2019 USJC Annual Conference Explores Bold Ideas and Highlights Diverse Leadership in Los Angeles

2019 USJC Annual Conference Explores Bold Ideas and Highlights Diverse Leadership in Los Angeles

The U.S.-Japan Council, together with the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan), brought around 650 individuals to its 2019 Annual Conference, held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel 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)

Large-scale global partnership between the United States and Japan through political and corporate sectors propelled discussions. Kazuo Hirai, Senior Advisor and former CEO of Sony, discussed with John Roos, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, how innovative leadership can cultivate international ties. 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 importance of cultivating the U.S.-Japan relationship. An additional session on Indo-Pacific geopolitics and trade explored global security, alongside current opportunities and challenges for global cooperation.

The local relationship between Japan and California was also highlighted. Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis spoke to the strong Japanese American community within the state. A panel focusing on the rich history shared between Japan and Southern California was facilitated by KTLA anchor Frank Buckley and 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.

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

Several speakers explored technology, science and innovation. Professor and CEO of the Future Today Institute Amy Webb 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.

Japanese musician and actor MIYAVI performs at the conference reception

The conference embraced its Hollywood location by featuring Japanese and Japanese American leaders within the entertainment industry. A plenary session 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. A breakout session brought a panel of Japanese American professionals in entertainment who spoke about their identities and the challenges they often face. The conference reception featured a special performance by Japanese musician, actor and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador MIYAVI.

Text Box: USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye reflects on the future of the organization
USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye reflects on the future of the organization

The conference showcased young and accomplished alumni of USJC’s next generation-focused programs. Alumni of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership led by USJC and the U.S. Embassy with strong support by the Government of Japan, and the Emerging Leaders Program, a leadership development program for young Japanese Americans, shared their personal stories of the lasting and life-changing impact of these programs. 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.

The 2020 USJC Annual Conference will be held in Chicago, IL from November 20 to 21.

About the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC)

The U.S.-Japan Council develops and connects global leaders to create a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship. It is an organization whose members believe people-to-people relationships are a powerful way to bring together leaders in the U.S. and Japan to address and create solutions to mutual concerns. The Council is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit educational organization that was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Washington, DC with staff in California, Hawaii and Tokyo. In 2012, the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) was created and in 2013, it became a Public Interest Corporation (koeki zaidan hojin). The U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) maintains an office in Tokyo, Japan.

Alison Aadland, Public Relations Manager
[email protected]