U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (April 27th, 2017)

USJC Thanks Suzanne and Welcomes Laura

On April 12, USJC members, supporters, staff and friends gathered in Washington, DC to show their appreciation to Suzanne and John Basalla and bid them farewell as they embark on their next adventure on the West Coast. Suzanne was recruited by Toyota Research Institute and is now the Chief of Staff in their Silicon Valley office.

(L-R) John, TOMODACHI alumna Atsuko Arimoto and Suzanne

The reception began with brief remarks from USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, who spoke about Suzanne joining the Council as Executive Vice President and COO in Fall 2012, following her service as Senior Advisor to then U.S. Ambassador John Roos, as well as Suzanne’s involvement in launching the TOMODACHI Initiative. Irene then presented Suzanne with a framed picture with personal messages from USJC staff.

Suzanne shows off her gift

Suzanne spoke about how fulfilling the work at USJC has been, and how wonderful it’s been to have Irene as a mentor. She also spoke about the close friendships she’s made at USJC and the confidence she has in the staff’s continued commitment to USJC’s mission of strengthening U.S.-Japan relations through people-to-people connections.

A warm welcome was also given to Laura Winthrop Abbot, who is now USJC’s Executive Vice President and COO. Laura was previously the Senior Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State, and served in several positions at USJC before that, including the Executive Director of the TOMODACHI Initiative and the Director of Development.

(L-R) Laura, Irene, Suzanne, USJC Membership Coordinator Lauren Mosely and USJC CFO & Director of Finance and Administration Tess Esposito

Following remarks, USJC members and leaders in the U.S.-Japan community had the opportunity to reconnect and get to know each other over lively conversation and delicious food.

Click here for more photos from the reception!

Recent Events

Community Resilience in Japan: Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake

On April 24, a delegation from Portland, Oregon, which included Council Leaders Mari Watanabe (JALD ’11) and Grant Yoshihara (JALD ’04), heard from four panelists on “Community Resilience in Japan.” The goal of the session was to help educate and prepare the Portland delegates for a potential disaster similar to the Great East Japan Earthquake. The delegates had met earlier with representatives from the U.S. Embassy and the Japanese government, and were now hearing from members of the private sector and NGOs.

The panelists (L-R) Robert Eldridge, Lena Ryuji, Kaoru Utada Furuya and Tetsuya Myojo, along with Andrew Wylegala

Kaoru Utada Furuya, Alumni Manager of the TOMODACHI Initiative, spoke about TOMODACHI. Ms. Utada Furuya emphasized the need to “empower the generation of youth,” particularly those from Tohoku, by helping young people gain new experiences and exchange ideas through programs in the United States.

Kaoru Utada Furuya introduces the TOMODACHI Initiative

Mr. Tetsuya Myojo, Secretary General of Japan Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (JVOAD), discussed the difficulties in organizing the aid efforts of various NGOs during crises. NGOs had given ¥12 billion worth of support to the Tohoku region in the first five months following March 11, but there was no organization to coordinate these activities. NGO meetings with the Japan Self-Defense Forces and local governments, as well as recommendations from the United States, led to the creation of JVOAD. Learning from this experience, these NGOs were much better prepared when the Kumamoto earthquake struck, which led to better coordinated efforts and greater exchange of information between the government and NGOs.

Members of the Oregon delegation learn about Japan’s disaster preparedness

Finally, Robert Eldridge, a former political advisor for the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Sendai, presented a more personal angle, sharing his experiences with Operation Tomodachi. Dr. Eldridge offered hope for the future, echoing his fellow panelists’ acknowledgement of the vast strides made in disaster preparedness and the strength of ties between the government and NGOs, as well as the United States and Japan. In closing, he noted, “citizens’ role will be very important in a large-scale natural disaster.” Ms. Ryuji also emphasized that there is “nothing more important than the [kind of] ties” being developed at events like this seminar.

Dr. Eldridge offers an American perspective

We would like to thank the panelists and members of the Oregon delegation for their ongoing support of U.S.-Japan relations, and for their efforts toward educational exchange and disaster preparedness, a critical issue for both America and Japan.

Lena Ryuji, Citizenship Manager of Microsoft Japan, spoke first, discussing Microsoft’s response to the Tohoku earthquake and emphasizing the significant role technology played in relief efforts. She told the story of the mayor of Nagahora Genki village, which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. The mayor, having never used the internet before, took to Twitter, jokingly proclaiming “I need food and I desperately need sake” in order to deal with the crisis. His tweet was shared all across Japan, and donations began pouring in to aid the village, demonstrating just how beneficial the internet can be in a crisis.

USJC Mountain Region Members Gather in Denver

Many thanks to Council Leader Gil Asakawa for providing this recap and photos!

(L-R) Consul General of Japan in Denver Hiroto Hirakoba, Council Leader (and Chair of the Mountain Region) Kenzo Kawanabe, Associate (and Vice Chair of the Mountain Region) Tim Higashide, and USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa

The U.S.-Japan Council’s Mountain Region welcomed USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa to Denver with a member event held at Charcoal restaurant, a classy eatery owned in part by a fellow Council Leader, Gary Sumihiro. The invited guests included Kaz and his wife Masako, as well as the newly-appointed Consul General of Japan in Denver Hiroto Hirakoba and his wife.

Consul General Hirakoba addresses the audience

Council Leaders of USJC, as well as alumni of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation program, attended the event. Also on hand were leaders from the Japanese American community representing a variety of organizations, and young people who are currently participating in the Sakura Foundation’s Mirai Generations Leadership Program.

Kaz was here to speak to the Mirai Generations group about his life and career as a Japanese American community leader.

(L-R) Council Leaders Kenzo Kawanabe, Robin Yasui, Kerry Hada, Tom Migaki; USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa; Council Leaders Derek Okubo and Gary Yamashita

The event was a casual and entertaining way to introduce USJC’s efforts to strengthen relationships between Japan and the United States. The event also did a great job nurturing the future leadership of the community, with so many young community leaders in attendance.


Now Accepting Applications for the 2017 TOMODACHI Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program

Applications are now open for the 2017 TOMODACHI Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program!

iLEAP participants in Seattle in 2016

This program is designed to cultivate a new generation of Japanese social entrepreneurs and community leaders (ages 18-25) who are prepared to make a positive difference in Japan, the United States, and around the world.

The participants of this year’s summer program will visit Seattle from August 7 to September 8.

Applications are due by April 30.

Click here for more information.


The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation.

Reflection from Roy Hirabayashi (JALD 2017)

I will never forget the experience of meeting Mr. Toshio Ohi, an 11th generation ceramic artist, Mr. Masahiko Sato, a world-renowned jazz artist, Mr. Shinichiro Takagi, a 2-star Michelin chef, numerous top executives of major corporations, leaders of the Diet and especially Prime Minister Abe, all within a week of nonstop meetings, conferences, tours and extraordinary meals. This is how I describe my experience as part of the 17th Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD). I am honored to have been selected to join ten other amazing Japanese American leaders, representing ten states from Hawaii to New Hampshire, Issei to Gosei generations, three judges, four nonprofit service and arts leaders, three business leaders and one elected official. Through our shared JALD experience, I now have an extraordinary group of dear friends.

The author with ceramic artist Toshio Ohi

Our trip began in Kanazawa. I was very happy that many of the activities in Kanazawa highlighted the arts and culture of Japan. We learned about the Maeda clan through the eyes of a potter, a sake maker and our guide through the Kenroku Gardens. It was fascinating to hear how the Maeda clan established a strong arts and cultural foundation over 400 years ago, which continues in the lives of the people of Kanazawa. That history defined the work of many artists in the Kanazawa area for generations.

In Tokyo, we met with many different business and corporate leaders, Japan Foundation staff, Japanese Americans in Japan and representatives of the Diet. Our JALD group was in Japan at a very unique time. It was six weeks after President Trump took office, three weeks after Prime Minister Abe visited President Trump in Washington, DC and Florida, and right at the time North Korea launched four missiles towards Japan. International relations were a high priority topic. It seemed like everyone we met was curious about how we felt about the U.S. government.

With the legendary jazz pianist Masahiko Sato

What I found most rewarding from the JALD trip was a reaffirmation of the work I do as a taiko artist. I have many times been questioned if my work with the Japanese drums in America is authentic. After hearing from both artists and business people in Japan how they consider their relationship to traditional forms and contemporary work, I now know that I have been on the right path. I also have been reminded about the importance of telling the Nikkei story and how much more work needs to be done.


The lunch that Chef Shinichiro Takagi prepared for the group at his restaurant, Jugatsuya. Chef Takagi spoke to the group, explaining his work and influences in his cooking styles.

I thank all my fellow delegates, the U.S.-Japan Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff and especially Irene Hirano Inouye for providing exemplary leadership and work.


2017 Annual Conference: Registration Now Open!


U.S.-Japan Council 2017 Annual Conference
Unity in Diversity: Shaping the Future Together
JW Marriott Washington, DC
November 11-14 (TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) and Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) programming on November 11 and USJC Members Day on November 12)

Registration is now open for the 2017 Annual Conference, which will be held from November 11 to 14 at the JW Marriott Washington, DC. This year, we are returning to our nation’s capital to discuss changes under a new administration. Following an election that divided the nation, we will discuss how to respect differences of opinion and find common ground as we work together toward mutually beneficial goals. At the same time, we will showcase and examine how global perspectives and diversity empower both the United States and Japan. We will exchange views on how international businesses and organizations can continue to expand in a changing political environment, and get work done to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship. We will also provide opportunities to network with stakeholders in the new administration and on Capitol Hill, and provide insight into the political and diplomatic arenas.


If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please click here for more information on sponsorship benefits.

Conference Schedule

Saturday, November 11, 2017

  • 2017 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders & Alumni Programming
  • Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Alumni Reunion

Sunday, November 12, 2017

  • Members Day
  • Networking Dinners

Monday, November 13, 2017

  • Full-Day Public Symposium & Reception
  • Sponsors Dinner

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

  • Half-Day Public Symposium & Offsite Visits
    Offsite visits scheduled throughout the day

Venue: JW Marriott, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Attire: Business

Now Accepting Applications for the 2017 Asian American Leadership Delegation

Applications are still open for the 2017 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD)!

The 2016 AALD delegation in Tokyo with Member of the USJC (J) Board of Councilors Bill Ireton and Executive Director of SPF Junko Chano (center)

The AALD program provides the opportunity for a select group of Asian American elected state officials from across the United States to travel to Japan to engage with Japanese leaders in the business, government, academic, and nonprofit sectors. This signature program will consist of a one-week trip for a delegation of six state legislators plus two trip leaders to visit Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo.

Funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the program provides business class airfare travel from the United States to Japan and back and hotel accommodations, meals, and ground transportation expenses within Japan. The AALD program is implemented with support from the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators.

Applications will remain open until May 26. For more information about the program and to learn how to apply, please click here.

Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative Now Accepting Applications

Applications are now open for the 2017 Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (JWLI) Executive Leadership Development Training!

JWLI empowers Japanese women to become leaders and to make positive social change in Japan. In its 10th year, JWLI is launching a new program called JWLI-II, which focuses on executive leadership training and encouraging Japanese women to be action-oriented leaders.

JWLI-II is a four-week training program in Boston and will include participation in the Women’s Leadership Program at Babson College, a five-day intensive entrepreneurial management program, and visits to successful nonprofit organizations in Boston to learn their best practices in nonprofit management and leadership.

Applications must be submitted by May 8. Click here to learn more about the program and how to apply!

Member News

Kazunori Ishii featured in Forbes JAPAN

Congratulations to USJC Associate Kazunori Ishii for making the Forbes JAPAN list of local innovators! Kazunori is the Revitalizing Local Economy Director for the Kamaishi City Office in Iwate Prefecture and a Regional Mentor of the TOMODACHI Tohoku-Hokkaido Region.

Upcoming Events

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II


When: Ongoing through February 19, 2018
Where: National Museum of American History

In February, the National Museum of American History opened a year-long exhibit to mark 75 years since Executive Order 9066 authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. On display are artifacts, photographs and stories collected from Japanese American families. There will also be public programming throughout the year related to this exhibit.

For more information on the exhibit please visit the official website.

Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscovered


When: Ongoing until July 9, 2017
Where: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

For the first time in nearly 140 years, three large-scale works by the legendary Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro are reunited at the Freer|Sackler. The exhibition showcases Moon at Shinagawa from the Freer|Sackler along with Snow at Fukagawa from the Okada Museum of Art and Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Depicting the themes of snow, moon, and flowers, the triptych was last shown in Japan in 1879. The Freer|Sackler is the only location at which all three original pieces are on view.

For more information, please visit the Freer|Sackler website here.

Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit

When: May 9-11, 2017
Where: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows (Big Island, Hawaii)

The Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit, presented by USJC and the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, is a three day event being held to foster tangible near- and long-term economic opportunities among Japanese prefectures, the State of Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland.

Summit attendees will explore opportunities spanning business, education, tourism and energy, and will forge one-on-one connections that will pave the way for future collaboration and trade.

The Summit will include Governors, government officials and business leaders. Governors from prefectures with State of Hawaii sister partnerships (Ehime, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Okinawa and Hokkaido) as well as those that are part of USJC’s “Governors’ Circle” (Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Oita, Okayama, Nagano and Shizuoka) have been invited.

For more information, please click here.

“Persona Non Grata” Screening and Discussion in Houston

When: May 10, 2017 at 6:00pm
Where: Holocaust Museum of Houston

The Consulate-General of Japan in Houston, Cole Chemical and Distributing, Inc. and USJC are co-hosting a special screening of the film “Persona Non Grata” at the Holocaust Museum of Houston.

This film centers around Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who helped thousands of Jewish refugees flee the Holocaust by issuing them visas so that they could travel to Japanese territory.

The screening will be preceded by remarks from Executive Director of the Holocaust Museum Kelly Zúñiga, President & CEO of Cole Chemical and Distributing Donna Cole, and Consul General Tetsuro Amano.

The event is free but registration is required.

Meet and Mingle with Boston USJC Members

When: May 22, 2017 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Where: Haru Sushi in Boston, MA


USJC members in the Boston region are holding their first member-organized event.

The evening will include dinner and a chance to meet USJC members and friends in the Boston area, and learn more about the Council’s programs and upcoming activities.

This event is open to non-USJC members. Please RSVP to [email protected] by Monday, May 15 at 6:00pm.


TOMODACHI Marketing & Communications Manager (Tokyo)

The Marketing & Communications Manager is responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive strategic communications program to develop the profile and brand of the TOMODACHI Initiative among a diverse audience and stakeholders, including senior corporate executives, government leaders, program participants, donors, press and the general public. The Marketing & Communications Manager will work closely with teams within the TOMODACHI Initiative in the implementation of this mission, as well as with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Click here for more information about the position.