Emerging Leaders Program

The 2018 Emerging Leaders at the 2018 Annual Conference in Tokyo



The U.S.-Japan Council’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) identifies, cultivates, and empowers a new generation of Japanese American leaders. Emerging Leaders participate in leadership education, design and implement original USJC programming, and develop powerful, lifelong personal and professional friendships. A new cohort of leaders aged 24-35 is selected annually to attend the Annual Conference, become USJC Associates, and join program alumni in bridging the future of the U.S.-Japan relationship.


2019 Emerging Leaders

USJC is proud to announce the members of the 2019 Emerging Leaders Program. In its tenth year, thirteen Japanese American young professionals will attend the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference and Members Day in Los Angeles. The Conference is a forward-thinking public event where leading professionals and members of the U.S.-Japan community convene to explore cutting-edge topics that provide opportunities for growth and cooperation between the United States and Japan. By providing access to senior leaders and education on relevant topics, the program aims to motivate participants to promote strong and positive U.S.-Japan relations in their personal and professional lives. 

Please join us in welcoming: 

  • Yumi Adachi (Honolulu, HI)
    Vice President, Aichi Fukkou Co., Ltd.

  • Dana Baba (San Diego, CA)
    Dental Officer, United States Navy

  • Joy Champaloux (Washington, DC)
    Program Officer, Sasakawa USA

  • Yuga Cohler (Cambridge, MA)
    Senior Software Engineer, Google; Orchestral Conductor, Ridgefield Symphony

  • Robert Gondo (Houston, TX)
    Director, Tokyo Gardens Catering

  • Naomi Hattori (Chicago, IL)
    Acting Vice President, Global Development, Choose Chicago

  • Derek Hirano (Torrance, CA)
    Owner, Hirano Homes Real Estate Team, Keller Williams Realty

  • Stephanie Nitahara (Los Angeles, CA)
    Executive Director, Kizuna

  • Kelly Nuibe (Tokyo, Japan)
    Senior Admissions Counselor, Temple University, Japan Campus

  • Takashi Ohno (Honolulu, HI)
    State Representative, Hawaii State Legislature

  • Niki Robins (Denver, CO)
    Content Director, Spectacle Marketing

  • Ryota Sekine (Chicago, IL)
    Cofounder, Cubii

  • Courtney Taira (Gardena, CA)
    Consumer Promotions Manager, King's Hawaiian



Click here to read reflections from ELP alumni.




(Partial List)










The U.S.-Japan Council's Emerging Leaders Program is supported by the generous sponsorship of companies, foundations and individuals. If you would like to make a donation to the program, please contact Robin Mitchell at rmitchell@usjapancouncil.org or (202) 223-6842.


We also thank the many generous donors who have contributed to USJC’s U40 Summit and other ELP alumni activities.



Photos from prior classes are available here:

2018 Emerging Leaders at the 2018 Annual Conference

2017 Emerging Leaders at the 2017 Annual Conference

2016 Emerging Leaders at the 2016 Annual Conference

2015 Emerging Leaders at the 2015 Annual Conference

2014 Emerging Leaders at the 2014 Annual Conference

2013 Emerging Leaders at the 2013 Annual Conference

2012 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference

2011 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference

2010 Emerging Leaders at the 2010 Annual Conference




“ELP provides the space to build meaningful relationships with the ‘next generation’ of thought leaders, decision makers and movers and shakers. The ELP program is unique in that it offers the platform to challenge individuals to grow in their leadership and engage with prominent, distinguished leaders in U.S.-Japan relations.”

 - Amy Watanabe, ELP 2018


“The USJC Emerging Leaders Program was a truly unforgettable experience and it opened a door to an entire network that I never thought existed. This is one of the most memorable experiences I will carry with me throughout my life.”

 - Danielle Higa, ELP 2017


“The Annual Conference was hands down the most inspiring conference I have ever attended…the Emerging Leaders Program and the Annual Conference were overwhelmingly impactful. That experience has already started reshaping the course of my future and expanding my ability to contribute more effectively to promoting U.S.-Japan relations.”

- Andrea Sugano, ELP 2016


“The U.S.-Japan Council Emerging Leaders Program was unbelievable and far exceeded my expectations. I left Tokyo with a strong sense of responsibility and possibility. As an individual it seems daunting, but together with all of ELP and USJC, I know it can happen. The idea that we can ‘change the world,’ I think is a real possibility and this definitely is just the beginning.”

- Lianna Kushi, ELP 2015




2018 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program

2017 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program

2016 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program

2015 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program

2014 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program

2013 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program