Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Visit to California


Prime Minister Abe speaking at Stanford University (Photo courtesy of L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service)

After a successful visit to Boston and Washington, DC, Prime Minister Abe, Mrs. Abe and their delegation headed to the West Coast. In Northern California, the Prime Minister discussed with top business leaders entrepreneurship and innovation, and lessons Japan can learn from Silicon Valley; and in Los Angeles, he met many leaders of the Japanese American community. USJC was proud to once again play a prominent role in many of the Prime Minister’s meetings, discussions and site visits. Here are some highlights: 

Meeting Business Leaders in Silicon Valley

Prime Minister Abe (left) with Silicon Valley leaders at the roundtable discussion

On April 30, Prime Minister Abe visited Silicon Valley, marking the first official visit by a Japanese prime minister. The Prime Minister’s schedule included a public speech at Stanford University about innovation, Japan and Silicon Valley, as well as a private roundtable discussion with seven top entrepreneurs and business leaders: Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!; Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square; John Thompson, Chairman, Microsoft; Romesh Wadhwani, founder, Symphony Technology Group; Paul Yock, founder and director, Stanford Center for BioDesign; Bruce Sewell, Apple, General Counsel; and John V. Roos, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan (who is on the TOMODACHI Advisory Board). Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Dr. Daniel Okimoto, who is also Professor Emeritus at Stanford, led the USJC team working with Stanford to organize this large-scale event. (See Dr. Okimoto’s recap of the day’s events here). USJC Board Members who supported or attended included: Dan Fujii, Ernie Higa, James Higa, Bill Ireton, Hiro Ogawa, Allen Okamoto, John Onoda and Susie Roos. 

Prime Minister Abe shaking hands with Ernie Higa, Chair of the USJC(J) Board of Directors

Prime Minister Abe also visited the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California at San Francisco, where he met prominent leaders that include 2012 Nobel Laureate and Member of the USJC Board of Councilors, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. There, the Prime Minister, Dr. Yamanaka and Ambassador Roos discussed the value of collaboration between the U.S. and Japan, particularly in the fields of science and technology

Prime Minister Abe shaking hands with Dr. Yamanaka; pictured to Dr. Yamanaka's left is Ambassador Roos  (Photo courtesy of Gladstone Institutes)

The Prime Minister’s schedule also included meetings with Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Larry Ellison, as well as a meeting in San Francisco with Governor Jerry Brown, with whom he discussed California’s high-speed rail project. 

That evening, the Prime Minister attended a dinner for him, Governor Brown and community leaders. Board Member Allen Okamoto and Council Member John Noguchi attended. A highlight of the evening was when San Francisco Giants' Nori Aoki presented the Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe with jerseys with their names on it. 

Much of the discussion in Silicon Valley followed what lessons Japan can learn and how they can be applied, and how to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in Japan, which in turn would help revitalize the economy. This was in line with topics discussed during USJC’s Governors’ Meeting in Silicon Valley last July, and will be further explored at the Annual Conference in Tokyo this coming November. 

Mrs. Abe’s visit to Rosa Parks Elementary School

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Mrs. Abe visited Rosa Parks Elementary School, one of two schools in the city that offers Japanese. The school’s Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program boasts more than forty years of history, and provides Japanese language instruction daily to public school students. USJC Member Emily Murase, who is President of the San Francisco Board of Education, and whose parents helped found the Japanese language program, welcomed Mrs. Abe. (See her quoted and pictured to the left of Mrs. Abe in this article by the San Francisco Examiner.) Ms. Murase also joined Mrs. Abe for her visit to nearby Kimochi Home, a senior service agency.

Southern California Welcome Luncheon

From May 1 to 2, Prime Minister Abe visited Los Angeles, the last of the four U.S. cities on his itinerary. Among the many events he attended was the Southern California Welcome Luncheon on May 1, hosted by the Japan America Society of Southern California and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, and supported by several organizations that included USJC. It was held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, and around 500 people attended. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles welcomed the Prime Minister with a speech, calling Los Angeles the Japanese leader’s “second home,” referring to the time he spent studying in LA in the 70's. The mayor said he feels a strong personal bond to Japan, as he studied in Tokyo in high school. "We're very proud of our Japan ties," the mayor said, pledging his personal efforts to strengthen the economic and social relations. "Mr. Prime Minister, this will be a Pacific Century and Los Angeles is ready to lead it with you." 

The Prime Minister displayed a warm personality as he spoke to the audience. He spoke of his "strong determination to visit Los Angeles" during this trip, and shared his joy in being there. He said that the many Japanese businesses in LA show the depth the bilateral relationship had reached. He also mentioned that LA is one of the three cities in the world where the Government of Japan is setting up a Japan House, and asked the guests to support these efforts.

He said that we must make full use of the “alliance of hope” between the United States and Japan to meet our goals of working on global issues together. He also commented on the importance of exchange programs between the U.S. and Japan, with both himself and Mayor Garcetti having been exchange students in each other’s countries a few decades ago. 

Prime Minister Abe acknowledged the many Japanese Americans in the audience. He expressed his gratitude to those who made efforts to recover American confidence in Japan when bilateral relations were strained, and thanked Japanese Americans for being a "bridge" between the countries. 

USJC was proud to support this event, and was delighted to hear the Prime Minister’s tribute to Japanese Americans as well as his (and Mayor Garcetti’s) reference to the importance of people-to-people exchange, especially as a student. Among USJC Board Members in attendance were Founding Chairman Tom Iino, Chairman Dennis Teranishi (who sat at the head table), Dr. Paul Terasaki, Henry Ota and Kathy Matsui.

USJC Members who attended the Luncheon: (Standing, L-R) Board Member Henry Ota; Council Members Hiroyo Nonoyama, Debra Nakatomi, Dr. Curtiss Rooks; Chairman Dennis Teranishi; Board Member Kathy Matsui; Founding Chairman Tom Iino; Council Members Linda Taira, Ron Ohata and Sandy Sakamoto; (Seated) Board Member Dr. Paul Terasaki with his wife Hisako

Japanese American Meet & Greet

Later in the afternoon of May 1, about 50 Japanese American and other community leaders, including seven USJC Members, were invited to a small meeting with the Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe. Akemi Miyake, a long-time community leader who is 95 years old, welcomed them and thanked the Prime Minister for his leadership.

The Prime Minister addressed the group by again thanking the Japanese American community for its support of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Each individual was given the opportunity to personally meet the Prime Minister and his wife and to take a photo with them.

Other Meetings and Visits with Japanese Americans

Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe at the Go for Broke Monument, with veterans and Council Members Bill Seki (back row, left) and Stephen Kagawa (back row, right) (Photo courtesy of Prime Minister Abe's twitter, @AbeShinzo)

The Prime Minister paid tribute to Japanese Americans in many other ways. He laid a wreath at the Go for Broke monument and spoke with seven Japanese American veterans. He also toured the “Common Ground” exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and met with community leaders at an evening reception that JANM hosted. (See photos and information on JANM’s Facebook page.) Several USJC leaders and members were involved in these activities. The Prime Minister also met USJC Board Member George Takei, who was honored at JANM’s 2015 Gala Dinner the following day.

Prime Minister Abe with Member of the Board of Councilors George Takei (center); also pictured to the right is Vice Chair of the Board of Councilors Norman Mineta (Photo courtesy of Kenko Sone, Prime Minister Abe's Director of Global Communications (@KenkoSone))

Meeting with TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars

On May 2, Prime Minister Abe met with several students who participated in the Government of Japan’s KAKEHASHI Project, including three TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars from Loyola Marymount University (LMU). The Scholars, led by USJC Member and LMU Associate Dean Dr. Curtiss Rooks, introduced themselves and shared the background of the program and what they gained from their visit to Japan last summer. They also presented to the Prime Minister a photo of the LMU TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars along with a copy of a poem written by one of the participants.

The TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program is unique among the KAKEHASHI Project programs because in addition to cultural visits and activities, participants have opportunities to learn about the legacy of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Four American universities, each led by faculty who are USJC Members, are paired with four Japanese universities. Loyola Marymount University welcomed students from their partner university, Sophia University, this past March. 

Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe speaking to KAKEHASHI participants (Photo courtesy of @KenkoSone)

In Conclusion

This concludes the series of USJC’s reports about the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States. More updates will be posted on the website or included in our newsletter as they come in. From Boston to Washington, DC to Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, USJC was honored to be a part of many of the Prime Minister’s activities, covering topics ranging from education and people-to-people relations to entrepreneurship and politics. It was a trip that strengthened U.S.-Japan relations, and we are proud to continue to take part in this “alliance of hope.”

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