Japanese Americans and Japan: Legacies – Interview with Dennis Teranishi

The “Japanese Americans & Japan: Legacies” series continued with an interview of Dennis Teranishi, President/CEO of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR). During the interview, Mr. Teranishi shared stories about his childhood, career and experiences as a Japanese American. 

Mr. Teranishi has decades of experience in various fields including the military, agriculture, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. In addition to his work at PICHTR, Mr. Teranishi also serves as a member of the Board of Hawaiian Host, Inc.; Island Holdings, Inc.; Island Insurance Co., Ltd.; and as an Executive Advisor to ITO EN (USA) Inc. In 1993, he was recognized as an outstanding alumnus of the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. In 2014, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette from the Government of Japan for his contributions to the promotion of mutual understanding and friendly relations between Japan and the United States through economic and technological exchanges. Mr. Teranishi is a member of the USJC Legacy Council and former Chair of the USJC Board of Directors. 

Mr. Teranishi discussed growing up in a Japanese American community in Hawaii and detailed his experiences working on the farm. He was very involved in the ROTC program as a college student and served in the military for several years. Mr. Teranishi spoke of his transitions from agriculture to business, and from the for-profit industry to the nonprofit sector, emphasizing how he has tried to work with Japan throughout his career. Mr. Teranishi also explained how his face once ended up on boxes of Hawaiian Host chocolates.

Mr. Teranishi stressed the importance of mentorship, noting that, “Nisei either created footsteps for us to follow, or they helped build stairs for us to climb.” When asked about his proudest accomplishment working with USJC, he said, “We were able to build the Board of Directors with more females. By the time I retired, fifty percent of our board members were female.” He also described working with USJC Founding President, the late Irene Hirano Inouye. Mr. Teranishi said, “Working with Irene was a wonderful experience. She was a remarkable leader. She had the most stamina that I’ve seen in a Chief Executive.”

The interview with Mr. Teranishi is available to watch online here.

The Legacy series is produced and moderated by Council Leaders Dianne Fukami (JALD ’09) and Debra Nakatomi (JALD ’09), who together co-produced a TV documentary “An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy,” on the life and career of Secretary Norman Y. Mineta (Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors). This series is brought to you through a mix of live webinars and privately recorded sessions released on YouTube.

-Kazuma Parkinson
USJC Intern