U.S.-Japan Council Member Newsletter (June 11th, 2015)

Janice Nimura, author of Daughters of the Samurai, captivates audience

Click on the image above to see the recording of the discussion

On June 3, USJC hosted an online discussion with Ms. Janice Nimura, author of the just-released book, Daughters of the Samurai. The hour-long discussion was held as a video conference. It drew more than 20 USJC Members–with a waitlist–from locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Jackson, Mississippi.

The book centers on three girls that the Government of Japan sent to the United States in 1871: Shige Nagai, Umeko Tsuda and Sutematsu Yamakawa. After spending ten years in the United States, they returned to Japan and built successful careers. The book has been featured in The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and Oprah, and reached #2 on Amazon in books about Japanese history.

A scene from the discussion: Ms. Nimura (top left) with Mr. Katayama (bottom left) and a screen that Ms. Nimura shared of the three girls ((L-R) Umeko Tsuda, Sutematsu Yamakawa and Shige Nagai)

USJC Board Member Fred Katayama was the brainchild behind this event. “I see the theme of Womenomics dating back to the Meiji era,” he said, identifying key USJC themes in the book like women’s leadership, entrepreneurship, education, taking risks and people-to-people relations. He moderated the discussion with insightful questions, and then opened the line to the audience members.

One of the key ideas that Ms. Nimura discussed is in the title of the book: “daughters of the samurai.” The girls were recruited from the educated class three years after the civil war that ended the shogunate and made the Meiji Emperor the leader of Japan. Their families, which had backed the shogun, hoped that the girls would bring back some of the prestige they had lost. The girls received a rare, in-person mandate from the Empress to return to Japan and support the country. Even after spending a decade in the United States, “for none of them did it ever occur to stay in America,” Ms. Nimura said. They “grew up in the samurai discipline” and were determined to complete their mission.

The women each re-adapted to Japan in different ways. Sutematsu, who had graduated from Vassar College with top honors, was the first Japanese woman to earn a college degree. She married a powerful man and started a charity bazaar at a time when women of high society did not make or sell anything with their own hands. Umeko Tsuda temporarily returned to the United States to study biology at Bryn Mawr College, and once back in Japan, founded the school that would become Tsuda College. Shige Nagai started a family and had seven children, but worked throughout as a teacher and maintained a positive work-life balance.

Click on the image above to see the book trailer of Daughters of the Samurai

As an American woman who married a Japanese individual and spent time adapting to life in Japan, Ms. Nimura herself learned much from studying these women who also straddled two cultures. They kept their mind open, and “had the grit, intellectual capacity and the charm to make the most of every context they found themselves in,” she said.

To learn more, see the full recording with screens that Ms. Nimura shared during the discussion, or listen to the podcast of the discussion.

This was a pilot project, held entirely on social media. Based on its popularity and success, USJC is looking forward to hosting more online discussions in the future.

Other Recent Events

Visit to Kankeiren – Osaka

Irene Hirano Inouye (second from right) and Nobuaki Yasunaga, USJC Director of External Relations (right), with leaders at Kankeiren, including Mr. Matsushita (third from right) and Mr. Okihara (third from left)

On June 8, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye visited the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) in Osaka. She met Mr. Masayuki Matsushita, Vice Chairman & Chairman of the International Committee of Kankeiren (also Vice Chairman of the Board, Panasonic Corporation) and Mr. Takamune Okihara, Vice Chairman of Kankeiren (also Senior Advisor at The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.). They discussed ways USJC and TOMODACHI can collaborate with Kankeiren in the future.


Prominent Leaders Gather at the Conference for the TOMODACHI-MetLife Women’s Leadership Program

Mrs. Abe addressing the audience

On May 30, 80 Japanese female leaders gathered at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel in Shibuya, filled with energy and excitement. They celebrated their accomplishments and reflected with their peers on their last ten months as participants of the TOMODACHI-MetLife Women’s Leadership Program.

The group was honored to welcome Japan’s First Lady Mrs. Akie Abe. The one-day conference included other distinguished professionals such as MetLife Japan’s CEO & President Sachin Shah, Lumina Learning’s Elizabeth Handover, Kathy Matsui from Goldman Sachs, and Kumi Fujisawa from think tank SophiaBank. Ms. Matsui, who is a Member of the USJC(J) Board of Councilors, was featured in a panel with Ms. Fujisawa, where Council Member Janelle Sasaki served as the moderator. USJC Board Members Royanne Doi and Atsuko Fish were also in attendance. This conference served as an opportunity to openly discuss the accomplishments and goals of the program participants and hear from inspiring speakers.

(L-R) Ms. Sasaki, Ms. Matsui, Ms. Fujisawa

Elizabeth Handover began the day with a leadership workshop, stressing the importance of believing in oneself as a leader in a world that is not female friendly (yet). She reminded the participants to believe they are worthy of being listened to, and to walk into meetings with their heads held high. “If you feel strong, people will notice, and they will listen to you,” she said. “Be confident.”

Kathy Matsui, Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan, is a distinguished leader in her field. Addressing her career thus far, Ms. Matsui said that it is a common misconception that the path to success is smooth. In reality, there are always obstacles along the way. She highlighted the significance of these challenges, and said that they help people grow both personally and professionally.

There was generous applause as Mrs. Abe approached the podium for her presentation. Her poise radiated as she voiced some of her own thoughts on feminism and the future for female leadership. She reminded the participants to cherish their valuable feminine qualities such as generosity, flexibility and elegance. She also challenged women to aspire to reach their full potential as leaders without making sacrifices.

Mr. Shah shaking hands with program participants

At the start of the program last autumn, 41 Japanese university women were paired with 41 female professionals, who came together from Tokyo, Naha, Osaka and Fukuoka to encourage networking and teamwork. Participants attended group sessions hosted by the U.S. Embassy and consulates to receive training in financial empowerment and leadership in the professional world. On their ten-day trip to the United States, they visited Washington, DC and New York City, where they met with individuals like Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. The young mentees now have the tools to pursue their careers, and the mentors have been rejuvenated by their mentees. They are now legacies of the TOMODACHI Generation, and have set the bars high for the 2015-2016 participants.

See more photos from the Conference here.

DC Students from the 2014-15 TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program Share Their Experience

The 2014-15 U.S. delegation pose for pictures following their presentation at the Charles Sumner School

On June 3, six American high school students who participated in the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program gave a presentation about their experience in Japan to an audience in Washington, DC that included parents, teachers, friends and program staff. The event marked the conclusion of a successful second year of the exchange program, which focuses on leadership, diversity and social entrepreneurship and brings together DC public school and Japanese high school students for a two-week program in each country.

The reception featured an exhibition consisting of items the students brought back from Japan, mementos from their homestays, and photographs capturing the picturesque landscape in Watari-cho and other parts of Tohoku. A centerpiece of the exhibit was a handmade quilt comprised of individual panels created by the students during the DC portion of the program, bearing images and symbols of U.S.-Japan understanding.

This quilt comprised each participants’ visualization of U.S.-Japan bilateral ties.

During the presentations, students reflected on topics like food, places they visited in Japan, cross-cultural differences and Japanese cultural norms. Gabrielle Towson also stated that meeting with Japanese American leaders was a highlight of the DC program. “One of my favorite parts of the program was getting to talk to World War II veteran Terry Shima,” she said. “He showed us that you can still be loyal to your country while having pride in your culture. He was really inspirational.”

Throughout the presentation, the students conveyed the emotional dimension that resonated with them during and after their visit to Tohoku. Malaika Coleman recalled the Takasago High School in-house museum being the most impactful part of the trip. “There was even a clock that was recovered that had stopped in time at exactly the moment the tsunami hit,” she said. The students came to the conclusion that the kemushi, or caterpillar, represents the best way to approach the aftermath of adversity, because the kemushi always moves forward.

Two alumni from the 2013 program were also present and recounted their journey to Japan as a lesson that spoke to the unique relationship between disaster and humanity. Delmar Tarrago thought the exchange was a way to gain insight on the various implications of natural disasters. “New Orleans and Tohoku now have an identity associated with these disasters,” he said. “However, this exchange gave me insight on the concept of moving on, and how we can all choose to commemorate disaster, but also have hope.”

2014-15 participant Micah Guthrie (right) shows souvenirs and mementos from their stay in Watari-cho and Tokyo

The event included an introduction of the newly selected 2015-16 participants. The presentation ended with a ‘thank you’ poem written by this year’s participants. The closing line captured how life-changing the U.S.-Japan exchange was to the students: “Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone, for my new international friends, [and] for investing in my future.”

See more photos from the program here.

The program blog can be found here.

USJC Members Participate in TOMODACHI Orientations

Many USJC Members and supporters participated in two TOMODACHI orientations that were recently held in the United States.

(L-R) Irene Hirano Inouye, Representative Vo and Ms. Cole at the leadership panel in Houston

From May 29 to 30, the orientation for the American delegation of the 2015 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program was held in Houston, Texas. The orientation welcomed Board Member Donna Cole and Representative Hubert Vo, delegate of the 2014 Asian American Leadership Delegation Program, for a leadership panel. Ambassador Tom Schieffer, Member of the USJC Board of Councilors, also spoke. The delegation will visit Japan from July 3 to 11.

This year’s American delegation includes Associate Member Dana Heatherton (fourth from right)

On May 31, 20 students from Southern California high schools gathered in Los Angeles for the orientation of the 4th TOMODACHI MUFG International Exchange Program. Introductions and greetings were provided by Douglas Erber, President of the Japan America Society of Southern California, and Council Member Yuko Kaifu, Managing Director of MUFG Union Bank. The students received words of congratulations and best wishes from USJC Founding Chairman Tom Iino and President Irene Hirano Inouye, as well as Toshiya Gomi, Chief Manager of CSR Promotion Division, Mitsubushi UFJ Financial Group; Consul Izuru Shimmura, Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles; and Hideo Miyake, General Manager of All Nippon Airways. The students will travel to Japan for two weeks this summer.

USJC Members at the orientation in Los Angeles: (L-R) Council Member Wendy Shiba, Mr. Iino, Council Member Stan Koyanagi, Ms. Hirano Inouye, Council Member Debra Nakatomi, Ms. Kaifu, USJC Membership Manager and Programs Specialist Allison Murata

Upcoming TOMODACHI events and opportunities

  • Internship opportunity with Kizuna Across Cultures (KAC): KAC is seeking an intern to serve as an assistant for the Global Classmates program from August this year to March next year. A description of the position and qualifications can be found here.
  • Seeking host families for Japanese high school students participating in TOMODACHI program in DC: We are seeking host families for the Japanese participants of the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program. Please see the host family flier or contact Benjamin Gaylord at American Councils at 202-833-7522 or [email protected] for more information.

TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program – Applications Open for 2015

Applications are now open for for the 2015 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program! The opportunity includes a leadership orientation and attendance to the USJC Annual Conference in Tokyo, Japan. Selected applicants will receive transportation, hotel accommodations and complimentary conference registration.

In its sixth year, the Emerging Leaders Program plays an important role in building the “TOMODACHI Generation,” a generation of driven doers, thinkers and creators who are invested in the future of U.S.-Japan relations.

Applicants must reside in the United States or Japan, and must be available to travel to Tokyo, Japan from November 6 to 11, 2015. Ideal candidates should also be Japanese American professionals 24-35 years of age at the time of the Conference, with strong interest in U.S.-Japan relations, demonstrated leadership experience, and other criteria as indicated in the program webpage. The application deadline is Sunday, July 12.

2014 Emerging Leader Kenshiro Uki (middle) at the 2014 Annual Conference with Council Member James Higa (left) and Associate Member & 2012 Emerging Leader Ginger Vaughn (right)


2015 Annual Conference: Early Bird Registration Rates End on June 30!

This year’s Conference will be held from November 9 to 10 in Tokyo, Japan at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, with select Board Member activities taking place at The Capitol Hotel Tokyu. Early bird registration rates are in effect only through June 30. Secure your attendance now at the lowest available rate while space is still available! Follow the links below and feel free to contact Mr. Shane Graves ([email protected]), Program Manager, if you have any questions.

Registration (English):

Registration (Japanese): https://www.regonline.com/USJCAnnualConference2015JP

Two-Day Rate (Early Bird)

  • $350 – General Public
  • $250 – USJC Board of Councilors, Board of Directors, Council Members (incl. Friends of the Council), Corporate Members, Business Advisory Board Members
  • $150 – USJC Associate Members, TOMODACHI Alumni, Young
  • Professionals (age 40 & under)

One-Day Rate (Early Bird)

  • $225 – General Public
  • $175 – USJC Board of Councilors, Board of Directors, Council Members (incl. Friends of the Council), Corporate Members, Business Advisory Board Members
  • $125 – USJC Associate Members, TOMODACHI Alumni, Young Professionals (age 40 & under)

Confirmed keynote & panel speakers include:

  • His Excellency Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, Japan
  • Mr. Nobuyuki Hirano, President & CEO, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.
  • Mr. Ernest Higa, Chairman & CEO, Higa Industries Co., Ltd.; Wendy’s Japan LLC; K.K. Higa Investments; Director, JC Comsa Corporation; Member, USJC Board of Directors
  • Mr. James Higa, Executive Director, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation & Mentor in Residence, Index Ventures & Member, USJC Board of Directors
  • Ms. Kathy Matsui, Vice Chair, Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd. & Member, USJC (Japan) Board of Directors
  • Hon. Norman Y. Mineta, President & CEO, Mineta & Associates, LLC & Vice Chairman, USJC Board of Councilors
  • Mr. Takeshi Niinami, President, Suntory Holdings Limited; Member, USJC Board of Councilors
  • Mr. Masi Oka, Producer, Actor, Writer, and Director & President, Mobius Productions (Invited)
  • Dr. Daniel Okimoto, Director-Emeritus, Shorenstein APARC, Stanford University & Chairman, USJC Board of Councilors
  • Mr. Futoshi Toba, Mayor, Rikuzentakata
  • Ms. Jan Yanehiro, President, Jan Yanehiro, Inc. & Member, USJC Board of Directors
  • Mr. Paul Yonamine, Country General Manager and President, IBM Japan, Ltd., & Member, USJC Board of Directors

The most up-to-date Annual Conference information can be found on the USJC website.

We look forward to seeing you in Tokyo in November!

2015 Annual Conference: Seeking “Tastes of Tokyo” Dinner Organizer Volunteers

In connection with the Sixth Annual Conference in Tokyo, Japan, USJC and the Annual Conference Tokyo Host Committee are pleased to offer the opportunity for Conference attendees to participate in a unique culinary experience called “Tastes of Tokyo.” The experience will offer a number of optional small dinners and outings in the local Tokyo area.

USJC is seeking individuals to organize and lead dinners in small groups of eight to twelve (8-12) on the evening of Tuesday, November 10. We expect as many as fifty (50) organizer volunteers will be needed to provide this special opportunity for Conference attendees.

Organizers will be responsible for the following:

  • Selecting the venue (or the committee chairs can assign one to you)
  • Working with the venue in advance, including making a reservation, deciding on a menu
  • Coordinating with guests in advance, including providing venue information and directions, organizing group or individual travel to the venue, and managing payment
  • Encouraging a comfortable environment for a unique culinary experience

To volunteer, please contact Shane Graves, USJC Program Manager, at [email protected]. Organizers will be
connected to a point of contact on the Conference Tokyo Host Committee for further assistance.

Farewell from USJC Development Coordinator Yuri Maruyama

More staffing updates from our DC headquarters: this month, we will be saying farewell to Ler Lee Tan, Director of Finance & Administration, and Yuri Maruyama, Development Coordinator. Here are some parting words from Yuri:

It has been an incredible three years with the U.S.-Japan Council since I joined in 2012. I have had the privilege of working with the Council’s dedicated board members, members, and staff to support Annual Conferences, the Asian American Leadership Delegation, the TOMODACHI Initiative and countless other programs.

I will be starting my Masters in Business Administration at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in the fall. I am grateful for my time here as it has made me appreciate and be proud of my Japanese American heritage and the networks that we create between the U.S. and Japan. Many thanks to all of my wonderful colleagues past and present for making this a truly remarkable experience.

I look forward to staying involved with Council activities in the future and I am excited to see how USJC grows in the years ahead!

Member News

Congressman Mark Takai (D-HI1) joins USJC Board of Councilors

We are pleased to welcome Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii’s first Congressional District to the USJC Board of Councilors.

Congressman Takai served as a member of the Hawaii National Guard for 14 years and served as President of the Hawaii Guard National Association from 2012 to 2013. Having first won his seat in the Hawaii State House of Representatives at the age of 27, Congressman Takai dedicated 20 years before being elected to Congress. Currently, he serves on the House Armed Forces Committee and is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce for the House Committee on Small Business.

Congressman Takai recently supported the USJC Networking Reception featuring Paul Yonamine, which was held in Honolulu last month. We are grateful for the Congressman’s support and look forward to his continued support and participation.

Congressman Takai at the Honolulu reception last month, shaking hands with Gov. George Ariyoshi (former governor of Hawaii who is also a Member of the USJC Board of Councilors)

Masaaki Tanaka Honored by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
On May 20, as part of their Annual Gala in New York City, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra honored Member of the USJC Board of Councilors Masaaki Tanaka.

Mr. Tanaka, who is Deputy President of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG), was honored not only for his advocacy of the orchestra on three continents, but also for bringing the orchestra to work with students in Sendai the year after the Great East Japan Earthquake. There, the members of the orchestra performed and held a music workshop for 100 students. His continued support allowed the orchestra to return to Sendai to perform for the students during their February 2014 Japan Tour. As part of the TOMODACHI Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Education Engagement Program, the orchestra performed for the students and held an intimate discussion about the collaborative nature of music.

Mr. Tanaka’s award was mentioned in The New York Times

See more photos from the gala here.

Upcoming Events

June 12 – Congressional Gold Medal Dinner (San Jose)

  • Date & Time: Friday, June 12, 2015; 6:00p.m Cocktail Reception, 7:00p.m. Dinner
  • Venue: The Fairmont (170 South Market Street, San Jose, CA 95113)

This dinner supports the Congressional Gold Medal Digital Exhibition, which will highlight the stories of World War II nisei soldiers at the Smithsonian Institution in 2016. The exhibition was inspired by the 2011 awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to three Japanese American units who fought in the war and will feature state-of-the-art digital displays.

The dinner will feature a keynote speech by Secretary Eric Shinseki (former U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs and 34th U.S. Army Chief of Staff) and a presentation on the exhibition planning with the Smithsonian. To purchase tickets to the dinner or to donate, please click here.



Reporting to the President, the Controller will be responsible for oversight of all finance, accounting and reporting activities for the U.S.-Japan Council (U.S.) and U.S.-Japan Council (Japan). The Controller will be involved in providing presentations to the Board of Directors Finance and Audit committee and will work closely with the senior leadership team and staff.

The Controller will lead all day-to-day finance operations and have functional responsibility over accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, and grants administration. The Controller will ensure that the U.S.-Japan Council and the TOMODACHI Initiative has the systems and procedures in place to support effective program implementation and ensure accurate audits. The Controller will work closely with program and development, not only to educate them regarding finance and accounting requirements but also to explore how the finance function can support program operations.

In addition, the Controller will work closely with the President and Executive Vice-President/Chief Operating Officer and senior Vice-Presidents, to enhance and integrate finance, HR, and IT functions.

A listing of qualifications and responsibilities is available on the USJC website.

Marketing and Communications Manager/Specialist, TOMODACHI Initiative

Working under the direction of the Executive Director of the TOMODACHI Initiative in Japan, the Marketing & Communications Manager/Specialist (exact title to be confirmed based on experience of the candidate) plays a critical role in developing and implementing a comprehensive strategic marketing strategy to build and develop the profile and brand of the TOMODACHI Initiative among a diverse audience, including senior corporate executives, government leaders, recipients of support, other donors and the press. The Marketing & Communications Manager/Specialist will work closely with teams from the U.S.-Japan Council in the United States and Japan, and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in the implementation of this mission. This position is offered for a one-year contract, with an option for renewal each year.

A listing of qualifications and responsibilities is available on the USJC website.