U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (April 28th, 2016)

TOMODACHI Alumni in Kumamoto

On the morning of April 25, five TOMODACHI alumni landed at Kumamoto Airport and headed to Hiroyasu Elementary School in Mashiki. Earlier this month, a series of earthquakes struck Kumamoto prefecture, killing almost 50 people, injuring close to 3,000 and displacing over 100,000 residents from their homes. The Hiroyasu Elementary School now serves as a temporary shelter to over 300 Kumamoto residents, some of whom sleep in their cars outside of the school. The school’s gym now serves as a supply center, and drinking water stations and bathing areas have been set up on the grounds. During their trip, the alumni spoke to many people at Hiroyasu Elementary, heard their stories, shared their experience and offered support.

TOMODACHI alumni offering a helping hand

This isn’t the first time these alumni have experienced disaster. Four of the five alumni are college students who were in Tohoku during the Great East Japan Earthquake. These students not only experienced 3.11, but also participated in the TOMODACHI Alumni Disaster Resilience Training Program, a two-day course that provides participants with the skills for disaster preparedness, management and support.

That night, the TOMODACHI alumni attended a Japan Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (JVOAD) meeting, where NPOs and NGOs currently working on the ground in Kumamoto shared their projects and progress, allowing fellow organizations to collaboratively serve the affected regions. This idea was inspired by the TOMODACHI NGO Leadership Training Program, supported by J.P. Morgan, a multi-year program that supports Japanese NGOs, building upon experience from the Great East Japan Earthquake. At the JVOAD meeting, the alumni learned about the many needs the Kumamoto residents, including some that aren’t traditionally addressed, such as the assisting children with allergies, organizing programs and opportunities for students, addressing psychological health of affected youth, and supporting minorities and the underserved.

The JVOAD meeting with NPOs and NGOs from the region

The U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) is very proud to see TOMODACHI alumni assisting the Kumamoto region. USJC has many ties to the Kumamoto and Oita communities through our people-to-people leadership programs. Many of our members also have ties to the region through heritage, and feel an important personal connection. We offer condolences and support to all of the affected and their families.

This disaster has led to an immediate need for emergency supplies, such as food, water and medicine, as well as longer term recovery efforts. We are pleased to see many of the NGO’s that we have worked with over the past five years are active in relief operations. USJC supports Global Giving as one option to our members and supporters who would like to offer their assistance to the people of Kumamoto and surrounding areas. Global Giving, led by Council Member Mari Kuraishi, is well-equipped to direct donated funds to experienced NPO’s and NGO’s working in impactful ways throughout the affected community. For more information, please visit Global Giving’s donation page.

We’re so proud of our TOMODACHI alumni!

Recent Events

Japan Festival in Houston

USJC members and volunteers show off their origami creations at the Japan Festival in Houston. (L-R) Janet Blancett, Associate Kuriko Hasegawa Wong, Anny Wong and Board Member Donna Fujimoto Cole.

On April 16 and 17, Houston celebrated its 23rd annual Japan Festival. This cultural showcase brought together 25,000 visitors and is one of the most attended events of its kind in the United States. Amidst the aroma of yakisoba, sound of taiko drums and a crowd of yukata-clad girls at Houston Hermann Park was the U.S.-Japan Council booth. A group led by Board Member Donna Fujimoto Cole set up shop to promote the U.S.-Japan Council and its role in the relationship between the two countries. Volunteers taught festival-goers how to make origami kabuto helmets and handed out USJC bookmarks with their names in Japanese.

Special thanks to Donna for her generous support and leadership, as well as those who donated their time and skills over the weekend. We would also like to thank Council Member Glen Gondo and Associates Alisa Tobin and Kuriko Hasegawa Wong for volunteering at the booth as well!Special thanks to Associate Kuriko Hasegawa Wong for this write-up.

USJC and TOMODACHI at the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Washington, DC came together on Saturday, April 16th to celebrate the conclusion of the National Cherry Blossom Festival at the Japan-America Society of Washington DC‘s Sakura Matsuri. USJC hosted a TOMODACHI Initiative tent where festival attendees had the opportunity to hear about both organizations and participate in different activities. Volunteers, which included many USJC members and TOMODACHI alumni, taught festival attendees to write the first kanji in “tomodachi” and gave Japan-themed temporary tattoos.

You can view photos from the festival here.

USJC Council Leader Edson Mori assists an attendee as she writes “tomo” in kanji.

USJC offers special thanks to Council Leaders Rima Matsumoto, Edson Mori, Priscilla Ouchida and Margaret Cummisky, Friend of the Council Tim White, and Associates Rei Tsuchiya and Georgette Furukawa-Martinez for volunteering their time. Thank you also to the many TOMODACHI alumni who came out to share their experiences, Jarid Shields, Dusan Muray-Rawlings, Sierra Queen, Benjamin Peoples, and Jatalia Wilson.

USJC Welcomes DC Members to Office Warming Party

On April 20, USJC hosted an Office Warming Party, organized by the USJC members in the DC region. The Council move their offices earlier this year and invited members, supporters and Corporate Partners in the DC region to tour the new location. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye gave remarks welcoming everyone to the new office as well as announcing upcoming USJC events in both Washington, DC and nationally. She also previewed the 2016 USJC Annual Conference to be held in Silicon Valley this coming November.

USJC thanks DC Regional Chair, Mark Uyeda, and Vice-Chair, Edson Mori, for their leadership in organizing this event.

(L-R) USJC Chief Financial Officer & Director of Finance and Administration, Tess Esposito; USJC Board Member Susan Morita; and Council Leader Janet Nuzum

To view more pictures from the event, please click here.


Message from Wendy Abe, USJC Director of External Relations

Since joining the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) on April 1, I’ve come to appreciate the magnitude of reach and impact USJC has throughout the United States and Japan. From New York to Japan and all 10 regions in between, over 500 members of the Council are committed to U.S.-Japan relations.

We recently updated the regional structures to reflect the growing needs of the organization. Each region is now led by a regional chair and a committee of dedicated members who plan and execute activities and events within their regions. As the Council grows in membership, programs and interests, my primary responsibility as Director of External Relations is the engagement of USJC members from all regions.

I’m excited to be working with regional chairs, their committees, corporate partners and organizations aligned with our mission and purpose. I look forward to developing outreach and engagement strategies with you all, while planning and implementing regional educational programs and neworking.

In June, regional chairs will meet in Los Angeles to discuss activities such as sharing speakers, engaging Corporate Partners region-by-region, retaining Japanese executives’ interests in USJC through the Business Advisory Board in Tokyo, welcoming new Consul Generals to their new communities, and implementing USJC’s educational and networking programming region-by-region.

My involvement with USJC began in 2009 when I participated in the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD). We visited Okinawa and experienced first-hand the value of people-to-people relationships among leaders. In 2011, Hawaii hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings, and my visit to Japan inspired me to represent USJC, and join the Hawaii Host Committee and Hawaii Tourism Authority in planning the Japan reception, which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda attended. In 2013, I co-chaired the USJC Annual Conference in Honolulu, and experienced the exemplary workings of a world-class conference. From member to staff, I now have the privilege of experiencing many regional events and activities.

The combined work of 400 members committed to U.S.-Japan relations across the United States and Japan will significantly enhance the good work of the Council. I look forward to meeting all of you, and invite you to contact me with your suggestions on how we can best continue our important work.

Wendy Abe

Member News

Associate Ryohei Kawanishi’s Fashion Line Recognized

Congratulations to TOMODACHI Uniqlo Fellowship alumni and U.S.-Japan Council Associate Ryohei Kawanishi, whose new menswear line was named one of the “upcoming brands to watch!” Ryohei’s new menswear line, called “LANDLORD,” combines a mix of contemporary design aspects with casual styles. Ryohei’s designs were also recognized last year during New York’s famous Fashion Week, when he presented his Parsons Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) graduate project, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelor, Even.

To see more styles from “LANDLORD,” click the picture above.

Upcoming Events

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.



Working under the direction of the Executive Director of the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan), the TOMODACHI Women’s Leadership Program Coordinator oversees the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program (TMWLP) in all aspects, from program development, to marketing, to implementation, and through reporting. This position also works with colleagues in the U.S.-Japan Council to ensure that this program is integrated into other women’s leadership activities managed by the Council. This Coordinator will work closely with the donor to understand and address expectations, manage implementing partners in Japan and the United States, and synchronize 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.

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


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.