The U.S.-Japan Council’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is dedicated to cultivating and empowering the next generation of Japanese American leaders. Participants engage in leadership development and build influential professional connections and lasting personal friendships. Each year, a new cohort of individuals aged 24-35 is selected to attend the U.S.-Japan Council  Annual Conference, become USJC Associate Members, and join the network of program alumni in bridging the future of U.S.-Japan relations. Through access to our broad network and education on pertinent topics, the program inspires participants to actively promote strong and positive U.S.-Japan relations in both their personal and professional lives.

ELP members share a passion and commitment to community-building and relationship-strengthening, both domestically and across the Pacific. This diversity of talent and unity of purpose is a significant strength and a source of inspiration and energy.


Founded in 2010 with support from ITO EN, the Emerging Leaders Program was envisioned by USJC’s founding President, Irene Hirano Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, and other prominent Japanese American leaders. Their goal was to empower a new generation of Japanese Americans to actively engage and lead in U.S.-Japan relations. The inaugural cohort comprised eight candidates from across the United States who attended the first USJC Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Since then, a new class has been selected annually, growing the alumni network to 166 members across 14 cohorts. Program alumni have become deeply engaged with and continue to make significant contributions to USJC and the ELP community.

2024 Program

Now in its 15th year, the Emerging Leaders Program will select ten to twelve outstanding Japanese American professionals in 2024 to attend the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference and Members Day in Tokyo. This prestigious event convenes regional, national and international leaders from government, business, academia, and nonprofit sectors to discuss the current state and future outlook of the U.S.-Japan partnership across various a range of timely and relevant topics. By providing access to senior leaders and education on these subjects, the program aims to inspire participants to champion strong and positive U.S.-Japan relations.

Selected applicants will become U.S.-Japan Council Associate Members, with their first year’s membership dues waived (membership is typically by invitation and nomination). All travel and program expenses for the Conference will be covered.

The application period now open!

ELP Alumni

ELP participants have created a vibrant alumni network deeply engaged with the work of the Council. Alumni have supported and developed key initiatives and flagship programs for USJC, and they hold leadership roles in all areas of the organization. ELP represents a network of Japanese Americans empowering one another to support the growth of USJC and our communities.

The U40 Summit

In 2016, ELP alumni conceptualized and organized the inaugural U40 Summit with the aim of creating a space for young leaders from various sectors to come together and leverage the diverse experiences of each participant to foster growth and deepen engagement in U.S.-Japan relations. To date, five successful U40 Summits have been held in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Denver and Seattle. These events have brought together over 200 next-generation leaders from the U.S. and Japan, becoming a powerful engine for fostering engagement and building connections within the USJC community and beyond. Through a range of activities and opportunities for connection and networking, the U40 Summit serves as a platform for exchanging ideas, developing skills, and building relationships among participants, USJC leaders, and the local communities of the host cities.

ELP 50

The ELP50 Initiative was a landmark 2022 program that gathered 50 of the top next-generation Japanese American leaders to experience Japan and connect with their Japanese counterparts. It was a strategic program designed to strengthen the political, cultural, economic and personal ties between young Japanese American and Japanese leaders.Learn more about the ELP 50 cohort who gathered in Tokyo here. Read the full recap of the ELP 50 program here.

Program Supporters

The Emerging Leaders Program is supported by the generous sponsorship extended to the U.S.-Japan Council by companies, foundations and individuals. Our full list of sponsors can be found here. If you would like to make a donation to the Council, please email [email protected] or click the Donate button below.

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
  • Ryota Sekine
  • Gondo Company
  • Royanne Doi
  • The Tsuha Foundation
  • Bridge Asia Foundation
  • Ernest Higa
  • The Terasaki Nibei Foundation
  • Yumi & Eiichiro Kuwana
  • Tokyu Hotels & Resorts
  • Masuda Funai
  • Sun Noodle
  • Colbert & Gail Matsumoto
  • J. Morey Company
  • Kira Teshima Conlon
  • David Kenji Chang & Jaime Sugino
  • Kazu & Lynda Gomi
  • JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles
  • King’s Hawaiian
  • Symetra Life Insurance Company
  • The Roche Family Foundation
  • Charlene Shimada

Archives & Photos

A Word from ELP Alumni

“My ELP experience was everything I imagined it would be and more….This began with my cohort, who started as classmates but quickly turned to family, and extended to the wider ELP alumni and USJC members.”

~Melynie Yoneda, ELP ’23

“ELP has been a community I didn’t know was missing in my life! Thank you for this life-changing experience. I look forward to staying engaged with USJC for many, many years to come.” 

~Meredith Maimoni, ELP ’20

“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 ’17