WASHINGTON, DC – Six state-elected officials from diverse Asian American backgrounds and regions recently traveled to Japan as part of the 2017 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program. From September 29 to October 7, the Delegation traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. 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.
AALD is in its fourth year, and the 2017 Delegation included the following six Delegates. For four of them, this was their first trip to Japan.
- Assemblymember Rob Bonta, California State Assembly
- State Representative Aaron Shiroma Ling Johanson, Hawaii State Legislature
- Delegate Clarence K. Lam, Maryland General Assembly
- Representative Rady Mom, Massachusetts State Legislature
- State Senator Brian E. Shiozawa, Utah State Senate
- State Representative Monica Jurado Stonier, Washington State Legislature
Government leaders the legislators met included Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa, Mayor of Kyoto, and members of the Kyoto City Assembly, who shared Kyoto’s efforts in tourism and beautification; the President and Vice President of the Osaka City Council, who discussed the city’s hopes for hosting the World Expo in 2025; and members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, who led a tour of the construction of the 2020 Olympic Village, the new Olympic Stadium and the route of the Marathon, which highlights many parts of Tokyo. They also met with Mr. Joseph Young, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; members of the National Diet; and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom they discussed the U.S.-Japan security alliance and current threats in the Pacific region.
Business leaders included representatives of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), with whom they discussed trade agreements and the importance of developing personal relationships in fostering greater business partnerships; and Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), who shared ongoing collaborations with state governments on labor force issues, such as a program in Indiana where Japanese companies trained manufacturing employees. They also toured innovation centers at Daikin, Hitachi, IBM and Omron, and met with Kansai Keizai Doyukai; the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan; Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Honorary Chairman of Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Chairman of Nippon Foundation; and journalists at NHK.
The delegates also spoke at a panel discussion in Tokyo titled “Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators.” This was co-hosted by USJC and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The delegates shared their varied personal and professional journeys as Asian Americans, including their careers before becoming politicians. They also spoke about the importance of diversity in politics, especially as it relates to current events. Renowned journalist Aiko Doden, NHK Senior Commentator / NHK World Special Affairs Commentator, moderated the discussion.
Assemblymember Bonta is California’s first Filipino American legislator. Representative Johanson is a fourth-generation descendant of Okinawan and Chinese immigrants. Delegate Lam is a second-generation Chinese American. Representative Mom was born in Cambodia, and immigrated to the United States as a refugee from the civil war and Khmer Rouge genocide. Senator Shiozawa is a third-generation Japanese American whose grandparents emigrated from Shizuoka. Representative Stonier is Mexican American and Japanese American, whose uncles who fought in the 442nd RCT in WWII. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, as well as Irene Kawanabe, Director of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators, accompanied the delegation.
AALD is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and implemented by USJC, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to building people-to-people relations between the United States and Japan, 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, see here.
(Left to right) – Delegate Lam, Representative Johanson, Assemblymember Bonta, Representative Stonier, Senator Shiozawa, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, NAPACSL Director Irene Kawanabe, Representative Mom