U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 3rd, 2016)

Fifth Business Advisory Board Discusses Future of Robotics

The fifth Business Advisory Board (BAB) was held at the IBM Client Experience Center on February 18, welcoming Michael D. Rhodin, Senior Vice President of Watson Business Development, as the featured speaker.

Mr. Yonamine opens BAB

The discussion was led by Paul Yonamine, Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors. Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Masaaki Tanaka, who leads BAB, welcomed the attendees. The audience included not only business executives but also the young alumni of TOMODACHI Initiative programs, who were invited to BAB for the first time as the next generation of leaders in U.S.-Japan relations. USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla invited the audience to this year’s Annual Conference in Silicon Valley, and encouraged them to take a moment to reflect upon the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Audience members were also invited to share their messages of encouragement with the people of Tohoku, by participating in a social media campaign run by the TOMODACHI Initiative.

Ms. Basalla with TOMODACHI alumni

Just hours before the event, IBM Watson launched its Japanese language feature, in partnership with SoftBank. Mr. Rhodin called this a key frontrunner of one of IBM’s most significant innovations, and described the journey of 27 scientists from countries around the world–including Japan–working tirelessly to create a computer that would be able to “answer any question about any topic.”

Mr. Rhodin addresses the audience

Mr. Rhodin used staggering statistics to illustrate his belief that we are entering “The Third Tech Revolution.” He cited the 99% data growth in health, utilities and manufacturing industries to point out that we live in an age where humans have more information than they can process. This, he said, shows the relevance of computer systems like Watson, which can “find the signal in the noise” and analyze this information to create useful knowledge.

Mr. Rhodin also expressed his optimism about Japanese technology companies as global leaders in the field of robotics. He discussed the potential use of robots like SoftBank’s Pepper, which could chaperon the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with its multilingual skills.

His talk evoked enthusiasm for the many possibilities of Watson and “cognitive business” in a wide-range of sectors, from medicine to finance. Takashi Yabuta, alumnus of the TOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy, commented: “The event opened my eyes to a whole new possibility of what I want to study in the future. I was always interested in computers, and I vaguely thought about studying computer science at university. I had previously thought that artificial intelligence (AI) was only possible in works of science fiction. But after hearing Mr. Rhodin’s speech, I am thrilled to learn that AI is already happening in the real world, and that there is huge demand in various industries.”

We thank Mr. Yonamine for bringing in Mr. Rhodin as the featured speaker!

To see more photos from the event, click here.

TOMODACHI alumni share their message to Tohoku on social media


Building the TOMODACHI Program Inspires Ideas for Sustainable Support to Tohoku

Students enjoy the reception

On February 26, the Building the TOMODACHI Generation program came to a successful close in Washington, DC.

Japanese college students arrived mid-February to begin the intensive, two-week program, which opened with a welcome session featuring remarks by USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye. During the first week of the program, the 19 Japanese students learned about the role and function of civil society, the structure and history of the U.S. nonprofit sector, and how cross-sector partnerships among businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations address contemporary challenges. These panels included speakers such as 2015 ELP alumnus and Associate Member Rei Tsuchiya, USJC Director of Education Mya Fisher and USJC Communications Manager Shiori Okazaki.

At the end of the week, the Japanese students were joined by 15 U.S. students to form international teams tasked with developing a project that addresses ongoing issues facing the Tohoku region. Each team was assigned to one of five cities in Miyagi prefecture. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the third year of the Building the TOMODACHI Generation Program. As such, the focus of the projects was more on long-term sustainability and community healing than on immediate relief. The projects were assessed by a panel of judges that included USJC member and President of Global Giving Mari Kuraishi.

USJC staff members Ms. Fisher (left) and Ms. Lauren Mosely (right) speak with students at the reception

Following the final presentations, USJC staff spoke with students about their experience on this program. Yumeko Inoue of Sophia University said, “This program has been a great learning opportunity. I have learned so many things, including civil society, teamwork skills, and skills needed in global fields. But most of all, this program made me realize that we each have different strengths, and that if we combine them together, we can bring changes to create a sustainable and resilient environment.

Students from the BTG program

This summer, the two winning teams (Team Tachiagare and Team Ningyo) will travel to the towns they researched (Kesennuma and Onagawa, respectively), and present the project to town and regional leaders. Team Tachiagare addressed the sea wall–which was constructed to prevent further disasters–and proposed bimonthly events by the wall to reclaim the ocean that is now obstructed by it. Team Ningyo hopes to revive the fishing industry, by creating a school curriculum where local fishermen teach students about the production of Hoya, a sea pineapple that used to be a major export for Miyagi prefecture. More information about their proposals can be found here. We wish them the best of luck on their presentation and congratulate them on being chosen.

See more photos from the closing reception on The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) Flickr album here. This program was developed through a partnership between TWC and the U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI). It is administered by TWC and generously funded by the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges.

Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta

For USJC members and supporters in the Boston area: the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta will perform on April 3 at 8:00 PM at Boston’s Symphony Hall. More than fifty young musicians from Fukushima who are overcoming the challenges of the Great East Japan Earthquake will come to Boston and reveal how music has changed their lives. This performance is part of a week-long educational program supported by the TOMODACHI Initiative. In addition to the performance and cultural activities, the students will visit local schools and perform with other student music groups.

For more information about the performance, see the flyer here.


The following is part of a year-long series of articles by the 2015 class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.

Reflection from Kuriko Hasegawa Wong (ELP 2015)

For me, 2015 was a year of change. Becoming a first-time homeowner, rescuing and adopting a cat, and getting a glimpse of what being a parent might be like were just a few of the changes in my life. Just as impactful was finally having an opportunity to work with Japanese clients in my public relations career and becoming a TOMODACHI Emerging Leader. I never expected turning 30 – an age I previously associated with maturity and stability – would bring changes in my life, let alone so many of them.

About a year ago, I was assigned to a new project at my public relations firm to work for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. While I had previously wondered what it was like to use my Japanese language skills and cultural familiarity on the job, I never had the opportunity or strong curiosity to pursue it further. Working on the project, I learned that, aside from sheer language ability, the skill of being able to “get” each other is more crucial in cross-cultural exchanges than I had expected.

With this realization in this pivotal year of my life, the timing was impeccable for me to become part of USJC. I attended the Annual Conference in November in Tokyo with renewed interest to be involved in facilitating international exchanges. It marked a significant milestone in my life because of the people I met and the renewed and profound desire I gained to pursue my professional goals.

At the Conference, I found myself both overwhelmed and exhilarated by the number of successful, charismatic and personable Japanese Americans who have paved the way for future generations. Born and raised in Japan, I realized that I had been unacquainted with how varied Japanese Americans’ experience and achievements were across the United States and beyond. Meeting those impressive leaders was truly energizing and, at the same time, humbling.

The author (middle) exchanging business cards with speakers during an ELP session at the Annual Conference

Just as impressive were my fellow ELPs, who are highly ambitious and inspiring. They are trailblazers in their respective paths, and spending time with them immediately brought a sense of belonging and mutual support even though we had just met.

This short yet intense experience in Tokyo cultivated in me a deeper appreciation for Japanese American culture, which is becoming an increasingly important part of me. It also reinforced my desire to learn about Japanese business culture and connect the two nations. I believe Japanese Americans play a unique and important role in the current and future relations between the United States and Japan, and certainly want to be part of it.

I recognize that this is only the beginning, and that I have much to learn and contribute in the future. But this year, I will be walking the path of an ever evolving life, sometimes running, sometimes crawling, with more clarity than previous years and with a gang that I can truly call TOMODACHI.

The author (right) met with other USJC members in Houston in January: (from left) Board Member Donna Cole, Friend of the Council Jeffrey Miller and Associate Dana Heatherton


TOMODACHI Initiative Social Media Campaign

“Share your message. Share your support.”

March 11, 2016 marks five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the TOMODACHI Initiative asks for your messages of support to Tohoku via social media, to be posted and shared worldwide. Please join us in encouraging and supporting Tohoku–for their efforts not only during the past five years, but also the next five.


To become involved, take a photo with your message. Post it to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #TOMO311 or email it to [email protected].

To learn more, visit the Campaign’s webpage.
Or see what others have posted so far on the TOMODACHI website or on the TOMODACHI Facebook page.

Upcoming Events

Various Dates – Events Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake (Various Cities)

In observation of the fifth year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, USJC is holding and supporting several events to commemorate how much progress has been made and to assess what is still left to be done. Events are being held all over the United States and Japan. Some of these events are listed below, but for a complete list, click here.

Ongoing – Global Giving Campaign to Support NPOs Active in Tohoku (Online)

Global Giving has created a portal to list all of the groups they support that are still active in Tohoku. In addition, Global Giving will have a matching campaign that will start on Thursday, March 10 10am EST and last until funds run out. Global Giving will match all donations at 50%. The President and Founder of Global Giving, Ms. Mari Kuraishi, is a USJC Council Member/Leader.

For more information, please see this webpage.

March 8 – The United States and Japan: Reassessing 3-11 (Washington, DC; live-stream also available)

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the March 11 (“3-11”), 2011 “Triple Disaster” in Northeast Japan by holding a substantive, public discussion on the disaster and the joint response to it, Sasakawa USA will hold a one-day conference during on March 8, 2016. This conference will include panel discussions with American and Japanese experts and officials, with an emphasis on presenting analysis of the actual events on 3-11 and Operation Tomodachi. USJC is a co-sponsor of the event. Speakers include TOMODACHI founder John Roos & USJC staff member Suzanne Basalla.

Registration for the Conference is invitation only, but the event will be live-streamed from 9:00am to 4:30pm (EST) here.

March 14 & 15 – The U.S.-Japan Alliance: Strengthening Strategic Cooperation (Santa Monica, CA)

When: March 14, 2016 at 2pm – 5pm & March 15, 2016 at 9pm – Noon
Where: RAND Corporation (1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA)

Last April, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced dramatic revisions to the U.S.-Japan alliance’s defense guidelines. These revisions were crafted under the guidance of Chuck Hagel (U.S. Secretary of Defense, 2013-2015) and Onodera Itsunori (Japanese Minister of Defense, 2012-2014), and reflected the need to modernize the alliance to deal with new threats from cyberspace, a nuclear North Korea, and an increasingly assertive China.

On March 14 and 15, Onodera Itsunori and Chuck Hagel will speak at RAND to address why the United States and Japan revised the alliance’s defense guidelines. They will also discuss what the new guidelines mean for cooperation in areas such as enhancing allied cybersecurity and deepening cooperation with India and Australia while building partner capacity with countries in Southeast Asia.

For more information and to register, please click here.

March 23 – 5th Anniversary Commemoration for Tohoku: Tohoku, 5 Years After (Boston, MA)

When: March 23, 2016 at 6pm – 8:30pm
Where: Christian Science Center, Reflection Hall 235 Huntington Avenue, Boston


Four expert panelists will provide an update on the situation in Tohoku over the past five years. Speakers include Mayor Kimiaki Toda of Ofunato and USJC Senior Vice President Laura Winthrop Abbot. The panel will be followed by a musical tribute by Japanese students from Fukushima currently studying on the TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund at the Berklee College of Music. This is a USJC event, organized by Board Member Atsuko Fish in cooperation with the Fish Family Foundation.

For more information, please see this flier. Register for the event here.

April 3 – Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta (Boston, MA)

To commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the Tohoku disaster, the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta will travel to Boston to perform at the city’s Symphony Hall. The orchestra was created by students of Fukushima high schools who found music to be an essential vehicle for recovery in the immediate aftermath of 3/11. The students performed at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2014 and gave a performance at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall in August 2015 which was attended by the Empress. The organizer for this event, Mr. Peter Grilli, is a USJC Friend of the Council. TOMODACHI and the U.S. Embassy are both contributing funds to this program, which includes a series of exchanges for the Fukushima youth in Boston from March 24 to April 4.

For more information, please see this webpage or this flyer. Tickets are available here.



USJC seeks a talented, dynamic individual for a newly-created position of Executive Director, U.S.-Japan Council (Japan). The Executive Director will provide leadership and oversight of the Council’s general programs and activities and of the TOMODACHI Initiative. This will include responsibility for the implementation of program goals and objectives, providing leadership and oversight of program development and management, fundraising, communications and operations. The Executive Director will be based in Tokyo and manage the staff in Japan and will work closely with the U.S.-Japan Council (U.S.) staff in the United States.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.


USJC is seeking a full-time Executive Director for the Council’s newest initiative, the Silicon Valley – Japan Platform (SVJP). The Executive Director position will have primary responsibility for administrative and operational support to USJC’s Silicon Valley Project, including: office management; executive and organizational support for the Executive Director, Chairman and Executive Committee, SVJP; and general administrative support duties. Travel, especially between Japan and Silicon Valley, is expected.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.


The position will have primary responsibility for engagement of the approximately 400 Council Leaders/Members who comprise the membership of the organization, the majority of whom are Japanese American and all of whom are leaders committed to U.S.-Japan relations. Council Leaders/Members live and work across the United States and in Japan, represent different generations, and come from diverse professional backgrounds. Additionally, this position will be responsible for engagement and outreach of Corporate Partners, as well as leaders of other organizations with aligned mission and purpose. The position will develop outreach and engagement strategies, plan and implement regional educational programs and networking, and amplify the impact of the organization through the activities of its Council Leaders/Members. The position requires an individual who is flexible, experienced, diplomatic, able to multi-task and prioritize, well-organized, able to plan and meet deadlines, an excellent communicator in writing and verbally, and is comfortable working independently and as part of a team. Frequent short-duration travel throughout the United States and occasionally to Japan is anticipated.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.