Asian American State Legislators Meet with Top Japanese Leaders (2016)

WASHINGTON, DC – Six state elected officials from diverse Asian American backgrounds and regions recently traveled to Japan as part of the 2016 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program. From December 2 to 10, the Delegation traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and exchanged ideas with Japanese political and government leaders, business executives, non-profit leaders and academics, creating networks that can mutually benefit the U.S.-Japan relationship.

AALD is in its third year, and the 2016 Delegation included the following six Delegates. All were born outside of the United States. For four of them, this was their first trip to Japan.

  • State Senator William C. Espero, Hawaii State Legislature
  • State Representative Mia Su-Ling Gregerson, Washington State Legislature
  • Delegate Mark Keam, Virginia General Assembly
  • Delegate Aruna Miller, Maryland General Assembly
  • State Representative Prasad Srinivasan, Connecticut General Assembly
  • State Representative Gene Wu, Texas Legislature
(Left to right) – Representative Wu; Mr. Russell K. Kawahara, USJC (Japan) Board Member; Delegate Keam; USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye; Mr. Bill Ireton; Ms. Junko Chano, Executive Director, Sasakawa Peace Foundation; Delegate Miller; Representative Gregerson; NAPACSL Director Irene Kawanabe; Representative Srinivasan; Senator Espero

Government leaders the legislators met included Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, Former Prime Minister; Mr. Taro Kono, Lower House Diet Member (Chairman, Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters, Liberal Democratic Party; Chief Deputy Director of House of Representatives Special Committees on Consumer Issues); Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa, Mayor of Kyoto; Mr. Makoto Kinoshita, President of the Osaka City Council; Mr. Ken Hasebe, Mayor of Shibuya Ward in Tokyo; Ms. Margot Carrington, Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegates spent half a day at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, where Ms. Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo (the first woman to serve as governor of the city), shared her vision for the capital of Japan, and Members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly presented their plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics & Paralympics.

Business and nonprofit leaders included representatives of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) in Tokyo, and Kansai Keizai Doyukai in Osaka; Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Honorary Chairman of Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Chairman of Nippon Foundation; executives of Toyota Motor Corporation and Softbank; and journalists of Nikkei Asian Review and The Wall Street Journal. They met more corporate leaders at a networking event hosted by members of the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) in Tokyo. This event featured Mr. Bill Ireton, Founder & President, Ireton Entertainment Inc. (former President and Representative Director of Warner Entertainment Japan Inc.), and welcomed guests like Ms. Kathy Matsui, Vice-Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd.

The delegates also spoke at a panel discussion in Tokyo titled “Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators.” Addressing an audience of about 120 people, they shared their varied personal and professional journeys as Asian Americans, and spoke about the importance of diversity in politics. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye—who accompanied the delegation along with Irene Kawanabe, Director of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators—served as moderator. The discussion was co-hosted by USJC and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

Senator Espero was born on the U.S. Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan, to parents who are originally from the Philippines. Representative Gregerson was adopted in Taiwan as an infant, and now represents one of the most diverse districts in Washington State. Delegate Keam was born in Korea, and is the first Asian-born immigrant elected to a state office in Virginia. Delegate Miller is the first Indian American female elected to the Maryland General Assembly. Representative Srinivasan immigrated from India, and is the only physician in the Connecticut General Assembly. Representative Wu was born in China and represents Southwest Houston, where 40% of adults were born outside of the United States.

AALD is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and implemented by USJC, a 501 (c)3 non-profit 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: