2016 USJC Annual Conference

U.S. – Japan Council Annual Conference in Santa Clara, California, Monday, November 14, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

The 2016 Annual Conference, held in Silicon Valley, California from November 14 to 15, 2016, was the seventh USJC Annual Conference.‡ 

Conference Overview

The U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference is a forward-thinking public event that takes place each fall. Leading professionals and members of the U.S.-Japan community convene to explore cutting-edge topics that provide opportunities for future growth and cooperation between the United States and Japan. 

Held in the center of high-tech startups and development, this year’s Conference was an opportunity to advance an innovative agenda in U.S.-Japan relations, exchange views among leaders about challenges and opportunities, and identify ways that the U.S.-Japan relationship can be strengthened. It was attended by 700 distinguished American and Japanese leaders from all sectors, providing a unique opportunity for learning and networking. It highlighted innovation and entrepreneurship, and inspired the next generation of leaders. The venue was:

November 14-15‡
Hyatt Regency Santa Clara
5101 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95054

‡There were also TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders programming on November 12 and USJC members programming on November 13.

Conference Summary

U.S. – Japan Council Annual Conference in Santa Clara, California, Monday, November 14, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

More than 700 leaders from Japan and the United States attended the conference, which was themed “Imagine. Innovate. Inspire. – The Silicon Valley Experience.” Issues they discussed included technology collaboration in various areas from design to artificial intelligence to finance, women’s leadership, fostering young leaders and celebrating diversity.

Keynote speakers Hiroaki Nakanishi, Chairman of the Board, Representative Executive Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.; Peter Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Salesforce; and Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft Corporation spoke about further opportunities for collaboration between the United States and Japan, as well as how advancement in technology would change the future. James Higa, Executive Director of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation and Mentor in Residence at Index Ventures, led a panel called “The Silicon Valley Experience,” where panelists from X (formerly known as Google X), Spotify and Blue Bottle Coffee shared their perspectives on what Japan may learn from Silicon Valley’s success.

Highlighting the importance of collaboration between the United States and Japan in the technology space is one of the key reasons that USJC held this year’s Conference in Silicon Valley, the global hub of technology innovation and investment. At the invitation of USJC leaders in the region, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Silicon Valley last year to announce his initiative to bridge Japan and Silicon Valley. In addition to capturing how technology enhances a wide variety of fields, from disaster prevention to medicine, this Annual Conference furthered regional economic collaboration by showcasing products and services by local U.S. companies and small to medium-sized businesses from Japanese prefectures.

The Conference also celebrated the diversity of U.S.-Japan leaders in many ways. Norman Y. Mineta, Former Mayor of San Jose (who is also Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce), spoke about the importance of building a network of people who want to make the world a better place. An annual, dynamic panel discussion led by Jan Yanehiro, President, Jan Yanehiro, Inc., looked at Japanese American leadership from a variety of industries and backgrounds, featuring Scott Fujita, a former NFL Athlete who was adopted by a Japanese American family; Kathy Matsui, Vice-Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd. who is a pioneer in the Womenomics movement; Tamlyn Tomita, actress and singer known for Karate Kid 2; and Kenshiro Uki, the millennial Vice President of Operations at Sun Noodle North America.

U.S. – Japan Council Annual Conference in Santa Clara, California, Monday, November 14, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

Women and young leaders were also passionate advocates for diversity. Women’s leadership was the topic of two panel discussions: one discussing innovative ideas on advancing women’s impact in the workplace, led by Japanese journalist Hiroko Kuniya; and another focused on Japanese American women in politics, featuring local leaders that include Yoriko Kishimoto, Former Mayor of Palo Alto. The workshop “Building Bridges—Not Barriers,” led by Japanese American millennials, examined how Japanese Americans, who faced discrimination during World War II, can help dissipate tensions among people of different backgrounds. Students who participated in exchange programs of the TOMODACHI Initiative–a public-private partnership led by USJC and the U.S. Embassy, with strong support by the Government of Japan—shared their personal stories in overcoming obstacles.

Other panel discussions and workshops centered on topics such as the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, best practices in education, and how strong people-to-people connections between the United States and Japan—as in the documentary Paper Lanterns, about a Japanese man who sought the families of American POWs who were killed in Hiroshima— would ultimately spread a global message of peace.

Conference Print Program

To see the print program of the Conference, which includes the bios of speakers, click here. Further bios are also on the insert, available here.


Click here to see more photos from the Conference. 


Click here to see the 2016 Annual Conference recap video.

Click here to see more videos from the Conference. 

Social Media

Click here for the social media recap to see how the speakers and audience enjoyed the Conference activities! 

Keynote Speakers

Hiroaki Nakanishi, Chairman of the Board, Representative Executive Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.
To see the video of Mr. Nakanishi’s speech, click here
Peter Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Salesforce
To see the video of Mr. Schwartz’s speech, click here
Brad Smith, President & Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft Corporation
To see the video of Mr. Smith’s speech, click here

Discussion Topics

Panel Discussion

The Silicon Valley Experience
A discussion on the “Silicon Valley Way” and opportunities for U.S.-Japan collaboration and investment. Click here to watch the video of the discussion. 

Going Beyond Expectations: Japanese American Leaders, Movers and Shakers
An engaging dialogue among trailblazing and accomplished Japanese American leaders, movers and shakers. Click here to watch the video of the discussion. 

Design Thinking, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
A session on how design innovators are utilizing multidisciplinary thinking and the latest technology to tackle some of greatest challenges facing the United States and Japan. Click here to read the summary.

Leadership Innovation in the 3.11 Crisis
Leadership lessons learned from the two phases of TOMODACHI: the military’s OPERATION Tomodachi and the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here to read the summary.

U.S.-Japan Artificial Intelligence Innovation
A discussion on collaborations between U.S. and Japanese companies on artificial intelligence and its benefits to society. Click here to read the summary.

Transforming a Nation: The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
A discussion on the current state of planning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and how major sponsors and corporations are supporting the Games. Click here to read the summary.

Silicon Valley Success Stories in Japan
A discussion on the importance of the Japanese market to Silicon Valley companies and how they are gaining entry and success. Click here to read the summary.

The Road to Biomedical Revolution through Silicon Valley
A discussion on advances in medical and health technology and how U.S.-Japan collaborations are approaching the current challenges and opportunities. Click here to read the summary.

Women’s Advancing Leadership in the Workplace and the World
A discussion on innovative thinking about creating opportunities for women to thrive in the workplace, with examples from the United States (e.g. Silicon Valley) and Japan. Click here to read the summary.

FinTech: The Algorithmic Disruption in an Era of Computing Abundance—Silicon Valley and Japanese Perspectives
A discussion on new financial startup companies, how they are making financial services more efficient through technology and the impact on financial systems and corporations in the United States and Japan. Click here to read the summary.


Silicon Valley Demo Session
Silicon Valley companies supporting the Annual Conference will demonstrate products, services and/or ideas to conference attendees. Click here to read the summary.

Disaster and Technology: Perspectives from the Field
A session on innovative technology utilized in disaster preparedness, response and recovery to be more efficient and effective. Click here to read the summary.

Promising Educational Practices in U.S.-Japan Relations
A roundtable discussion on educational issues of importance in U.S.-Japan relations. Click here to read the summary.

Paper Lanterns Documentary Screening & Discussion
A film screening for the documentary, Paper Lanterns, about a Japanese man tracking the stories of 12 American POWs who were killed during the bombing of Hiroshima in WWII. This was followed by a Q&A session with the film’s director. Click here to read the summary.

Hidden Gems Showcase
Companies from five Japanese prefectures demonstrated products, services and/or ideas to conference attendees. Click here to read the summary.

Overcoming Adversity: Stories by TOMODACHI Alumni
A session dedicated to the TOMODACHI Initiative, focusing on how alumni overcame challenges. Click here to read the summary.

Building Bridges – Not Barriers
A session organized by and for young professionals attending the Annual Conference to engage each other on U.S.-Japan issues important to millennials today. Click here to read the summary.

New Paths for Nikkei Women: Elective Politics
A session on the impact of women in elected politics in the Silicon Valley area and beyond, and initiatives to bolster their inclusion. Click here to read the summary.

Conference Schedule

*  indicates sessions open to the General Public. All other sessions were by invite only. 

TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program 

Saturday, November 12:  

  • TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program

Sunday, November 13:  

  • USJC Board of Directors Meeting
  • USJC Members Day
  • *Networking Dinners*

Monday, November 14:   

  • USJC Board of Councilors Meeting
  • *Public Symposium – Breakfast, Plenary & Breakout Sessions, Lunch, and Reception*
  • 2016 Annual Conference Sponsors’ Dinner

Tuesday, November 15:

  • USJC Business Networking Initiative
  • *Public Symposium – Coffee, Breakout Sessions, Offsite Visits*


Click here to see the press release summarizing the Conference.

The media advisory sent prior to the Annual Conference is here.







Accenture Japan Ltd


Apple, Inc

Asian University for Women

Barrow, Hanley, MeWhinney & Strauss, LLC

John & Suzanne Basalla

Blue Bottle Coffee

Cole Chemical and Distributing, Inc.

Dow Chemical Japan Ltd.

GCA Savvian Corporation

Grove Farm Company, Inc.

Mr. Ernest M. Higa

Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation

Mr. Thomas Iino

Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

JC Comsa Corporation

JPMorgan Chase & Co.


Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.


KTA Super Stores

Mr. Colbert Matsumoto

Minebea Co., Ltd.

Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd.

Satoru & Hiroko Murase

NeoPhontonics Corporation

Palo Alto Networks K.K.

Quality Electrodynamics (QED)



Mr. Dennis R. Sugino

Shop Japan

Sun Noodle North America

Tokio Marine Management, Inc.

USJC ELP Class of 2015