Susan McCormac Reflects on Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Experience

The 21st cohort of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) convened in Japan from March 2 through 9. An initiative sponsored by the Japanese government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and facilitated by the U.S. Japan Council, the JALD program aims to strengthen the close relationship between the United States and Japan by fostering people-to-people connections through meetings with leaders in government, business and nonprofit sectors. Ten diverse Japanese Americans from across the United States made up this year’s delegation: Naomi Kawamura of Seattle, WA; Yoh Kawanami of Honolulu, HI; Derek Kenmotsu of Mountain View, CA; Darin Mano of Salt Lake City, UT; Susan Miyagi McCormac of New York City, NY; Tomoko Hosaka Mullaney of Washington, DC; Anna Ninoyu of Chicago, IL; Rob Ohno of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL; George Tanaka of Los Angeles, CA; and David Yoshimura of Des Moines, IA. 

The trip began in Osaka, where the delegation met with the PR team for the 2025 World Exposition and had lunch with Ambassador HIMENO Tsutomu, who oversees the Kansai Region, and Jason Cubas of the American Consulate General Osaka-Kobe. They also had the privilege of participating in a symposium organized by the Japan Foundation and USJC on the theme of “Culture, Sports, and Community: Harnessing Global Experiences for Local Economic Revitalization.” Tomoko Hosaka Mullaney moderated a panel discussion featuring delegates Rob Ohno, Darin Mano, Anna Ninoyu and Susan Miyagi McCormac.

The delegation then traveled to Tokyo and had meetings with members of the U.S. Embassy as well as the Japan-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship League before attending a reception at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel.

One of the many highlights of the trip was paying a courtesy call on Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio. Delegates Naomi Kawamura, a historian whose father is a hibakusha from Hiroshima, and Yoh Kawanami, who is taking groups of students affected by the Maui fires to Tohoku through USJC’s Kibou for Maui Project, gave brief yet impassioned speeches following the Prime Minister’s greetings. The delegates also met with Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko, Digital Transformation Minister KONO Taro, Shibuya City Mayor HASABE Ken, Cabinet PR Secretary SHIKATA Noriyuki and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Raymond Greene. They participated in talks and presentations with Japanese business groups Keidanren and Keizai Doyukai, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and USJC members living in Japan.

In addition to the packed schedule of meetings, there were cultural excursions throughout the week, including a trip to Nara, an ancient capital of Japan known for its sacred deer and the large statue of Buddha at Todaiji temple. The group walked through the charming town and had a sake and shochu tasting at a local brewery before a delicious lunch at a restaurant that specializes in tofu dishes. In Tokyo, the delegates took a tour of Meiji Jingu shrine, saw a 1:1000 scale model of Tokyo and scenic views of the city at Mori Building Urban Lab and visited the JR Central Shinkansen Control Center and startup hub CIC Tokyo.

JALD was a meaningful program that has empowered the participants to continue their journeys as Japanese American leaders who are committed to the U.S.-Japan relationship.

See more photos here.

Thank you to Susan McCormac (JapanCulture-NYCJALD ’24) for the written content and photos!