U.S. Japan Council Newsletter (December 19, 2019)

1. Asian American Leadership Delegation Sends State Legislators to Japan

Six state-elected legislators from diverse Asian American backgrounds and regions recently traveled to Japan as part of the 2019 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program. From December 7 to 14, the delegates traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Tottori. They exchanged ideas with Japanese political and government leaders, business executives, nonprofit leaders and academics, creating networks that can mutually benefit the U.S.-Japan relationship.

The delegation with members of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly

AALD is in its sixth year, and the 2019 Delegation included the following six delegates.

  • State Representative Chris Chyung, Indiana House of Representatives
  • State Representative Nima Kulkarni, Kentucky House of Representatives
  • State Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen, Nevada State Assembly
  • State Representative My-Linh Thai, Washington House of Representatives
  • State Representative Kyle Yamashita, Hawaii House of Representatives
  • State Representative Mike Yin, Wyoming House of Representatives

Government leaders the legislators met included Chargé d’Affaires Joseph M. Young and Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai. They also met with members of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, members of the Japanese Diet and Ministry of Foreign Affairs North American Director General Kazuhiro Suzuki.

Business leaders the delegates met included representatives of Keidanren (Japanese Business Federation), Daikin and Kansai Keizai Doyukai. Delegates also met with NHK journalist Aiko Doden, Sasakawa Peace Foundation Chairman Nobuo Tanaka, security and diplomacy scholar Narushige Michishita and SPF’s America Monitor researchers, who are experts in American politics in Japan.

The delegates with Seisho Kaichi Junior and Senior High School students

In Tottori, the legislators visited Ooe Valley Stay, a closed elementary school revived as a hotel; Work Corpo, which provides a safe working environment to people with disabilities in order to support their economic independence; and the Tottori Prefectural Library, which was inspired by libraries in the U.S. and has supported the community for decades. They also participated in a Q&A session with students at Seisho Kaichi Junior and Senior High School, answering questions about the U.S.-Japan alliance, the delegates’ views of Japan and more.

The legislators also spoke at a symposium in Tokyo titled: “Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators in 2019.” This event was co-hosted by USJC and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The delegates discussed their personal and political journeys in the United States, including their careers before becoming politicians. They also spoke of the important role of Asian American politicians, particularly in light of current events. Nobuko Sasae, President of Nobuko Forum Japan, moderated this discussion.

The delegates and Ms. Sasae at the symposium

The delegates also attended the ALLI (Advanced Long-term Leadership Initiative) Indo-Pacific Summit in Tokyo, where 43 youth from over 16 countries gathered to discuss common issues and goals of their respective countries.

AALD is co-organized by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and USJC, in collaboration with the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators (NAPACSL). For more information on the program and full biographies of the delegates, click here. To see photos from the trip, click here.

2. Recent Events

Regional Women in Leadership Program Held in Bethlehem, PA

Thank you to USJC Associate Miki Sankary (ELP ’15) for organizing this event!

Regional Women in Leadership speakers and participants

In eastern Pennsylvania near the New Jersey border, members of the newly formed Lehigh Valley “Japanese in America, Japanese American, and Japanese Aficionado” (JAJAJA) community organized a successful summit on December 8. This summit was part of the Regional Women in Leadership (RWL) series, in which USJC members and supporters organize and attend events in their respective regions to discuss ways to support women’s leadership. RWL is funded by the Embassy of Japan.

Over 60 people gathered on a Sunday afternoon, and received a warm welcome from keynote speakers Cheryl Matherly (Vice President of International Affairs – Lehigh University) and Deputy Consul General Kenju Murakami of the Consulate in NYC, as well as Merissa Nakamura, Membership Engagement and Regional Coordinator at USJC. Dr. Matherly welcomed the community to Lehigh’s campus and shared the many years of collaboration and exchange between Lehigh and institutions in Japan. DCG Murakami provided historical context to the long-standing relationship between the U.S. and Japan, noting that the alliance between the two countries has been the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy and security. He proceeded to provide the latest trends on Womenomics in Japan, sharing examples of how Japan is working towards empowering women to hold decision-making positions in the public sector.

Deputy Consul General of New York Kenju Murakami discusses Japan’s population decrease

A panel called “Portraits of Japan in the Lehigh Valley” featured three members of the JAJAJA community who come from different backgrounds: Miyo Lloyd (Founder of the Lehigh Valley Japanese Ministries), Samina Forbath (a fourth-year undergraduate student at Lehigh University majoring in engineering and Japanese), and Joe Narkevic (Chair of the Bethlehem Tondabayashi Sister City Commission). Moderator Miki Sankary asked several questions that addressed the challenges of building a home away from home. The panelists’ anecdotes represented the common sentiments of people having to balance adapting to a new culture while retaining their cultural heritage. The panelists shared their stories on how that challenge is particularly tough for women when raising a family. Ms. Lloyd shared how her family spoke Japanese at home and celebrated the culture to make learning Japanese fun for her children, one of whom now attends Waseda University. Ms. Forbath, a newly engaged Japanese American about to embark on a career in robotics engineering, recounted how she wants to celebrate and ensure that Japanese culture is alive in her growing family. Mr. Narkevic, a JET alumnus, has been active for the past six years with the Bethlehem Tondabayashi Sister City Commission, which serves as a welcoming space for men and women who wish to celebrate Japanese culture together, build communities and “build a home away from home.”

(L-R) Miki Sankary (ELP ’15) and speakers Miyo Lloyd, Samina Forbath and Joe Narkevic

The summit also featured a workshop by speaker, author and professional development coach Shawn Kent Hayashi. She prompted the audience to think about their aspirations as affirmations, asking them to write down what they are good at, what they can offer to the community (Japanese language lessons, advice on restaurants, etc.) and what they seek from the community. Attendees posted their notes around the hall and walked around to network and connect with people they are seeking support from. The room became an interactive museum of everyone’s talents and aspirations, and embodied the power of community in creating a supportive network.

USJC Members End the Year with a Kampai


On December 13, more than forty USJC members in Japan got together for the big event of the year, the Bonenkai, at the exclusive Roppongi Hills Club, where they had the opportunity to learn more about the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and build excitement for the Olympics’ return to Tokyo in 2020.

Council Leader Roy Tomizawa gave a timely presentation on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and how it symbolized Japan at a time unrivaled in the nation’s sense of self-confidence and optimism. It was eye-opening to learn about a very important and inspiring period in Japan that very few Americans, as well as Japanese, know much about. Roy’s interactive style kept members engaged and entertained, and after correctly answering one of Roy’s tough Olympics trivia questions, a lucky member received a copy of Roy’s book, 1964: The Greatest Year in the History of Japan – How the Tokyo Olympics Symbolized Japan’s Miraculous Rise from the Ashes.

After the presentation, the fun times continued with a kampai from U40 member Kenji Negi (ELP ’16), and our members spent the rest of the night enjoying free-flowing champagne and fine dining, including slices of yummy wagyu beef.



Braving a snowstorm, members in the Boston region gathered for networking and holiday cheer! Hosted by Ginny Fordham, Chair of the New England region (left), the event was attended by members including (L-R) Akiko Otani (Takeda), Yuga Cohler (ELP ’19) and his wife Hillary Ditmars, Jessy LeClaire (Japan desk at the Cambridge Innovation Center), Chris Pilcavage (MIT & JALD ’20) and Massachusetts State Representative Donald Wong (AALD ’14). Representative Wong gave an update on the State House, and members caught up with each other and discussed upcoming regional events.

San Francisco

(L-R) Board Member Tasha Yorozu, CG Uyama, Glen Fukushima, Ms. Murase, Mrs. Uyama, Mrs. Okamoto, Floyd Shimomura, and Member of the USJC Legacy Council Allen Okamoto

On December 17, USJC Members in the San Francisco region gathered at a Bonenkai reception hosted at Consul General Tomochika Uyama’s residence. The event was organized by Northern California Region Co-Chair Emily Murase and grew out of the informal JAJA (Japanese Americans and Japanese in America) gathering held in August. Member of the USJC Board of Councilors Glen Fukushima gave his views on the 2020 presidential race and a delicious buffet followed. 

South Bay

The spirit of the holidays and festive cheer filled the air on December 12 at Hukilau restaurant in Little Tokyo, San Jose. Members, including Suzanne Basalla, Pam Kato, Gordon Endow, Tatsuki Tomita, Floyd Shimomura, Ellen Kamei, Chris Takeuchi, Shohei Narron and guests of the U.S.-Japan Council NorCal South Bay region got together to network over wonderful Hawaiian cuisine and beer, and to learn more about Michael Sera’s work as the President of the Board of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. Together we toasted sayonara to 2019 and welcomed 2020, which is right around the corner!

Second Harvest Japan’s Charity Event

Many thanks to USJC Japan Regional Chair Grant Tanabe for this article and photo

On November 30, the U.S.-Japan Council’s Japan Region held its first volunteer charity event by participating in Second Harvest’s food distribution activities. USJC members helped distribute freshly made curry bowl lunches to the homeless and those in need at Ueno Park. The curry was generously donated by Japanese fast-food chain MOS Burger, and it smelled delicious! USJC members were able to celebrate the spirit of giving with the local community and build connections with other Second Harvest volunteers.

Second Harvest Japan is the only nationwide food bank in Japan. It partners with food manufacturers and other companies to deliver food to children’s homes, single-mother shelters, centers for people with disabilities as well as many other welfare organizations, with the aim to create a Food Safety Net in Japan.

3. JALD News

2020 JALD Delegates Announced

2019 Delegates at their orientation in Los Angeles

Congratulations to the following individuals, who were selected to participate in the 2020 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD). They will visit Tokyo and Shizuoka Prefecture from March 3 to 14, after attending a pre-trip orientation in Los Angeles from January 31 to February 1. The 2020 JALD Delegates are as follows:

  • FRED KATAYAMA (New York, NY)
    Content Producer/Anchor, Reuters News
    President, Masuda, Funai, Eifert & Mitchell, Ltd.
  • JEFFREY MALONEY (Alhambra, CA)
    Chief Counsel, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
    Program Manager, National Park Service
  • MARK OKADA (Dallas, TX)
    Co-Founder, Highland Capital Management
    Managing Director, MIT Japan Program, MIT International Science & Technology Initiative Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • CALVIN TERADA (Seattle, WA)
    Acting Branch Chief – Remedial Cleanup Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • LORI TERANISHI (Honolulu, HI)
    Founder and Principal, iQ 360
  • KENTA WASHINGTON (Springfield, VA)
    Deputy Branch Chief – Congressional Liaison, Department of Defense
  • AUDREY YAMAMOTO (San Francisco, CA)
    President & Executive Director, Asian Pacific Fund

Read more about the JALD program and our 2020 Delegation here.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation, USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa, who was in the original JALD class cohort, will be leading a group of JALD alumni to Japan as well. 

4. ELP News

Reflection from Takashi Ohno (ELP ’19)

The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2019 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP).


Click here or on the image above to hear Takashi speak about his experience at the 2019 Annual Conference in Los Angeles and the Emerging Leaders Program, and how he connected to a community gathered in the spirit of strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.  

5. Announcements

Annual Contribution to the U.S.-Japan Council

If you have not yet made your tax-deductible contribution to USJC this year, there is still a little time left to do so by the end of the calendar year. Your contribution provides critical support to our regional events and USJC operations. Please visit our website to continue your support of USJC!

The Watanabe Scholarship Application Period Opens January 6, 2020

The Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship Program‘s application period opens on January 6. This scholarship is offered to both American undergraduate or graduate students who plan to study in Japan as well as Japanese students intending to study in the United States. If you or someone you know is seeking financial aid to study abroad in either the United States or Japan, please click here to learn more about application requirements and eligibility.

This scholarship is possible thanks to a generous endowment gift of $10 million from Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe to the U.S.-Japan Council. It supports students for whom study abroad would not be possible without financial support, with special consideration for students from single-parent households and/or students who are the first in their family to attend college.

6. Staffing Update

Farewell Message from Shiori Okazaki

Dear USJC members and supporters,

USJC has been my favorite workplace, and I am very sad to write this message. When I joined the Council in 2013, I was looking for a way to combine my passion for words with my lifelong desire to connect my two home countries. I got to achieve that goal–and also gained so much more.

As an introvert, I’ve always been more comfortable writing than interacting face-to-face. I struggled to open up in the past because I was unsure of who I was, caught between two identities. But at USJC, I got to meet and befriend many people who share that experience–and are also very warm, accepting of flaws, and sometimes quirky (like me!). Here, I was able to truly be myself. My colleagues have become a family, and I feel fortunate to have found lifelong friends and mentors among our members and supporters. I now find myself looking forward to catching up with people I respect immensely–not only for their accomplishments, but also for their passion to make the world a better place.

While editing biographies, highlighting member accomplishments, or hearing about the life decisions of stakeholders, I’ve gotten to know the many different ways in which we can contribute to U.S.-Japan relations. And that’s given me the courage to take the next step, and focus more on writing and interpreting. I will continue to support USJC as a DC-based contractor, and am glad–and honored–to remain a part of this wonderful community. I remain committed to USJC’s mission, and hope I will see you in person in the near future.


Thank you very much for all your guidance and support over the years. Please keep in touch!

7. Member News

Crain’s List of Notable Minorities in Accounting, Consulting & Law

Congratulations to Board Member Tomoko Kizawa and Council Leader George Kobayashi (JALD ’20) for being selected for the 2019 Crain’s list of Notable Minorities in Accounting, Consulting & Law! This list comprises accountants, consultants and lawyers who have overcome obstacles and bias to rise to the top of their fields and have promoted diversity and inclusion at their firms.

Erika Ninoyu Featured in Roll Call

Congratulations to USJC Associate (and ELP ’16) Erika Ninoyu for being featured in Roll Call! Click here or on the image below to learn about her passion for music, her interest in supporting Japanese Americans, and her unconventional path to Capitol Hill.


Atsuko Fish’s “Champion of Change Japan” Award featured in Japanese magazine

Congratulations to USJC Board Member Atsuko Fish for being featured in the Japanese magazine Precious! This online article (in Japanese) discusses the latest Champion of Change Japan award ceremony, which took place in Tokyo earlier this month. The award was founded in 2017 by Ms. Fish, and is given to Japanese women leaders who address the needs of their communities. It is a sister program to Japan Women’s Leadership Initiative, which USJC supports.

Deidre Tegarden Returns as Executive Director of Nisei Veterans Memorial Center

Congratulations to Council Leader Deidre Tegarden, who will return to her previous post as executive director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center on January 6, 2020. Ms. Tegaren held this position from 2016 to 2018, prior to accepting a role as Chief of Staff for Maui Mayor Michael Victorino last year. Click here to read more. 

8. Upcoming Events

Chiura Obata: American Modern

When: Ongoing through May 25, 2020
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC)

Chiura Obata (1885–1975) is a Japanese American artist who was born in Okayama and immigrated to California. Today Obata is best known for majestic views of the American West. During World War II, he created art schools in the Japanese American incarceration camps to help fellow prisoners cope with their displacement and loss.

Chiura Obata: American Modern presents more than 150 paintings and personal effects, many on public display for the first time in this tour. The exhibition’s presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is the final stop of a five-museum tour and the only venue east of the Rocky Mountains. For more information, please visit the SAAM website.

9. Opportunities

Intern (Washington, DC)

The intern will provide support for Programs and Communications on a part-time or full-time basis. Duties will consist of program and event coordination and support, website/social media support, organization of and attendance at special events, outreach and communication, writing and translation (if able). This is an excellent internship for those hoping to gain experience in the programmatic, digital and strategic marketing and/or nonprofit fields. USJC’s internship program offers outstanding opportunities for college students, graduate students and graduates who are interested in U.S.-Japan relations. 

Click here for more information about the position.

Intern (Tokyo, Japan)

The TOMODACHI Initiative is seeking qualified interns on a part-time or full-time basis. This internship program offers outstanding opportunities for college students, graduate students and graduates who are interested in U.S.-Japan relations. Duties generally consist of program and event coordination and support, website/social media support, organization and attendance at special events, student outreach and communication, writing and translation (as able). Duties may be tailored to the intern’s interests. Interns will work with individuals from the U.S.-Japan Council, the U.S. Embassy and other key TOMODACHI team members.

Click here for more information about the position. 

10. Season’s Greetings


Wishing you peace, happiness and health this holiday season. Thank you for your partnership and support in 2019!