U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (November 23rd, 2016)

Let Us Keep Striving Towards Stronger U.S.-Japan Relations

Message from USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye


We have just finished a very tough election year and it’s now time to look ahead. There is no doubt that there will be change with the new administration. While we are not certain what lies ahead for the relationship between the United States and Japan, we commend the early meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President-elect Donald Trump. As an organization that values people-to-people relationships, we believe that their meeting is an important first step.

The day after the election, someone asked what I thought my late husband, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, would think of the outcome of the election. While as a lifelong Democrat he would have hoped for a different outcome, over his nearly 50-year Senate career he worked with many different presidents, Republicans and Democrats, and always forged a path forward to “get work done.”

When the U.S.-Japan Council was founded in 2008, the sentiment in Washington, DC was “Japan passing.” That was one of the reasons we felt that an organization that focuses on building a people-to-people foundation between our two countries was necessary.

Today, just a short eight years later, the Council is a robust organization that is growing and engaging even more people to work together to ensure that we find a path forward to “get work done.”

Just last week, we held the 7th USJC Annual Conference in Silicon Valley. (See details about the Conference in the article below.) Within almost every speech and discussion was the topic of how to keep contributing towards stronger U.S.-Japan relations. The 700-plus participants discussed the many opportunities to continue solving the world’s problems together, especially by applying the Silicon Valley formula.


Our nations are working together in areas such as FinTech, biomed, cyber, and artificial technology to create new technologies, businesses and social good. We are seeing innovation from throughout our countries, with opportunities to collaborate at the regional-level, and from the largest of traditional companies to the newest of start-ups. We set high expectations as we head towards 2020, with hopes for increased student exchanges and optimism for a transformative Tokyo Olympics.

We also discussed the value of diversity in various forms, be it supporting women in the workplace, propelling Japanese American women into politics, or building bridges of mutual understanding among different groups. We reflected upon history and its relevance for today, including World War II and the Japanese American incarceration, and argued that overcoming biases, accepting one another and building strong U.S.-Japan relations would ultimately lead to a better world.

The future of U.S.-Japan relations remains bright. At the Council, we invest in the next generation of leaders through the TOMODACHI Initiative, the Emerging Leaders Program and other programs. We are always inspired to see how quickly the young, passionate participants of these programs grow as leaders who will bring our nations closer together and make our communities stronger.

There is no more important time than now for us to come together and make an impact. Let us continue to move forward and “get work done.”

–Irene Hirano Inouye
President, U.S.-Japan Council

2016 USJC Annual Conference: Summary and Photos

Thank you to everyone who joined us or supported us for the 2016 Annual Conference in Silicon Valley! Below is a brief summary. The Conference webpage will be continuously updated in the coming weeks with more information.

Conference Summary

(L-R) Silicon Valley Host Committee Co-Chair Tasha Yorozu; Mr. Hiroaki Nakanishi, Chairman of the Board, Representative Executive Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.; Secretary Norman Mineta, Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce; USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye; USJC Chairman of the Board Dennis Teranishi

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.

(L-R) Mr. Higa; Ms. Rochelle King, Vice President of Data, Insights and Design, Spotify; Mr. Hans Peter Brøndmo, General Manager of Robotics, X; Mr. Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee

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.

(L-R) Ms. Yanehiro, Ms. Tomita, Mr. Fujita, Ms. Matsui, Mr. Uki

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 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.


Click here to see more photos from the Conference.

Social Media

Recent Events

USJC Members Visit Iwate

In October, USJC Associate (and 2014 ELP alumnus) Jonathan Abbott planned a trip to Iwate prefecture for USJC members. Council Leader Janelle Sasaki and USJC Associate Yuta Hasumi were among those who participated. Many thanks to Mr. Abbott for organizing the trip, and to Ms. Sasaki for providing the following summary and photos!

The trip was meaningful: we met the local community leaders, learned more about their local products such as rice and nashi pears, visited the popular sights, and tried the different foods of the region. After speaking to the local community and business leaders, we understood their challenges and motivation to promote more tourism from abroad as they rebuild their community. Our guide, Abe-san, and his wife are so proud of their region that they took the time during their weekend to share this special place with all of us. We were touched by their generosity and kindness and hope that we can further help their community in the future.

Yuta Hasumi (third from left) and Janelle Sasaki (center) were among those who participated in the trip, which was led by Jonathan Abbott (right)

I am grateful to Jonathan for giving us this opportunity. He served as the tour guide since he has deep insights on the area and is a frequent visitor to the prefecture. He took an inclusive approach of bringing a diverse group of people together, and made sure everyone was comfortable and having a great time throughout the trip.

We look forward to a future trip and hope that more people can participate. We believe USJC and the community could work together, such as by promoting inbound tourism for economic development, and further linking Iwate with TOMODACHI programs.


As someone who travels frequently within Japan, this was by far my best trip of the year. I am grateful for this experience, exposure and education of the Iwate region. I can’t wait to return.

Regional Women in Leadership Event in Chicago

Top photo: Tomoko Kizawa, Keiko Yanai, Pat Yuzawa-Rubin, Mary Doi, Donna Cole, Chikako Jo, Yoko Yamoto, Marion Friebus-Flaman, Daniela One, Miki Sankary, Keiko Ikemoto, Lisa Sakai, Amy Ancona Houlihan and Naomi Hattori gather in Chicago

On October 25, USJC members in Chicago completed their third and final luncheon as part of the Regional Women in Leadership Series, funded by the Embassy of Japan. USJC Board Member Donna Cole flew in from Texas and joined the event. Their discussion centered on women entrepreneurs and how women deal with bias, and how girls–especially those from ethnic minority groups–need role models.

USJC members in Denver, New York City, Washington, DC, San Mateo, Santa Monica and Portland will host additional luncheons in the coming weeks.


USJC Introductory Video

We are proud to present this video that introduces USJC and our many activities, and why so many members and supporters are committed to this organization. The video was first shown at the 2016 Annual Conference in Silicon Valley. We express our deepest appreciation to USJC Board Member Leona Hiraoka and her team at Integrated Media (as well as Council Leader Linda Taira, who provided the voice over) for their work on this video! Click here or on the image above to watch the video.

ELP U40 Summit Video


Also making its debut at the Annual Conference was this video of the U40 Summit. We thank USJC Associate (and 2012 ELP alumna) Ginger Vaughn and her team for the fantastic recap of the summit of Under-40 leaders, organized and led by alumni of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program!

Member News

Irene Hirano Inouye Receives “Eagle on the World” Award from JCCI


Ms. Hirano Inouye receiving the award from Mr. Jim Rosenthal, Co-Chairman of the Annual Dinner (as well as Chief Operating Officer, Morgan Stanley) (Photos courtesy of JCCI NY)

On November 10, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye received the “Eagle on the World” award from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York (JCCI NY). This prestigious award is given every year at the JCCI Annual Dinner to “individuals who have dedicated their lives to fostering and improving relations between the United States, Japan and the world.” This year, musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto received the award along with Ms. Hirano Inouye. Past recipients have included Ambassador John V. Roos, Secretary Norman Mineta (who is also Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors) and the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

At the dinner, Ms. Hirano Inouye was introduced with a video that was created by Council Leader Stann Nakazono. Upon receiving the award, Ms. Hirano Inouye addressed the audience of more than 1,000 and thanked the Japanese business leaders for their strong support of USJC, TOMODACHI and the Japanese American community. She also spoke about the importance of people-to-people connections, fostering the next generation of leaders, and celebrating the diversity of leaders who are committed to the U.S.-Japan relationship.


(L-R) Mr. Yasushi Takahashi, President of JCCI NY (as well as President & CEO, Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc.); Mr. Rosenthal; Mr. Sakamoto; Ms. Hirano Inouye; Mr. Raymond L. Conner, Keynote Speaker of the Annual Dinner (as well as Vice Chairman, The Boeing Company and President & CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes); Mr. Tsutomu Yoshida, Chairman of the Annual Dinner (as well as President & CEO, IHI, Inc.)

Upcoming Events

2016 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) SYMPOSIUM

When: December 8, 2016 at 4pm – 5:30pm
Where: Sasakawa Peace Foundation (Tokyo, Japan)

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation and USJC will host a panel discussion with six distinguished Asian American state legislators from diverse backgrounds attending the 2016 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program.

The AALD program gives elected state-level Asian American officials the opportunity to visit Japan to meet and exchange ideas with Japanese political, government, business and community leaders at both the national and local levels, and aims to enhance mutual understanding and network building between Japan and the United States.

During the panel discussion, delegates will talk about their respective political and personal journeys in the United States, providing the audience with a unique and valuable opportunity to learn about the important role Asian American politicians are playing in their political arenas. They will also reflect on their week-long experience in Japan.

The registration deadline is COB Wednesday, December 7. For more information and to register, please visit the event website.

George Takei’s Allegiance on the Big Screen


When: December 13, 2016 at 7:30pm
Where: Select Movie Theaters

More than 600 theaters nationwide will show the cinematic version of Allegiance, created by Member of the USJC Board of Councilors George Takei, on Tuesday, December 13th. It will be shown for one night only, at 7:30 p.m. local time. The film will include an introduction from Mr. Takei, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and taped interviews with the cast and creators. Allegiance is a musical inspired by Mr. Takei’s own experience, and tells the story of a family upended by the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Tickets can be purchased at allegiancemusical.com/movie or at participating theater box offices (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit

When: May 9-11, 2017
Where: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows (Big Island, Hawaii)

The Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit, presented by USJC and the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT), is being held to foster tangible, near and long term economic opportunities among Japanese prefectures, the State of Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland.

Summit attendees will explore opportunities spanning business, education, tourism and energy, and will forge one-on-one connections that will pave the way for future collaboration and trade.

The Summit will include Governors, government officials and business leaders. Governors from prefectures with State of Hawaii sister partnerships (Ehime, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Okinawa and Hokkaido) as well as those that are part of USJC’s “Governors’ Circle” (Oita, Okayama, Nagano and Shizuoka) have been invited.

For more information, please click here. Registration and lodging information is forthcoming.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the U.S.-Japan Council! As always, we are thankful for all of our wonderful members, sponsors and supporters.

USJC staff gathering in Silicon Valley after the Conference

We are thankful to everyone who make all our events possible, as well as the many participants and speakers. We hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving, no matter where you are!