Suzanne Returns to Japan And Reflects on Ambassador John Roos’s Legacy

At long last, I am thrilled to share that I finally had an opportunity to return to Japan!

My trip was timed to attend a celebration honoring the Emperor of Japan’s Conferment of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun to Ambassador John Roos. Having served John as his Senior Advisor for much of his ambassadorship, I am deeply gratified to see his contributions recognized at this level.

Pictured above: Board of Councilors member Susie Roos and Ambassador John Roos following the Conferment

Japan and the United States owe a great debt of gratitude to John for his vision, heartfelt commitment, and heroic leadership. John became the first-ever U.S. official to attend the Hiroshima memorial ceremony, paving the way for President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. He visited all 47 prefectures; led the U.S. response to the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake; and launched the TOMODACHI Initiative, which the U.S.-Japan Council is so proud to support.

Business luminaries including MUFG’s Kanetsugu Mike, Suntory’s Tak Niinami, and Fast Retailing’s Tadashi Yanai praised the Ambassador’s accomplishments. Many of the Roos’ friends attended the celebration, including Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba, musician YOSHIKI and many other dignitaries. Many USJC board members joined, too. The Rooses also invited many of the staff that supported them at the Embassy during their tenure, so it felt like a wonderful reunion.

Some of the Embassy staff in attendance

TOMODACHI alumni volunteered to support the event, a visible reminder of Ambassador Roos’ proud legacy through the ~10,000 alumni that make up the TOMODACHI Generation.

Pictured above: TOMODACHI alumni volunteers, Kaoru Utada, and Ambassador Roos

Every meeting (and every meal!) was a treat, and I was especially thrilled to finally sit down with Japan-based staff for the first time since taking this role two years ago. Under Junko Tsuda’s inspired leadership, the team has done a terrific job keeping our TOMODACHI programs vibrant and impactful through the pandemic. 

With some of the Tokyo-based staff

In contrast to my experiences throughout the States over the past year, I was struck that many of the folks I met seemed to just be resuming non-essential in-person gatherings. Mask usage indoors and outdoors remained nearly universal, and many buildings and businesses screened for temperatures at entry. The hotel even had a touchless automatic glove dispenser for donning plastic gloves before joining the buffet line, which was new to me.

Still, the 8am Ginza line subway was a far cry from social distancing!

The visit reinforced for me how exciting it will be to gather in Tokyo for our Annual Conference. I spent time with Scott Sato, Allan Watanabe, Royanne Doi and others from the Host Committee who have been working hard to welcome us to Tokyo. Watch this space for more news about the conference. In the meantime, don’t forget to Save the Date (October 27-28).

Thanks to all the friends and colleagues who welcomed me back for such a productive, energizing, and enjoyable visit!