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, President
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; Trustee, Washington Center; and Trustee, Independent Sector. She was married to the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii.
SUZANNE BASALLA, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, DC Office
Suzanne Basalla serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S.-Japan Council. From March 2010-September 2012, Suzanne served as Senior Advisor to Ambassador Roos in U.S. Embassy Tokyo. In that capacity, she supported the Ambassador on the full portfolio of security, economic, political and cultural issues in the U.S.-Japan relationship. She has been involved in the creation and development of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership established in cooperation with the U.S.-Japan Council. Previous to her Embassy assignment, she was Director for Japan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington, DC (2006-2010). Suzanne had served as a Country Director for Japan in the Pentagon from 2004 until promotion to Director for Japan. Prior to joining the Office of the Secretary of Defense, she served as an officer in the United States Navy. In the Navy, her assignments included service on the staff of Commander, Seventh Fleet on board the USS BLUE RIDGE based in Yokosuka, Japan. Suzanne received a master's degree in Asian Studies from the George Washington University and graduated from the University of Virginia. In 2008, she received the inaugural Ryozo Kato Award for service to the U.S.-Japan Alliance.
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.
LAURA WINTHROP ABBOT, Senior Vice President, DC Office
Laura Winthrop Abbot became Senior Vice President of the U.S.-Japan Council in June 2015, after serving since 2011 in Tokyo as the founding Executive Director of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership led by the United States Government and the U.S.-Japan Council, and supported by the Japanese Government, corporations, organizations and individuals from the United States and Japan. Prior to joining the U.S.-Japan Council, Laura spent eight months as a Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. From 2009-2011, she was a Professional Staff Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, working on issues related to international development and foreign assistance. Prior to that, Ms. Winthrop Abbot spent five years at the international business risk consultancy, Control Risks, where, as Vice President based in London and New York, she managed political risk and crisis management projects in dozens of countries across five continents. From 2000-2002, Ms. Winthrop Abbot was Special Assistant to the President of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds an M.Phil in International Relations from Cambridge University and a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University. She also serves on the Board of All Hands Volunteers, the disaster relief NGO she volunteered with following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
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.
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.
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.
ALLISON MURATA, Program Specialist, 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.
SHIORI OKAZAKI, Communications Manager, DC Office
Shiori Okazaki is the Communications Manager for USJC, working out of the Washington, DC Office. Ms. Okazaki's responsibilities include media relations, Member communications and managing Council messaging across all platforms. Before joining USJC in 2013, she worked as Information Officer at the Embassy of Japan in the U.S. for four years and was also press attache at the Embassy of Japan in the U.K. for two years. Ms. Okazaki grew up in Hawaii and Tokyo, and having a love for languages, has always wanted to help bridge the U.S. and Japan using communication. She has also worked as interpreter on many occasions. Ms. Okazaki holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College, a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a M.S. in Journalism, also from Columbia University.
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.
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.
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.
GABRIELLE TREMO, Digital Communications Specialist, DC Office
Gabrielle Tremo is the Digital Communications Specialist for the U.S.-Japan Council. Prior to joining the Washington DC staff, she studied Japanese Language and Literature and Computer Science at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. Her background includes experience in: Information Technology (IT) as a computer software and hardware technician; teaching computer coding in a classroom setting; running social media campaigns for her alma mater; and digital design. She has also contributed to and completed multiple research projects in the realm of Digital Humanities, a combination of her two passions. Currently, she plays a role in enhancing the Council's social media presence, assisting in design projects and providing support in technical endeavors.
GARY ZOTTOLI, Financial Coordinator, DC Office
Gary Zottoli is the Financial Coordinator 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.
Click here to learn about the Tokyo-based staff who work on the TOMODACHI Initiative.