USJC Management and Staff

The Council maintains offices in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA.  It also has staff based in San Francisco and Tokyo, Japan. U.S.-Japan Council staff members are responsible for administering programs, implementing the decisions of the Board of Directors and promoting the Council’s mission and organizational goals.



Irene Hirano Inouye is President of the U.S.-Japan Council. Through her work at the Council, she also administers the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that invests in young Japanese and Americans while supporting the recovery of the Tohoku region. She is the former President and founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, a position she held for twenty years. A recipient of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and an honorary doctorate degree from Southern Methodist University, Ms. Hirano Inouye has extensive experience in non-profit administration, community education and public affairs with culturally diverse communities nationwide. Ms. Hirano Inouye's professional and community activities include serving as Trustee and immediate past Chair, Ford Foundation; Trustee and immediate past Chair, Kresge Foundation; and Trustee, Washington Center. She was married to the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii.

Laura Winthrop Abbot, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, DC Office


Laura Winthrop Abbot serves as Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the U.S.-Japan Council.  Until January 2017, Laura was the Senior Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State.  From 2011-2015, Laura served with the U.S.-Japan Council in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo as Executive Director of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership to provide exchange and leadership development opportunities to young Japanese and Americans.  She moved to Japan just six weeks before the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 as a Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi Fellow. Previously, Laura served a Professional Staff Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, as a political risk consultant at Control Risks, and as Special Assistant to the President of the Council on Foreign Relations.  She holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Cambridge University and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and serves on the boards of All Hands Volunteers and The Other Side of Service.  

TESS ESPOSITO, Chief Financial Officer & Director of Finance and Administration, DC Office


Tess Esposito is the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Finance and Administration, working out of the Washington, DC office. She is responsible for oversight of all finance, accounting, grants management, budgeting and reporting activities for the U.S.-Japan Council (U.S.) and U.S.-Japan Council (Japan). Ms. Esposito has more than 20 years of nonprofit and for-profit experience in accounting, finance and administration, with decision-making responsibilities involving financial management, automated systems, budgeting and cost control, investments, computer technology, grants management, and personnel and facilities management. Her previous posts include: Chief Financial Officer for the Fair Labor Association; Chief Financial Officer for the American Association of University Professors and Society of Industrial and Office Realtors; and Vice President for Finance and Administration at the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation.  She received her bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of the East in the Philippines and her MBA in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Arizona. She also received a certificate in the Japan Management Program from the Japan-America Institute of Management Science in Hawaii and Japan.

KAZ MANIWA, Senior Vice President, San Francisco


Kaz Maniwa became Senior Vice President of the U.S.-Japan Council in March 2012 after serving on the Council’s Board of Directors since the organization’s inception in 2009. He was previously an attorney-at-law with a private practice that has been serving the San Francisco Bay area for over thirty years. Mr. Maniwa plays an active role in Japanese American and Asian Pacific American community affairs, currently serving as Chairman of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Chairman of the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council, and Chairman of Nihonmachi Parking Corporation. In addition to his contributions to many organizations, Mr. Maniwa serves as a Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) interviewer and co-chaired the July 2009 Japanese American Leadership Delegation Summit in San Francisco. He holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

JUNKO TSUDA, Executive Director, Japan


Junko Tsuda is the Executive Director of U.S.-Japan Council Japan, working out of the Tokyo office. Prior to joining USJC, Ms. Tsuda worked for the Public Resources Foundation, where she was responsible for fundraising and communications since 2015.  Prior to her non-profit work, Ms. Tsuda performed communications and HR functions during a career in international companies in Japan that included Walt Disney Co., Cartier Japan, Hilton International, ING Life Insurance and GE. She led initiatives on women’s career advancement at GE and ING. Ms. Tsuda started volunteer work for Tohoku reconstruction and supporting social entrepreneurs after the Great East Japan Earthquake. She is a 2015 Alum of the Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (JWLI). Ms. Tsuda was born and raised in Hiroshima, and received a BA in International Studies at Tsuda College.

WENDY ABE, Director of External Relations, Hawaii Office


Wendy Abe is the Director of External Relations at the U.S.-Japan Council, working out of the Hawaii Office. Previously, she was Executive Director at Palama Settlement, a non-profit organization in Honolulu. She formerly held leadership and executive positions as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President at Blood Bank of Hawaii, President at Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and Vice President at Aloha United Way. Ms. Abe was a member of the 2009 Japanese American Leadership Delegation and served as Chair of the 2014 USJC Annual Conference Host Committee in Hawaii. She also represented the Hawaii region in the Membership Committee.

MYA FISHER, Director of Education, DC Office


Mya Fisher is Director of Education for USJC, working out of the Washington, DC office. Her responsibilities include educational programs, primarily focusing on the portfolio of educational exchange programs under the TOMODACHI Initiative. Ms. Fisher brings to the Council more than ten years of professional international experience, particularly in the field of international education, managing and implementing international programs and supporting the students who participate in them. She spent two years as an Assistant Language Teacher in Kawasaki City, Japan as a participant on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. She served 10 years as a consultant to Youth for Understanding and managed a Freeman Asian Foundation grant, in addition to supporting both domestic and international students, as a study abroad advisor at Beloit College. She has also worked in in the Congressional Affairs Section at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC. Ms. Fisher holds a B.A. from Williams College, an M.A. in International Education from New York University and a Ph.D. in Sociology, with a Minor in Globalizing Higher Education, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

DEBORAH GRANT, Director of Development, DC Office 


Deborah Grant is the Director of Development for USJC, working out of the DC office. She has more than 25 years experience as a U.S.-Japan marketing and business development strategist, market research specialist, and multimedia producer. Deborah was Founder and President of Go East Enterprises in Los Angeles, CA, a radio production company that created programs for FM Tokyo, FM Japan, FM Yokohama, and syndicated stations throughout Japan. She was also a leadership training facilitator and bilingual cross-cultural coach for Fortune 100 companies, JETRO, and other Japan-U.S. special projects. Later she transitioned into high tech manufacturing and software B2B sales and marketing for inc.jet, General Company, and Loftware, Inc. Born and raised in Japan, she was educated at the American School in Japan, holds a B.A. from the International Christian University, and attended Princeton University in the East Asian Studies PhD Program.

SHANE GRAVES, Director of Program Development, DC Office


Shane Graves is Director of Program Development for USJC, working out of the Washington, DC office. His primary responsibilities include planning and executing USJC’s educational programs, including the Annual Conference, the Legislative Networking Initiative and various regional programs. Prior to joining the Council, he was an Admissions Coordinator at Johns Hopkins University and a Research & Programs Intern at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS. He studied abroad in 2006 at Kyoto University as a part of the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies program, and has experience teaching English to Japanese and South Korean students. He holds a M.A. in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University, and a B.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures and a B.A. in International Relations, both from Michigan State University.

SHIORI OKAZAKI, Director of Communications, DC Office


Shiori Okazaki is the Director of Communications for USJC, working out of the Washington, DC Office. Ms. Okazaki's responsibilities include communications strategy, media relations and Council messaging across all platforms. Before joining USJC in 2013, she worked as an Information Officer at the Embassy of Japan in the U.S. for four years, and as the Press Attache at the Embassy of Japan in the U.K. for two years. Ms. Okazaki grew up in Hawaii and Tokyo, and has always wanted to bridge the United States and Japan through language and communications. She has worked as a simultaneous and consecutive interpreter on many occasions. Ms. Okazaki holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College, as well as a Master of International Affairs and a M.S. in Journalism, both from Columbia University.


ALLISON MURATA, Program Manager, Los Angeles Office


Allison Murata is Program Specialist for the U.S.-Japan Council, working out of the Los Angeles Office. She plans and implements programs including the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program and the Japanese American Leadership Delegation.  Prior to joining USJC, Ms. Murata worked as Medical Education Coordinator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Volunteer Coordinator at the Japan-America Society of Hawaii. She has interned with the Hawaii Herald and MAVIN Foundation’s Community Mixed Race Action Plan in Seattle and served as Legislative Aide for Hawaii State Representative Barbara Marumoto. She studied abroad at Waseda University and taught English language classes in Tokyo. Ms. Murata holds a B.A. in Asian Studies from Occidental College.  She was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii.

SONOKO PLUMMER, Executive Assistant & Office Manager, DC Office


Sonoko Plummer is the Executive Assistant and the Office Manager for the U.S.-Japan Council. She is fully bilingual and has more than 13 years of experience as Executive Assistant for the Washington, DC office of a major Japanese corporation. During her tenure at the corporation, she served as a liaison and provided support for executives both in the United States and Japan. She provided assistance in research, outreach, project and event management, and general administration to assist the corporation with U.S. regulators, private companies and technology suppliers. Sonoko holds a B.A. in Linguistics from the International Christian University in Tokyo and an M.A. in Tourism Administration and Marketing from George Washington University.  


YUMI HIROSHIMA, Executive Assistant & Program Manager, Silicon Valley 


Yumi Hiroshima joined the Silicon Valley – Japan Platform as Executive Assistant/Program Manager in December 2015.  Yumi resides in Silicon Valley and worked for the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APRC) at Stanford University for seven years.  She began as an executive assistant to Professor Dan Okimoto, then Director of APRC, and was promoted to manage the Center’s public and private events as the Program Coordinator.  She was then promoted to the Center’s Manager of Corporate Relations where she designed and implemented programs for corporate members.  While raising her young children, Yumi has been serving as a volunteer Board member and fundraising chair for her children’s elementary school and preschool. Yumi graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.A. in Economics.  She spent a year in Chiba, Japan teaching English. 


GARY ZOTTOLI, Financial Manager, DC Office


Gary Zottoli is the Financial Manager for the U.S.-Japan Council, where he provides technical and analytical support for accounting and administration. Prior to joining the USJC staff, Gary worked as a Programming Intern for USJC, as a Teaching Assistant for Microeconomics at American University, and as a Research Intern at the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.  Gary graduated from American University (where he completed independent capstone research on topics related to the political and financial framework of the Asia-Pacific region, with a specific focus on Japanese economic policy) in 2014 with dual bachelor degrees in International Studies and Economics. 

DANA FAGER, Development Coordinator, DC Office


Dana Fager is the Development Coordinator for the U.S.-Japan Council, working out of the DC office. Her primary responsibilities include developing and strengthening relations with various stakeholders, as well as working with the Finance and Program teams to manage donor information. Before joining the U.S.-Japan Council, Dana served as Assistant for Economic Affairs at the Consulate General of Japan in Boston for two years. In this role she managed the consulate’s relationships with Japanese-owned businesses across New England and collaborated with local business leaders to promote Japan-New England relations. Dana has studied abroad in Japan numerous times, including as a Fulbright grant recipient at Nagoya University and twice as a Critical Language Scholarship recipient at Doshisha University. Born and raised in a suburb of Chicago, Dana holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


GRACE KIM, Program Coordinator, DC Office 


Grace Kim is the Program Coordinator for the U.S.-Japan Council, working out of the Washington, DC office. Her primary responsibilities include supporting the USJC’s signature programs such as the TOMODACHI Initiative, Watanabe-endowed Scholarship, Annual Conference, and various regional programs. Before joining the U.S.-Japan Council in 2017, Ms. Kim served as the Coordinator for International Relations as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in Okayama City. Ms. Kim also has experience in coordinating events and exhibitions while working at the Embassy of Japan in the U.S. as the Exhibition Coordinator for two years. Ms. Kim was born in the United States and spent seven years in Japan. She holds a B.A. in Global Affairs from George Mason University. 

AYA MAHER, Digital Communications Specialist, DC Office


Aya Maher is the Digital Communications Specialist at the U.S.-Japan Council office in Washington, DC. Her responsibilities include supporting media relations and member outreach while managing USJC's web presence and messaging across digital platforms. Prior to joining USJC, Aya worked as a White House Reporter for The Asahi Shimbun where she covered U.S.-Japan relations and foreign affairs. She also managed the production of a digital gastrotourism guide to Japan for Roads & Kingdoms, Microsoft and Anthony Bourdain. Aya was raised in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Fairfax, VA and is bilingual and bicultural. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Waseda University.

LAUREN MOSELY, Membership Coordinator, DC Office


Lauren Mosely is the Membership Coordinator & Program Support at the U.S.-Japan Office. She began working with the U.S.-Japan Council in May 2015 as a Program Intern where she supported the TOMODACHI Initiative as well as local USJC events. She continued in this position throughout the summer, documenting and compiling data on TOMODACHI programs. In September, she began working as Membership Coordinator, overseeing the nomination and new member intake process, working with the Membership Committee to ensure the Council continues to grow and new members become more involved in USJC activities. As Program Support, she continues to assist in the development and production of USJC events. Ms. Mosely holds a B.A. in Global Politics and East Asian Languages & Literature with an emphasis on Japanese from Washington & Lee. 

KANA TAKAGI, Administrative Assistant, Tokyo Office


Kana Takagi is the Administrative Assistant at the USJC office in Tokyo. Previously, she served as Alumni Coordinator for TOMODACHI. Before joining as staff, she worked as a TOMODACHI intern for 10 months from September 2014. She was then selected to the Environmental Leadership Program funded by the U.S. Department of State, and spent four months in Washington, DC. She is an alumna of two TOMODACHI programs: the TOMODACHI Metlife Women's Leadership Program and Building the TOMODACHI Generation. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Keio University, Tokyo. 



Click here to learn about the Tokyo-based staff who work on the TOMODACHI Initiative.