U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (April 14th, 2016)

Daiwa House Partners with USJC to Support TOMODACHI Generation in Dallas

TOMODACHI Strategic Partner Daiwa House sponsored the second Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference from April 8-10 in Dallas, Texas, the site of its new North America Headquarters. Thirty-four college students, half of whom were Japanese students studying abroad, gathered from schools throughout Texas, Arkansas and Missouri for a weekend of learning, inspiration, skills-building and networking under the theme “U.S.-Japan Relations in the South: Transforming Communities for the Future.” Daiwa House Texas Inc. President Takeshi Wakita warmly welcomed the students and shared his company’s commitment to fostering the next generation of leaders through this program.

The students enjoyed speeches from high-profile leaders in U.S.-Japan relations, including: USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye; Consul General of Japan in Houston Tetsuro Amano; former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and Member of the USJC Board of Councilors Tom Schieffer; and retired Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Patrick Walsh.

(L-R) Mr. Wakita, Former Ambassador Schieffer, Ms. Hirano Inouye, and Consul General Amano

The program included insights into Japan-related businesses in Texas, featuring speakers from Toyota Motor Corp., Texas Central (high-speed rail), and Council Leader Glen Gondo’s sushi operations. USJC Board Member Donna Cole gave a keynote address about Japanese Americans in the South, looking at history and legacy, including the interment experience. USJC Council Leader Bill Tsutsui offered a rousing and inspiring leadership address based on his own journey. Additionally five alumni of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), including Texas-based Dana Heatherton (ELP ‘11) and Kuriko Hasegawa Wong (‘15), as well as Kenyon Maeda (’12), Aki Marceau (’13), and Miki Sankary (’15) provided the students mentorship, career advice and skills-building guidance.

Conference participants stand with Mr. Wakita

On Saturday evening, USJC hosted a reception at the beautiful Meadows Museum to welcome the students and meet others in the community with a shared interest in U.S.-Japan relations. Corporate partners, TOMODACHI partner organizations, TOMODACHI alumni, USJC Council Leaders and other special guests enjoyed an evening of networking and conversation. Special thanks to Oklahoma State Senator (and participant of the 2015 Asian American Leadership Delegation) Ervin Yen for joining and making remarks.

USJC is deeply grateful to Daiwa House for the gift that made this program possible, and all our members who supported the conference and reception. More details and photos will be available on the TOMODACHI website as they become available.

Students and staff gather at the Conference

Recent Events

Event Highlights Depictions of Japan in U.S. Films

Council Leader Fred Katayama opens the event (All photos by Joy Asico)

On April 6, Council Leader Fred Katayama moderated a panel discussion hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) USA. This was part of an event called “Evolution of American Perceptions on Japan: Through Film,” and examined how movies such as Letters from Iwo JimaLittle BoyThe Last Samurai, and Lost in Translation portray Japanese history and culture, World War II, Japanese stereotypes and much more. Joining him on the panel was producer and director Yoko Narahashi, who spoke on cultural diplomacy at the 2015 USJC Annual Conference in Tokyo. The panel also featured Ms. Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mr. Jeffrey Lyons, an Emmy Award-winning movie critic.

Besides the film panel, the event also welcomed as keynote speaker Mr. Masanori “Mashi” Murakami, Former Major League Baseball (MLB) Player for the San Francisco Giants. He recounted how, as the first Japanese MLB player who arrived in the United States in the 1960s, he faced challenges in adjusting to the language and culture. But the Japanese American community welcomed him with open arms, and said that his achievements in baseball helped them heal from their struggles during and after the war. Mr. Murakami reiterated that he truly loved playing in the United States and would have loved to stay, had it not been for a promise he had made to his Japanese manager.

The speakers from the event gather after the event

For additional information regarding this event, please see the SPFUSA summary here.


TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars from University of Hawaii at Hilo preserve indigenous language and culture in Hokkaido and Tokyo

The group of 21 undergraduate students and 2 chaperones from the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo spent nine days in Japan (March 19-27) where they expanded their understanding of global citizenship and reaffirmed individual responsibility toward their indigenous cultural and linguistic heritage

The Scholars arrive in Japan

University of Hawaii at Hilo was selected as a school for the 2016 TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program because of the support the late Senator Inouye showed for the preservation and continuation of native Hawaiian language there at the college. The school proposed an exploration of Ainu language and culture in Japan as an entry point for experiencing Japanese culture as a whole.

This trip was the first time a majority of the students had traveled to Japan – or anywhere outside of Hawaii. The group traveled to Tokyo and Hokkaido. In Tokyo, they visited the Edo Tokyo Museum, the Imperial Palace, and listened to a foreign policy lecture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also observed cutting edge technology at Chiba Institute of Technology, visited the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensoji, and witnessed pop-culture in Harajuku. They visited the grounds of the Meiji Jingu Shrine and enjoyed the cherry blossoms. In Hokkaido, the students attended an information session at the Sapporo International Plaza and lectures by experts at the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies at Hokkaido University. They also engaged in a cultural exchange of Japanese dance and hula with Tokai University students, and also had the opportunity to visit the Ainu Museum in Shiraoi.

The students at the Shiraoi Ainu Museum

For many of the participants, it was the first time that they saw a train, rode on a subway, entered a building taller than 20 stories high, and actually saw snow falling from the sky. To the students, the trip was an intense but immensely rewarding program – both educationally and emotionally.

USJC congratulates the Scholars on finishing their program and wishes them safe travels home.

TOMODACHI Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta performs for audience of 2000

The Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta (FYA) performed in Boston on April 3 in from of almost 2000 people. This ensemble, consisting of over 50 teenage musicians, was founded in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. This performance marked the group’s state-side debut at the Boston’s Symphony Hall. The Japan Society of Boston organized this partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and British NPO, Keys of Change, that brings music to children in need. It was covered in The Boston Globe and the New England Cable News.

You can view footage of the performance here (courtesy of Kyodo News).

The concert was the culmination of the TOMODACHI Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta Program. The young musicians spent nine days enjoying cultural and educational activities in the Boston area. Their experiences were captured in this incredible recap video (sound recommended).


USJC thanks the Japan Society of Boston for their support and special thanks to Senior Advisor of the Japan Society of Boston and Friend of the Council, Peter Grilli, for his amazing leadership during this program.


The following is part of a year-long series of articles by the 2015 class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.

Reflection from Steve Sakanashi (ELP 2015)

The late George Morihiro, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, once told me, “Steve, you better be proud that you are Japanese American.” Inspired by his stories after an all-day interview I conducted with him, I assured him that I was and would continue to be proud. However, it has taken years to appreciate the depth of what he told me that day. I am thankful for recent opportunities, both moving my young family to Tokyo and joining the USJC / ELP community. Participation in both have allowed me to understand George’s words in a much deeper way.

After my ELP experience, I told others that I had never connected to people as deeply and as quickly as I had during the program. My fellow ELP alumni inspired me as a leader and understood my relationship with Japan in a way that only Japanese Americans could. This extended beyond my ELP peers to the multi-generational USJC community. I felt genuinely supported, as though I were talking to my own aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The experience I received from being an ELP has motivated me to invest more actively in Japan’s youth.

The author (center) with students from the TOMODACHI Global Leadership Academy.
For more photos from the Japanese American Career Night, click here.

In March, I had the privilege of supporting two TOMODACHI programs. I planned a career mentoring dinner for Tohoku youth as part of the TOMODACHI Global Leadership Academy with fellow 2015 ELP participant, Evelyn Tokuyama. Our volunteer mentors also included two ELP alumni, Ginger Vaughn (ELP ’12) and Kei Ashizawa (ELP ’11).

After the GLA event, I also supported the TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award Program, traveling to Silicon Valley as a mentor for Japan’s top university startups as they gave pitches to venture capitalists.

The author (second to left) visiting a venture capital firm, Draper Nexus, with Japanese university startups

When George Morihiro told me about being Japanese American, I considered the legacy of the 442nd and was indeed proud. However, since moving to Japan and connecting with the USJC, I feel as though I’ve discovered a much greater legacy of bicultural leadership, an inheritance that belongs to me as a Japanese American. It’s something that I treasure and want to ensure is passed down to my children’s generation.

Yes, I am proud that I am Japanese American, because at the core, we cannot help but give ourselves for the benefit of both countries. This is the nature of belonging to multiple families and why I believe that Japanese Americans must continue to be the vanguard of U.S.-Japan relations.

Upcoming Events

April 19 – Asia Society Presents: In America’s Backyard (Los Angeles)

When: April 19, 2016
Where: Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Garden Room (244 S. South San Pedro St., Los Angeles 90012)

On April 19, the Asia Society is hosting a discussion titled: “In American’s Backyard: What East Asian Economic Ties to Latin America Mean for U.S. Business.” This event explores the recent rise in strength of East Asian countries in the economy of Latin America — China, Japan, and Korea. The discussion will explore the future of this economic relationship, how politics impact global trade, and what the role of U.S. business is.

Speakers include:

  • William Ascher, Donald C. McKenna Professor of Government and Economics, Claremont McKenna College; Director, Pacific Basin Research Center, Soka University of America
  • Stephen Cheung, President, World Trade Center Los Angeles
  • William Overholt, Fellow, Harvard University Asia Center; co-chair of the Task Force
  • Thomas E. McLain, Attorney, Hogan Lovells; co-chair of the Task Force

For more information, please view this flier.

May 16-21 – 2016 Japan-Colorado Business Conference (Denver)

When: May 16-21, 2016
Where: The Curtis Denver (1405 Curtis St., Denver, CO, USA 80202)

This is a five-day business-to-business partnership program in Denver supported by USJC. It is organized by the World Trade Center Denver, Japan America Society of Colorado, Japanese Firms Association and Metro Denver area economic development organizations. The registration deadline is April 15. Click here for more information, and click here to see the flier.



USJC seeks a talented, dynamic individual for a newly-created position of Executive Director, U.S.-Japan Council (Japan). The Executive Director will provide leadership and oversight of the Council’s general programs and activities and of the TOMODACHI Initiative. This will include responsibility for the implementation of program goals and objectives, providing leadership and oversight of program development and management, fundraising, communications and operations. The Executive Director will be based in Tokyo and manage the staff in Japan and will work closely with the U.S.-Japan Council (U.S.) staff in the United States.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.


USJC is seeking a full-time Executive Director for the Council’s newest initiative, the Silicon Valley – Japan Platform (SVJP). The Executive Director position will have primary responsibility for administrative and operational support to USJC’s Silicon Valley Project, including: office management; executive and organizational support for the Executive Director, Chairman and Executive Committee, SVJP; and general administrative support duties. Travel, especially between Japan and Silicon Valley, is expected.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.