadors Ryozo Kato, Hiroyasu Ando and John V. Roos.
On September 14th, Council Member Allen Okamoto was honored with the Foreign Minister's Commendation in his native San Francisco. Mr. Okamoto was recognized for his service to the Japanese American community and his work in promoting mutual understanding between the U.S. and Japan. In addition to USJC, Okamoto is involved with the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, the Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Japantown Foundation and many other national and regional Japanese American organizations. Among the speakers at the ceremony was U.S.-Japan Council senior vice president Kaz Maniwa, who commended Okamoto as "a calm and collected leader ... with a steady demeanor at all times."
Reports by Nichi Bei Weekly's Tomo Hirai were used in this article.
On January 26th, 2012 at the Japanese Consulate General in New York, U.S.-Japan Council Member Grant Ujifusa received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. The honor was given to Mr. Ujifusa by the Government of Japan for his long career working to promote the history of Japanese Americans and enhance the U.S.-Japan relationship. In particular, Mr. Ujifusa was a main catalyst in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided redress for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. A native of Wyoming who met internees from the Heart Mountain camp, he worked with Congressional members from both houses and both parties to move the bill through the legislature and played a key role in convincing President Ronald Reagan to sign the bill into law. A story on Mr. Ujifusa can be found here, and his speech at the Consulate General is available here.
Wendy's has made its return to Japan, under the guidance of U.S.-Japan Council Board Member Ernest Higa. The fast food chain, which closed its 71 stores in 2009, marked its return with the opening of a restaurant in Tokyo's Omotesando neighborhood. Mr. Higa hopes that a combination of traditional menu items and new specialties will fuel an expansion to 100 locations within five years. Japan Today's interview with Mr. Higa about succeeding in the Japanese market can be found here.
Actor and USJC Board of Councilors Member George Takei has announced the premiere of his next project. Allegiance - A New American Musical tells the original story of the Omura family, sent to an internment camp following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Mr. Takei, best known for portraying Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek television series and movies, has called the project "the culmination of my life's work." He has devoted much of his work to enhancing the understanding of the Asian American experience, including participating in Allegiance readings and workshops since 2009. Alliegiance debuts at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre on September 16, 2012. More information on the production is available at the Old Globe's website here.
December 7th marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In an interview with National Public Radio, USJC Board of Councilors Member Daniel K. Inouye shared his experiences. Witnessing the events in Hawaii moved Sen. Inouye to serve his country in the U.S. Army, where he became a highly decorated veteran and an inspiration for future Japanese Americans. His interview is available on NPR's site here.
The Microsoft Alumni Foundation named Densho Executive Director and U.S.-Japan Council Member Tom Ikeda as one of three recipients of the 2011 Integral Fellows Award. The award honors former Microsoft employees making a meaningful difference. The criteria for the $25,000 award were innovation, entrepreneurship, effectiveness, collaboration and integrity. Bill and Melinda Gates presented Mr. Ikeda with the award in November. Click here for more information.
On November 7th, Ms. Teri Takai will step into her new role as the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense. Most recently, Takai served as CIO for the state of California. While in California, Ms. Takai befriended USJC Member Miyoko Sawamura. “As the State Chief Information Officer, Teri Takai has elevated California's IT profile. A consummate leader and professional, Ms. Takai will bring vision and dedication to successfully serve as the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense," said Ms. Sawamura who works for the California Department of Public Health. Takai has also been named one of Government Technology's Top 25 "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers." The U.S.-Japan Council congratulates Ms. Takai.
This week, the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, among the highest honors awarded by the Japanese government. The U.S. Senator (D-HI) and USJC Board of Councilors member was presented with the award on October 3rd by Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, at the Ambassador's Residence in Washington, D.C. Senator Inouye is the seventh American and first foreigner of Japanese descent to be given the honor. The Japanese government issued the Order in recognition of the Senator's contribution to peace and goodwill between the two countries.
On September 7, 2011, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, alongside other Japanese organizations, held a public appreciation event – ARIGATO – to express gratitude for Southern Californians’ outpouring of assistance and support in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. The ARIGATO event took place at the JACCC’s Noguchi Plaza.
"A common adage says that tough times reveal true friends. I’m so glad that 3.11 – as the Great East Japan Earthquake has come to be known – has demonstrated that the United States, and especially Southern California, is an exceptional friend of Japan"
- Consul General Junichi Ihara