U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (December 13th, 2013)


On December 13, USJC and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo held a reception in honor of the TOMODACHI Initiative. This was the first major TOMODACHI event since Caroline B. Kennedy has become the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and celebrated the continued partnership between USJC and the U.S. Embassy.

The event also announced six new strategic partner companies joining the TOMODACHI Initiative: Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Metlife Alico Life Insurance K.K., Prudential Financial, Inc., Sumitomo Corporation, Suntory Holdings Limited and Toshiba Corporation.  Through these corporate contributions, the TOMODACHI Initiative is creating unique new exchange programs; supporting and mentoring young female leaders; offering further support to our program alumni to allow them to continue their connections with the United States and with each other; supporting academic study abroad scholarships; launching scholarship programs at top music schools in the United States; and supporting education and collaboration in science and technology.

During the reception, which was held at Ambassador Kennedy’s residence, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye thanked all the donors. “Two years ago, in this very room, we launched the TOMODACHI Initative,” she noted in the main hall, and continued that she could not have imagined the generous amount contributed by the donors. “We are fortunate to have an incredible new partner,” she said of Ambassador Kennedy, “With her dedication to education and passion to support young people, she is the perfect Ambassador for TOMODACHI.”

“I am so grateful for the generous support of the new strategic partners,” Ambassador Kennedy said. “I look forward to working with all of you during my time as Ambassador to bring our nations even closer through the connections between our young people.”

“The mutual understanding between the American and Japanese ‘TOMODACHI Generation’ continues to deepen,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumihiko Kishida, who also delivered remarks at the event. He said that with the support of so many people from various fields, he believed the further development and success of TOMODACHI was guaranteed.

The program included a speech by Haruna Shiraiwa, a high school student who is from Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture. After participating in the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program in 2012, Ms. Shiraiwa founded TOMOTRA, a company which provides tours to Iwaki to boost tourism in the city. Her remarks were followed by a performance by Reiko Watanabe, a violinist who graduated from The Julliard School, one of the schools with which Suntory established the new TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund. 
The more than two hundred guests included: Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Itsunori Onodera, Minister of Defense; Yasuo Fukuda, former Prime Minister; Akitaka Saiki, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs; Former Ambassadors to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki, Ryozo Kato and Yoshio Okawara; Takuya Tasso, Governor of Iwate prefecture; Diet Members and the representatives of the six new strategic partners, as well as representatives of existing donor companies and prospective donors. Several USJC members also attended.

Prior to the event, Ambassador Kennedy also held a roundtable discussion with nine TOMODACHI alumni who represented the three Tohoku prefectures, and had traveled to the United States on a variety of TOMODACHI programs. Two students representing an Iwate Prefecture Governor Tasso youth exchange program also joined the roundtable.

The reception was a true embodiment of the public-private partnership that is the TOMODACHI Intiative, serving as an occasion for TOMODACHI alumni, Japanese Americans, officials from both the U.S. and Japanese governments and representatives from American and Japanese companies to meet each other and deepen the U.S.-Japan relationship on a person-to-person level.


The ten delegates of the 2014 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Program have now been decided. They are:

  • Ms. Elisa Dozono (Portland, OR) Partner, Miller Nash LLP
  • Ms. Leona Hiraoka (Washington, DC) Vice President, Communications, Points of Light
  • Ms. Yoriko Kishimoto (Palo Alto, CA) Former Mayor of Palo Alto and Director, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
  • Mr. Brad Miyake (Bellevue, WA) Acting City Manager, City of Bellevue
  • Ms. Carrie Okinaga (Honolulu, HI) Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, First Hawaiian Bank
  • Mr. Derek Okubo (Denver, CO) Executive Director, Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver
  • Ms. Keiko Orrall (Boston, MA) State Representative, House of Representatives, State of Massachusetts
  • Judge Toko Serita (Queens, NY) Criminal Court Judge, New York City Criminal Court, Queens County
  • LTC Keith Walters (Santa Monica, CA) Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
  • Mr. Gary Yamashiroya (Chicago, IL) Detective Commander, City of Chicago, Department of Police

More information, including detailed bios of the 2014 delegates, will be coming soon!



On November 20, the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. On behalf of the Senator, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye accepted the award from President Obama at a ceremony at the White House.

President Obama said during the ceremony that he himself had been inspired by the late Senator: “As the second-longest serving senator in American history, he showed a generation of young people–including one kid with a funny name growing up in Hawaii who noticed that there was somebody during some of those hearings in Washington that didn’t look like everybody else, which meant maybe I had a chance to do something important, too.” President Obama continued, “He taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard,” touching upon the Japanese American legacy that the Senator carried.

Established by President John F. Kennedy, the Medal of Freedom has been presented to more than 500 individuals so far who have made especially “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

The 15 other recipients of the 2013 award included former President Bill Clinton and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. See the White House blog post and President Obama’s remarks for further details.


Nikkei Business, a weekly Japanese publication affiliated with Nikkei Shimbun, has begun a series of articles profiling Japanese Americans. A long, two-part article was published in the print magazine in Japanese on November 18 and 25. Under the title “Japanese-Americans: Personal Networks Across the Pacific,” several interviews are also being published in the English online edition of the publication.

The fact that Japanese Americans are featured so prominently show their growing importance to U.S.-Japan relations. The individuals come from various backgrounds, spanning academia, business, science and technology, politics and more. Read the interviews in English or Japanese(Note: Registration is required (at no cost) for the Japanese website) as the content is continually updated. 

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and Daniel Okimoto, Chairman of the USJC Board of Councilors, are central to the success of the series, having introduced to Nikkei Business dozens of influential Japanese Americans to be interviewed. USJC Members featured so far include: Council Member James Higa; Ms. Hirano Inouye; Secretary Norman Mineta, Vice Chairman of the Board of Councilors; Hiro Ogawa, Member of the Board of Councilors; Dr. Okimoto; USJC Secretary Susan Onuma; Masaaki Tanaka, Vice Chairman of the Board of Councilors; and Paul Terasaki, Member of the Board of Councilors.


During his visit to East Asia, Vice President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Abe on December 1. Topics included U.S.-Japan partnership in the future, with TOMODACHI highlighted as a movement developing the next generation of Japanese and American leaders. Below is an excerpt from his remarks to the press:

…Mr. Prime Minister, I’m not sure there is a more resilient nation on Earth than yours.  I was proud that we were able to play a small part to help save lives — not only with U.S. troops, but with American volunteers who know and love Japan; many of whom are still here rebuilding.

As a consequence, Mr. Prime Minister, we’ve created an initiative named after the Japanese word for friendship that is going to bring together young Japanese and young American leaders.

[Mr. Prime Minister], it’s not only our alliance, it’s the friendship between our countries and our people.  It’s tried and it’s true.  It’s been tested by time and tragedy, and it still grows stronger to the benefit of both our countries, the region and I would suggest to the world…

You can read the rest of Vice President Biden’s remarks here.


USJC Board Member Paul Yonamine has introduced the Council to the “Holiday Toys for Tohoku Project,” which is supported by the American School in Japan (ASIJ). ASIJ is partnering with Toy Card Group to deliver JPY 2,000 per child for Toy Card coupons to bring holiday cheer to children in Tohoku. All money collected will be converted into Toy Card gift coupons and distributed to Tohoku children through NPOs in the region. Donations will be collected through December 18.

To make a contribution, please go to https://community.asij.ac.jp/give-online

Please select “Holiday Toys for Tohoku” in the designation field of the online giving form.

If you are in the holiday spirit and would like to donate to USJC, we would greatly appreciate your support!