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 establish powerful professional connections and lifelong personal friendships. A new cohort 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. By providing access to members 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.
ELPs are unified in their passion and commitment to build community and strengthen relationships, both domestically and across the Pacific. That diversity of talent and unity of purpose is a great strength and a source of inspiration and energy.
With support from ITO EN, the Emerging Leaders Program was founded in 2010. Its inception was based on the vision of our founding President, Irene Hirano Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, and other prominent Japanese American leaders to empower a new generation of Japanese Americans to become active participants and leaders in U.S.-Japan relations.
That year, eight candidates were selected from across the country to attend USJC’s inaugural Annual Conference in Washington, DC. A new class has been selected each year since, and the group has grown to 154 program alumni across 13 cohorts. Program alumni have become deeply engaged with and continue to make significant contributions to USJC and the ELP community.
2023 EMERGING LEADERS PROGRAM
USJC is proud to announce the members of the 2023 Emerging Leaders Program. Participants will attend the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference and Members Forum in Washington, DC.
Please join us in welcoming:
Yumi Araki (Washington, DC)
Managing Producer of Podcasts, America’s Test Kitchen
Yumi Araki is an award-winning media professional with storytelling experience across print, video and audio. She is currently the Managing Producer of Podcasts at America’s Test Kitchen, where she leads development and serves as head story editor for the flagship narrative podcast, Proof. She previously served as host and reporter for Channel News Asia’s Deciphering Japan, a four-part docuseries exploring current events in Japan. Before that, she managed the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ suite of policy podcast and reported on domestic and international issues for NPR’s On Point. She began her reporting career covering U.S.-Japan relations, economics and the 2016 election for The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Washington D.C. bureau. She received her M.A. in Political Reporting from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and her B.S. in Journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication. Yumi is certified as a sake adviser and a devoted cat mom.
Rei Kataoka Coleman (Tokyo, Japan)
Government Affairs & Public Policy Manager, Japan and Korea, Salesforce Japan
Rei Kataoka Coleman works in government affairs at Salesforce, covering parliamentary relations and coordinating regulatory advocacy spanning AI, cybersecurity and privacy in Japan and Korea. His bread and butter is aligning policies between the United States and Japan in a way that benefits both countries. He has experience working for a cabinet minister and was most recently in the government affairs team at Google Japan. He is also Co-Chair of the Digital Transformation Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan among his other positions in industry organizations. He holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Tokyo and is a native speaker of Japanese and English. He resides in Tokyo, and enjoys cooking, playing but not watching sports and gardening (especially after attending an agricultural high school in Costa Rica for one year).
Ryu Fukuyama (San Francisco, CA)
Associate, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
Ryu Fukuyama is an attorney with the San Francisco office of the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, where he serves as a member of the Emerging Growth Company and Mergers and Acquisitions Team. There, he helps entrepreneurs/emerging growth companies and their investors in various sectors, including life science, med tech, health tech, artificial intelligence, prop tech and SAAS, in connection with their investment, financing and exit transactions, as well as their legal business strategies and operational matters. He is passionate about enhancing U.S.-Japan relations by supporting Japanese businesses, founders and investors operate and succeed in the U.S., particularly in the start-up and the venture capital area. He was born and raised in Japan and spent a considerable amount of time in the U.S. and New Zealand growing up. He graduated from Waseda University with a bachelor of law, and upon graduation, entered and graduated from Santa Clara University Law School. Outside of work, he enjoys surfing and served as a vice president of a college surf team at Waseda University.
Joe Galligan (Chicago, IL)
Outreach Coordinator, Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago
Joe Galligan (he/him/his) serves as Outreach Coordinator at the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, Illinois. He manages the Consulate’s cultural outreach program, organizing and facilitating educational experiences to help local students, professionals and other community members learn more about Japan and Japanese culture. Joe currently serves on the Alumni Leadership Board for the Kansha Project, a program organized by the Chicago chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League that takes young Japanese Americans on an immersive educational trip to California to visit Little Tokyo and Manzanar National Historic Site. As a Board Member and Facilitator, he is responsible for the development and implementation of a curriculum focused on the history of Japanese American incarceration, Japanese American identity and building community. He is a shin-Nisei native to Madison, Wisconsin, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a certificate in Business Japanese.
Aila Gomi (Columbus, OH)
Manager Materials Science, Advanced Drainage Systems
Aila Gomi is a Manager of Materials Science for Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS). She has spent over five years working in the plastics industry, with a specialized focus on recycled plastic materials for over four years. Within the dynamic Materials Science team at ADS, Aila plays a pivotal role in steering the company towards the ambitious goal of recycling over one billion pounds of plastic annually by 2023. To ensure the realization of this goal, Aila oversees the cutting-edge Materials Science laboratory. This state-of-the-art facility empowers the team to push the bounds of materials innovation. Beyond her professional commitment, Aila is the Service Chair, for Habitat for Humanity, Young Professionals. In this capacity, she devotes her time to volunteer with the Young Professionals’ evening crews, demonstrating her commitment to making a positive impact in the community. Aila holds a B.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.
Sonja Khan (New York, NY)
Engineering Manager, Patreon
Sonja Okano Khan is an Engineering Manager at Patreon, a leader in the creator economy with a mission to fund the creative class. She leads teams focused on the platform’s native content experiences and serves as co-lead of an ERG for women and underrepresented genders in engineering. Previously, Sonja was an Android Engineer at Instagram working on products spanning Shopping, Stories and Reels. While at Instagram, she had the opportunity to live and work in Tokyo for two years developing product features specifically for Japanese users. Sonja is passionate about zero to one product development, building diverse teams and bringing meaningful user experiences to life. A native of Seattle, she grew up in a multicultural household blending Japanese, Pakistani and American customs and traditions. Sonja holds a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, where she graduated magna cum laude with interdisciplinary honors.
Darien Moriguchi (Honolulu, HI)
Chief Financial Officer, Ocean Investments
Darien Moriguchi is the Chief Financial Officer at Ocean Investments, a private equity firm specializing in the operation of hospitality and Japanese ventures in Hawaii. With a background in turnaround finance, he has focused his career on revitalizing distressed businesses while also working on large business divestments and organizational simplification. He actively contributes to the community through his involvement with The Pacific Club in Honolulu, where he is part of the NextGen leadership group, supporting and connecting young members. Darien holds an MBA from Boston University and a BBA from the University of Hawaii. When he’s not working out or in the office, Darien enjoys golfing, exploring new destinations and embracing lifelong learning.
Jacquelyn Morikubo (Honolulu, HI)
Director, Global Marketing Channels, Meta
Jacquelyn Morikubo is the Director of Global Marketing Channels within Meta’s Global Business and Product Marketing division, where she oversees digital marketing for the company’s advertising products. Outside of work, she performs and teaches Nihonbuyo, Japanese Classical Dance, as part of the Nishikawa Ryu School. Training in the US and Tokyo for nearly 25 years, she was given the Natori name Nishikawa Minokimi in 2016 by her Sensei, Grand Master Nishikawa Minosuke V, and attained the rank of Shihan in 2019. She served as the 2017 Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen and earned the Klara Ma Women’s Leadership Award for her contributions to the Japanese American community. She holds a B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Southern California and an M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University. She currently resides in Honolulu, HI with her husband and two dogs.
Kevin Onishi (Los Angeles, CA)
Chief Operating Officer, Keiro
Kevin Onishi is the chief operating officer at Keiro, a nonprofit organization in Little Tokyo that provides programs and resources to meet the evolving needs of Our Community’s older adults and their caregivers in a culturally-sensitive manner. Kevin currently oversees day-to-day operational functions of the organization, including communications, programs, partnerships and development. Prior to this role, Kevin served as the associate executive director at Nikkei Senior Gardens as well as served as the director of programs at Keiro. Kevin holds a bachelor of arts degree in Public Health Policy from the University of California at Irvine and a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from Colorado State University.
Hiroyuki Wakabayashi (Arlington, VA)
Autonomous Systems Regulatory Affairs Engineer, The Boeing Company
Hiro spent most of his childhood in Rockville, Maryland, which is a town 45 minutes northwest of Washington D.C.. Hiro attended the University of Maryland College Park studying Mechanical Engineering and graduating in 2019. After graduation, he started as a structural design/analysis engineer for Boeing in the Commercial Airplanes (7 series aircraft) division in Seattle, Washington. In August of 2020, he transferred teams in the same capacity to Boeing’s Chinook Helicopter (H-47) program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was in the role for 2 years. Succeeding his role as a structures engineer in July of 2022, Hiro was selected to participate in a prestigious engineering career rotation program where early career engineers spend two years on four 6 month assignments to be exposed to a diverse range of engineering roles within Boeing. Hiro is currently on his third assignment as an engineer on the Autonomous Systems Regulatory Affairs teams in Arlington, VA.
Melynie Yoneda (Tokyo, Japan)
Account Director, Japan Team Lead, Reuters News and Media Japan K.K.
Melynie Yoneda is an Account Director for Reuters News and Media Japan, where she serves as the Japan Team Lead for Reuters Professional, the digital advertising arm of Reuters. She has 6+ years of experience in the advertising industry, with a strong focus in international marketing. Before joining Reuters, she was a Digital Media Planner at one of Japan’s largest advertising firms, ADK Marketing Solutions Inc. She was named Reuters Rookie of the Year for 2022. A fifth-generation Japanese American originally from Hawaii, Melynie has lived in Tokyo for 11+ years, graduating from Waseda University, School of International Liberal Studies where she studied Media History and Journalism. Other than her involvement as an Associate of the U.S.-Japan Council’s Japan region, she is also co-chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Young Professionals Forum. She has written about the Japanese American experience in Japan for the Japan Times, Okinawa Times, and HuffPost.
PAST ELP COHORTS
Past ELP participants have created a vibrant alumni network deeply engaged with the work of the Council.
The ELP 50 Initiative was a landmark trip that gathered 50 of the top next-generation Japanese American leaders to experience Japan and connect with their Japanese counterparts in a way that only USJC could facilitate. It was a strategic program designed to strengthen the political, cultural, economic and personal ties between young Japanese American and Japanese leaders.
The initiative had three primary goals:
1. For ELP alumni to learn about Japan more deeply.
2. To increase the visibility of Japanese Americans within Japanese society.
3. To strengthen ties between ELP alumni and Japanese leaders.
To learn more about the ELP 50 cohort who gathered in Tokyo, click here.
To read the full recap of the ELP 50 program that took place during the 2022 Annual Conference, click here.
The U40 Summit
Starting in 2016, an annual event called the U40 Summit was conceptualized, organized, funded, and led by ELP alumni. The objective was to deepen relationships among future leaders in U.S.-Japan relations through workshops and other networking opportunities by leveraging the diverse experiences of each participant.
To date, four successful U40 Summits have been organized in Los Angeles, Honolulu and Denver. Over two hundred next generation leaders from Japan and the U.S. have participated, and it has become a powerful engine for fostering engagement and connections within the USJC community.
The Emerging Leaders Program is supported by the generous sponsorship extended to the U.S.-Japan Council by companies, foundations and individuals. Please see the full list of sponsors here. If you would like to make a donation to the Council, please contact Miki Sankary at [email protected].
USJC offers special acknowledgement to Founding Corporate Sponsor for its anchor contribution and sustained support:
We also thank the many generous donors who have contributed to USJC’s ELP50 Initiative, the U40 Summit, and other ELP alumni activities with special acknowledgement to the following:
- Central Pacific Bank Foundation
- Yosuke Honjo
- Island Insurance Foundation
- The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation
- Paul and Lynda Yonamine
- Colbert & Gail Matsumoto
- Royanne Doi
- The Tsuha Foundation
- Bridge Asia Foundation
- Ernest Higa
- The Terasaki Nibei Foundation
- The Aratani Foundation
- Masuda Funai Eifert & Mitchell, Ltd
The ELP program benefits from a community of leaders who contribute to the program’s success, and the growth of the individual participants. USJC thanks the following individuals for their dedication and support to the ELP program:
- Darin Arita
- Bill Imada
- Yuko Kaifu
- George Kobayashi
- Dayne Kono
- Eiichiro Kuwana
- Andrew Ogawa
- Niki Robins
- Terry Suzuki
- Rona Tison
- Ann Teranishi
- Lori Teranishi
- Tyler Tokioka
- Masami Tyson
- Roy Yamaguchi
- Audrey Yamamoto
We also recognize with gratitude the alumni of the ELP program who have “paid it forward” by joining the Council as annual sponsors. These include:
- David Kenji Chang
- Robert Gondo
- Joshua Morey
- Ryota Sekine
- Jaime Sugino
- Lindsay Sugino
- Courtney Taira
- Winston Taira
ARCHIVES & PHOTOS
Photos from prior classes are available here:
A WORD FROM EMERGING LEADERS PROGRAM ALUMNI:
“Like many leadership programs, my feeling is the strength and underlying benefit of ELP is access to the USJC network. This access for me was the highlight of the conference, as I interacted with members of the 2022 cohort, ELP 50 members, and many other leaders from around the United States and Japan. Each brought a unique perspective, personality, and point of view. I look forward to continuing to strengthen relationships with each of them in the future.
Being an elected official, I attend many conferences and leadership programs, and I think this was one of the most impactful experiences both personally and professionally.”-Troy Hashimoto, (ELP ’22)
“My experience far exceeded my expectations, and I truly feel that the USJC community is the most expansive, accepting space I’ve been fortunate enough to move within the Japanese American community. The diversity of experiences, and the varied and nuanced identities in how each member relates to both Japan and America, serve to make each interaction richer and more expansive. I’m also so grateful for the close ties that the organization builds between the U.S. and Japan, and the ways in which we as members are able to play a part in bridging the relationship of our nations through individual relationships.”-Mia Russell, (ELP ’22)