Evelyn Tokuyama

Reflection from Evelyn Tokuyama (ELP 2015)

The author (middle in front of the TOMODACHI banner) with her fellow 2015 Emerging Leaders and USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa (right)

Living, working and absorbing all that Tokyo and Japan have to offer for the last four years, it was my honor and privilege to be part of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program at the 2015 USJC Annual Conference, the first to be held in Tokyo. In addition, serving on the Annual Conference Hosting Committee as Media/Communications Co-Chair on behalf of Weber Shandwick made the overall experience even more special—as I saw the Conference successfully come together from start to finish.

In less than a week, I bonded, connected with and shared impactful experiences with the 2015 ELP cohort as well as 25 alumni. The connections made in such a short amount of time, and the dynamic that came so naturally, laid the foundation for lifelong friendships and a commitment to nurturing the U.S.-Japan relationship for generations to come. Never before have I been immersed in a group of such like-minded yet diverse, multi-talented and passionate individuals.

For the first time, I had found a community I could wholly identify with as a Japanese American. My participation in ELP brought things full circle in many ways, including my personal life. The program and USJC acted as a vehicle to continue the legacy of my late grandfather, Jiro Tokuyama. He was also a strong advocate of ensuring a solid bridge between the United States and Japan, through his work with the Ministry of Defense (previously the Japan Defense Agency), and later on at JETRO and the Nomura Research Institute. He continues to serve as an inspiration in my own life.

I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing on March 11, 2011 when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, as well as the ensuing aftermath. For this reason, the special address during the Annual Conference by Mr. Futoshi Toba, Mayor, City of Rikuzentakata, particularly resonated with me. The ability to come together, the sheer resilience and compassion the Japanese displayed were stunning considering the circumstances they faced.

Exchanging business cards with 2013 Emerging Leader Nate Gyotoku (left)

Emerging Leaders are poised as the next generation of movers, innovators, and entrepreneurs in our respective fields. I left with definitive takeaways from the plenary session that featured remarks by Hon. Norman Mineta, and honored the late Sen. Daniel Inouye and the late Mr. Wally Yonamine. Other highlights were our leadership development programming sessions with Mr. James Higa, Ms. Emily Murase and Ms. Toko Serita.

Looking forward, I believe Emerging Leaders are uniquely well-positioned in the talent pipeline. We can take strategic action in creating opportunities for our successors in the TOMODACHI Generation—specifically by contributing to leadership development through educational and cultural exchange. With the guidance and support of the USJC community, it’s our inherent duty to ensure that the alliance between our two countries remains robust and resilient, enabling the U.S.-Japan relationship to continue advancing in a symbiotic and productive fashion.

The author (front row, third from left) with her fellow 2015 cohorts