The U.S.-Japan Council, together with the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan), brought around 650 individuals to its tenth Annual Conference in Los Angeles from November 4 to 5. This year’s theme, “Bold Ideas, Bolder Leadership: The Next Stage of U.S.-Japan Relations,” explored leadership and innovation within government and corporate spheres, as well as female and next generation empowerment and Japanese American identity within the entertainment industry.

Plenary dialogue with Kazuo Hirai (left) and John Roos (right)

Both global and local-level partnerships between the United States and Japan propelled discussions. Kazuo Hirai, Senior Advisor and former CEO of Sony, discussed how innovative leadership can cultivate international ties with John Roos, former U.S. ambassador to Japan. Minister Kenichiro Mukai, head of Chancery at the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America, delivered remarks about the importance of exchanges in finding shared values between the two countries. David Stilwell, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, offered a video message on the value of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis spoke to the strong Japanese American community within the state, and KTLA anchor Frank Buckley facilitated a panel focusing on the rich history shared between Japan and Southern California that included LA County’s Economic Development Corporation CEO Bill Allen; Takeshi Komoto, Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry at the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America; and Maria Salinas, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Sessions also explored technology, science and innovation. Amy Webb, CEO of the Future Today Institute, presented on Japan’s role in the future of AI technology. Toyota Motor Corporation’s Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada gave remarks on future-driven innovation. A session on culinary diplomacy, hosted at JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, explored the medicinal value of Japanese fermented foods, such as miso and soy sauce. Further breakout sessions focused on entrepreneurship, offering guidance for bringing innovative ideas into reality. A series of Leadership Workshops, taking place on November 5, offered hands-on skills training and networking opportunities – and featured guest speaker David Boudia, Olympic diver.

Japanese American Stars: (L-R) Jan Yanehiro, Bobby Webster, Koine Iwasaki, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani

The conference embraced its Hollywood location by featuring Japanese and Japanese American leaders within the entertainment industry. A plenary session moderated by Member of the Legacy Council Jan Yanehiro (JALD ’10) brought together young Japanese American athletic stars, including Bobby Webster, General Manager of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors; dancer Koine Iwasaki; and champion ice dancer siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani to share their experiences in the spotlight. Council Leader Bill Imada (JALD ’11) faciliated a panel of Japanese American professionals in the entertainment industry. The conference reception featured a special performance by Japanese musician, actor and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador MIYAVI.

TOMODACHI alumna Maika Itsuno shares how the program impacted her life

Young and accomplished alumni of USJC’s next generation-focused programs took the stage. Maika Itsuno and Natsumi Komatsu, both alumni of the TOMODACHI Initiative, shared their personal stories of how the program impacted their lives. A panel of Emerging Leaders Program alumni, including Naomi Funahashi (ELP ’11), Derek Kenmotsu (ELP ’17) and Kenyon Mayeda (ELP ’12), shared their families’ Japanese history and how these roots have affected their own goals. A new TOMODACHI program was also announced at the conference: the TOMODACHI-U.S. Embassy Go for Gold Leadership Program, which will give Japanese university students pursuing the field of sports management the opportunity to participate in a study tour in the United States.

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Council, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye reflected on its origins when a group of Japanese Americans came together to explore ways to deepen U.S.-Japan ties. She invited the audience to look forward to the next decade as USJC pursues future initiatives to continue bringing Japan and the United States closer together.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye reflects on the future of the organization

To see the print program of the Conference, which includes the schedule and the bios of speakers, click here. Further speakers are listed in an insert here.

Photos and Videos
Click here to see more photos from the Conference. A video playlist can be found here.

2020 Annual Conference
The 2020 USJC Annual Conference will be held in Chicago, IL from November 20 to 21. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us!