Congratulations to Friend of the Council Taro Kono, who has been appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to become the new Foreign Minister of Japan. Minister Kono is a stalwart supporter of USJC and the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD), and has met with all 17 JALD delegations since the program's inception. He has also met with most of the Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) participants. We look forward to continuing to work with Minister Kono to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.
Congratulations to TOMODACHI-UNIQLO Fellow Kopi Akasaka (Parsons School of Design '14~'16), who is the Special Prize Winner of this year's LVMH prize! Out of 1200 international applicants, Kopi was recognized for his work with his clothing line KOZABURO.
Kopi (fifth from left) with Rihanna, who presented the awards
Read more about the competition here.
Mr. Ishihara (front row, second from right) and Consul General Misawa (front row, second from left) with friends and family
We also congratulate Council Leader Wayne Ishihara, who received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays from the Government of Japan! Consul General of Japan in Honolulu Yasushi Misawa presented him with the award on June 20. Mr. Ishihara, President of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (HJCC), was recognized for "fortif[ying] economic ties between the U.S. (Hawaii) and Japan and ma[king] an invaluable contribution to promote mutual understanding and friendship." Click here to read more on the HJCC website, and here to see the announcement by the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu.
(L-R) Ms. Yuko Chiba, wife of Consul General Chiba; Mr. Ota; Council Leader Hiroyo Nonoyama; Consul General Chiba
Congratulations to Council Leader Henry Ota, who received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette from the Government of Japan! Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Chiba presented him with the award on June 20. Mr. Ota was one of the co-founders of USJC, and was a member of the USJC Board of Directors (serving as Vice Chair from 2011 to 2014) until the end of last year. Mr. Ota also contributes to U.S.-Japan relations in many other channels: he has served on the Board of Directors of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center since 1990 (he was Chair in 2012), is a Board member of the Japanese American National Museum (he was Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1991), and serves on the Board of Governors of Kizuna, an organization that nurtures pride in Japanese heritage among the younger generations. Click here to read the announcement by the Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles.
Ms. Tison shows off her award
Congratulations to Council Leader Rona Tison (Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations for ITO EN (North America) Inc.), who received the John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Tea Expo on June 14. Ms. Tison is the first woman to be presented with this award and was recognized for her approach to promoting U.S.-Japan culture through tea, educating consumers and businesses, and the significant role she has played throughout her career in supporting the growth and innovation of the tea industry.
Many thanks to Council Leader Nobuko Saito Cleary for providing this recap!
My husband Dr. Gary Cleary and I have been sending funds and materials to Japan since the Great East Japan Earthquake six years ago. I’ve had many visits to the Tohoku region with family and USJC friends, and as part of the TOMODACHI Initiative.
This time, I was invited by Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba to join a historic tree-planting ceremony to honor the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso and Mayor Toba gave remarks to welcome participants to the ceremony.
It began to rain during their speech, but as we planted, the sun came out and seemed to symbolize the happier days ahead. These pine trees will grow bigger and will tell this region’s history of survival to future children. Among all 70,000, only one pine tree survived during the tsunami. This miracle tree left seeds and the people of Rikuzentakata waited six years so that we could plant trees grown from these seeds.
(L-R) Dr. Cleary, Mayor Toba and the author
Mayor Toba said with a smile, “We learned from the mistakes from the past and rebuilt a town with a dream.” After six years, the city and its schools were rebuilt on the hills, and the newly built bank is much higher than before. I am lucky to have witnessed these changes and feel fortunate to have friends who supported this restoration.
I looked at the beautiful beach and ocean, prayed for happiness for the children of Rikuzentakata and wished for good luck for the city’s future. I saw that the resilience and positive actions of the residents and forward-thinking improvements have accomplished so much already. Rikuzentakata stands proudly as a rebuilt, safer city and I am humbled and honored to have had a part in helping this wonderful city and its residents.
Council Leader Leslie Ito, who had just returned from JALD 2017, published her reflections in Rafu Shimpo:
As a Yonsei raised in the 1980s and 1990s, I grew up trying to distinguish myself as a Japanese American, an identity that felt very disconnected from Japan.
My first trip to Japan was the summer of 1993 during my first year of college. My grandparents felt that the best use of their redress money from the U.S. government was to take my sister and me to Japan and reconnect with our family, culture and motherland. We traveled with 20 other family members from Tokyo to visit our great-grandfather’s home in Fukuoka.
Click here to read more in Rafu Shimpo.
To commemorate the one year anniversary of the Kumamoto earthquakes, the Asahi Shimbun Company held an event titled "Kyushu and Kumamoto - Earthquake Recovery Support Project - Forum & Fair." TOMODACHI Alumni Manager (as well as USJC Associate and ELP '10) Kaoru Utada Furuya spoke on a panel titled "Tips for Local Governments and Aid Workers to Collaborate." She talked about the history of the TOMODACHI Initiative and its innovative programs, as well as TOMODACHI alumni activities in Kumamoto to help the disaster-affected areas recover from the aftermath of the earthquakes.
USJC Associate Kenshiro Uki (ELP '14) spoke to Top Chef's Sheldon Simeon in a video featured on Eater! They talk about the difference between ramen and saimin, Sun Noodle's impact on food culture in Hawaii and across the United States, and the early beginnings of the Uki family's noodle operation. Click here or on the image below to see the segment.