U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (December 20th, 2018)

Asian American State Legislators Meet with Top Japanese Leaders

The 2018 delegates with U.S. Ambassador William F. Hagerty (center) in Tokyo

Six state-elected officials from diverse Asian American backgrounds and regions recently traveled to Japan as part of the 2018 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program. From November 30 to December 8, the delegates traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. They exchanged ideas with Japanese political and government leaders, business executives, nonprofit leaders and academics, creating networks that can mutually benefit the U.S.-Japan relationship.

AALD is in its fifth year, and the 2018 Delegation included the following six delegates. For four of them, this was their first trip to Japan.

  • State Delegate Mark Chang, Maryland General Assembly
  • State Assemblyman Steven Choi, California State Assembly
  • State Senator Michelle Kidani, Hawaii State Senate
  • State Representative Fue Lee, Minnesota House of Representatives
  • State Representative Theresa Mah, Illinois House of Representatives
  • State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, New York State Assembly
Senator Kidani with Kazuhiko Toyama, Managing Partner at Industrial Growth Platform, Inc., who was a keynote speaker at the 2017 USJC Annual Conference

Government leaders the legislators met included Ms. Yuriko Koike, the Governor of Tokyo, and members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly; Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa, Mayor of Kyoto, and the President and Vice President of the Kyoto City Assembly; and the President and Vice President of the Osaka City Council. They also met with U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty and Mr. Joseph Young, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; members of the National Diet; and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Business leaders included representatives of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives). They also met with leaders of Daikin, IBM Japan and Panasonic, and met with Kansai Keizai Doyukai; the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan; Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Honorary Chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, and Mr. Shuichi Ohno, President of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation; and journalists at Kyodo News and the Nikkei Asian Review.

(L-R) Mr. Shuichi Ohno (President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation), Representative Mah, Delegate Chang, Assemblyman Choi, Mr. Sasakawa (Honorary Chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation), USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, Senator Kidani, Representative Lee, Assemblymember Niou, NAPACSL Director Irene Kawanabe

The delegates also spoke at a panel discussion in Osaka titled “Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators.” This was co-hosted by USJC and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The delegates shared their varied personal and professional journeys as Asian Americans, including their careers before becoming politicians. They also spoke about the importance of diversity in politics, especially as it relates to current events. Karen Kelley, Consul General – U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe, moderated the discussion.

AALD is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and implemented by USJC, in collaboration with the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators (NAPACSL). For more information on the program and full biographies of the delegates, click here.

The delegates at the symposium with Ms. Kelley (right)

Click here to see more photos.

Recent Events

Exploring U.S.-Japan Collaboration for a Resilient Civil Society

Many thanks to Associate Mio Yamamoto for organizing this trip, and the participants (USJC Director of External Relations Wendy Abe, Council Leader Janelle Sasaki, and Associates Arielle Montgomery and Jaden Risner) for contributing to the following article!

Local residents welcome trip participants with a meal

From November 10 to 13, four USJC members took part in a program organized by World in Tohoku (WIT) called Cross-Border Learning Journey 2018. WIT, led by Executive Director Mio Yamamoto (ELP ’14 and USJC Associate), educates people on the challenges in Tohoku following the Great East Japan Earthquake. It aims to build a resilient civil society and provides opportunities for cross-border and cross-sector collaborations while fostering long-term relationships between leaders.

Naval officer Jaden Risner (ELP ’13) was a member of Operation Tomodachi, the first-responders deployed to Tohoku to assist survivors with food, water and medical supplies in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. This visit to Tohoku was Jaden’s first return to the region. “To see the region seven years after the tsunami shows the amazing work and sense of community the region has,” he said.

Jaden Risner discusses his work with Operation Tomodachi

We met four social entrepreneurs who address real problems: the founder of a residential home where newborns and mothers acclimate with one another; an equine therapist who provides services for children and adults with disabilities; an entrepreneur who built a co-working space and brewery to generate revenue and attract talent; and a community organizer with a big vision of what his community would look like.

Their eagerness and desire to transform their communities was impressive, especially in light of the continued need to heal the mental scars of many survivors. Hearing the stories of survivors who experienced unimaginable circumstances was an experience that will stay with us forever. Our visit reinforced the purpose of TOMODACHI programs that assist young people in Tohoku and elsewhere.

Arielle Montgomery enjoys mochitsuki

We exchanged perspectives on educational, political and socio-economic issues. While diminishing networks and shrinking pools of talent are a challenge, the leaders bring hope for the revitalization of Iwate. The leaders are big thinkers and aspire to create systemic changes. Although all have unique missions and visions, they possessed common attributes: focus on a larger purpose; inspiration for others to follow; resilience, confidence and determination, despite challenges and struggles; and passion and the spirit of “gambare.”

Beyond the delicious foods and onsen we enjoyed, what made this trip special were the people-to-people connections. Our last night in Tono was an extraordinary example of soft diplomacy. Jaden shared personal photos and stories from Operation Tomodachi, and people appreciated hearing what the United States did to help the disaster-struck region via its naval operations. In many ways, Operation Tomodachi is not over, and we challenge the USJC community to be the bridge to call this mission complete.

Thank you to Toshiaki Abe, CEO of Hanatoizumi in Ichinoseki, Iwate who gave his time and support to make this trip a memorable one.

Many thanks to Mio Yamamoto (left)!

Click here for more photos.

Japan’s Role on the Global Stage Discussed in Washington, DC

On December 6, USJC and the Columbia University Alumni Association of Washington, DC (ColumbiaDC) hosted a lecture by Professor Takako Hikotani, Gerald L. Curtis Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy at the University of Columbia. Her presentation, held at the Japanese Information and Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan, was titled “Japan and the Future of the Liberal Democratic Order.”

Professor Takako Hikotani speaking to the audience

Weston Konishi, Director of Partnerships & Development at USJC, provided opening remarks. Kambiz Rahnavardy, President of ColumbiaDC, introduced Professor Hikotani to the stage. She began by addressing the passing of President George H. W. Bush and his importance to U.S.-Japan relations. President Bush was a fighter pilot in WWII, and our two countries have come a long way as allies since then. Tracing through these historical events, she addressed the definition of the liberal international order and Japan’s globalization and democratization.

Professor Hikotani then spoke of Japan’s current relationship with the United States, as well as Japan’s efforts to expand its ties with Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia as part of a long-term vision to build relations with allies. She also addressed Japan’s commitment to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and in turn Japan’s promotion of democracy and the liberal international order through effective international aid and domestic policy building.

Attendees socialize and network prior to the lecture

Questions from the audience included queries on Japan’s relationships with various U.S. administrations, Japan’s reaction to China, and Japan’s relationship with Russia. Attendees enjoyed catering from Tako Grill. We would like to extend thanks to our collaborative partners at ColumbiaDC and JICC for this successful event.

Click here to see more photos.

Japan Region Celebrates Year-End with Presentation on Unicorn Start-ups

Mr. Ito addresses the audience

On December 12, the USJC Japan Region celebrated the end of the year with a reception party at the Roppongi Hills Club, featuring a presentation by Mr. Ren Ito, the CEO of Mercari Europe. USJC Japan Region Chair Russell Kawahara convened and chaired the event, and USJC Board of Councilors Chair Paul Yonamine reported on recent and upcoming USJC events while sharing his own perspectives on the value of USJC.

A member of the audience asks a question

Mr. Ito’s presentation was titled “Japan’s Unicorn Start-ups in the U.S. and European Markets.” Mr. Ito, who has led the global expansion of Mercari, explained the market strategy and decisions that made Mercari the fastest growing marketplace app in Japan, the U.S. and the U.K. Following a toast by USJC (Japan) Representative Director Royanne Doi, everyone enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner while networking until well past closing time.

Mr. Kawahara and Mr. Ito

USJC thanks Russell Kawahara and Japan Region Planning Committee Member, Yuko Kawahara, for organizing this event.

Hawaii Region Celebrates Year-End with Traditions and Preparations for 2019

Many thanks to Hawaii Regional Chair Ann Teranishi for the following article and photos!

Associates gathered at the bonenkai: (L-R) Kent Walther, Lynn Miyahira, Ellen Kamei, Nate Gyotoku, Aimee Eng, Claire Fukuoka, Kim Haruki

Last week, the Hawaii region held its final event for 2018, a bonenkai (end of the year party) with over 30 attendees, including USJC members visiting Hawaii.

Council Leader Lori Teranishi, President of iQ360, hosted the event at her offices and provided gold leaf sake favors. Board Members Norman Nakasone and Susan Eichor shared their experiences from the Annual Conference in Tokyo. Associate Lynn Miyahira (ELP ’14) and Nate Gyotoku (ELP ’13) discussed upcoming events, including the U40 event in Hawaii to be held from May 30 to June 2 next year.

We also welcomed Kurt Osaki, who was recently selected for next year’s Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program. Council Leader Darcy Endo-Omoto (JALD ’18) shared the presentation she gave to Consul General Koichi Ito about her experience as a JALD delegate. She also advised Kurt that karaoke singing and wearing a suit is a must!

Council Leader Akemi Kurokawa taught us about the bonenkai tradition, which directly translates to “forget-the-year gathering.” He explained that the tradition started in the Muromachi era (15th century) and did not involve drinking alcohol but rather reading poems reflecting on the year. The current bonenkai tradition started around the Meiji period (19th century). Most of the attendees concluded it was because reading poems must be a lot more entertaining with good drinks and company!

DC Members Conclude the Year with a Dinner

Gold leaf sake favors

On December 17, about 20 current and prospective USJC members in the Washington, DC region gathered for a bonenkai dinner. DC Regional Chair Edson Mori organized the occasion, Council Leader Mark Uyeda spoke about the recent increase of Asian Americans engaged in law and politics, and Council Leader John Tobe gave a toast. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and DC-based staff members also joined the dinner. Attendees enjoyed discussing their thoughts on the recent Annual Conference and their plans for the new year.

Members listen as Mark Uyeda discusses recent developments

Click here to see more photos.

Northern California Members Gather in San Jose

Thanks to NorCal members for the following blurb and photo!


The NorCal region had its inaugural San Jose event (chaired by Council Leader Rika Nakazawa) that brought in the holiday cheer with a dinner in Japantown San Jose. More programs to come in the new year for the South Bay/San Jose region of Northern California, to complement the San Francisco activities – stay tuned!


The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2018 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD).

Reflection from Lisa Sakai (JALD ’18)

Appreciating tea in Yamaguchi prefecture

It is difficult to describe this trip without sounding cliché or repetitive of past articles. “Trip of a lifetime.” “Humbling.” “Amazing.” While accurate, these words do not even begin to cover the experience.

The first thing that stands out is the incredible access the JALD group is given. Prime Minister Abe, Princess Takamado, Foreign Minister Kono and Ambassador Hagerty are impressive headliners – with the Princess leading the field. She was grace and intelligence personified. Forum 21, CGP, Keidanren and Keizai Doyukai are made up of executives and companies that are so influential they help shape national policy. On the cultural side, visits to Shoin Shrine (temple) and Fusoan Miwagama (pottery) become more than just standard tours when you get to go behind the barriers into the World Heritage site, and the grandson of a designated Living Treasure serves you tea in tea bowls created by his grandfather.

With Japanese leaders

The range of political, business and cultural aspects of the trip really gave us the full “Japanese experience.” By meeting politicians, business executives and 12th generation artisans, I got to see the weird and wonderful juxtaposition of modern and traditional that make up Japanese culture. Few countries have managed to balance western influences with their national identity like Japan. Perfect example: wasabi-flavored Kit-Kats.

In most of our meetings, Japan’s labor shortage was a common theme. There was a lot of discussion about encouraging women to return to the workforce, with options like free child care, free education and free pregnancy leave for both parents. They also talked about changing corporate culture so that employees had a better work/life balance. As our group was predominately female (seven out of 10), we had much to say on the topic.

At the 2018 Annual Conference with (L-R) Council Leader George Kobayashi, Legacy Council Member Dayne Kono and Former Deputy Consul General in Chicago Shinichiro Nakamura

Already a member, I have continued to be active with USJC since I returned from Japan. I met with USJC members in Denver to discuss their Sakura Square project, and was one of the organizers of a Women in Leadership event called “Be Your Bravest Self: From Improv to Improve,” which was a workshop using Second City trainers. In September I attended a Women’s Leadership Conference in Michigan hosted by fellow JALD alumna Laurie Van Pelt, and in November I attended the USJC Annual Conference in Tokyo. I don’t know if it will happen, but I have also been trying to drum up interest in a possible group project for JALD classes. Modelled after Forum 21, the delegates would take a year to study and research a specific topic that would further U.S.-Japan relations. I believe such a multi-city project would allow JALD participants to continue to work together, fulfill USJC’s mission, and encourage the continued support by the Government of Japan.

With the many other USJC members who traveled from the Midwest region to Tokyo for the Annual Conference


2018 Annual Conference Recap Video Now Available!

2018 is coming to a close, and one of our favorite moments from this year was the 2018 Annual Conference in Tokyo. Whether or not you were able to join us, see the excitement and energy through this video!


Looking for more videos from the conference? Check out our 2018 Annual Conference YouTube playlist.

Build a Sustainable Future with USJC

As 2018 comes to a close, we ask that you consider making a contribution now to ensure that people will continue to benefit from the work of the U.S.-Japan Council.

Your contribution provides direct support for our ongoing programs, like our TOMODACHI Initiative, women’s leadership events and Regional Economic Summits, as well as exciting future projects like our Leadership Institute. Your support will also help us launch our new three-year strategic plan to continue our growth in empowering and connecting leaders toward a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship.


Making a tax-deductible contribution to USJC is easy. Simply click here to give online or send a check to:

U.S.-Japan Council
Attn: Weston Konishi, Director of Partnerships and Development
1819 L Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036

Thank you for your valued support in making USJC as dynamic and successful as ever.

Supporting Those Affected by the Japan Floods


Japan recently experienced what is considered the worst weather disaster the country has faced in 36 years. The floods and landslides in western Japan in July led to severe damage, most notably in the Ehime, Hiroshima and Okayama Prefectures. Hundreds of people lost their lives, many suffered damages to their homes, and many more were left without water.

The U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) and our friends at other U.S.-Japan related organizations offer heartfelt thoughts to all who are affected. Many in the U.S. have strong ties to the Ehime, Hiroshima and Okayama communities through people-to-people programs and exchanges. Many Japanese Americans also have family ties or personal connections to the region.

USJC, the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC), the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i and the United States-Japan Foundation have established the Japan Flood Friendship Fund (JFFF) to aid those who are affected. 100% of the contributions will go to relief efforts through our network of nonprofit organizations that are working on the ground.

Thank you to those who have donated. Over the past seven years since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, we have worked with a number of local nonprofits in Japan. Based on this experience and our research about their current activities in the flood-affected regions, we have selected three organizations to disburse these funds to: Civic Force, Japan Platform and Peace Boat. The fund will remain open, and we thank you again for considering a donation to JFFF.

Please consider donating through the form here. If you would prefer to pay by check, please make your check payable to the U.S.-Japan Council and mail to:

U.S.-Japan Council
Attn: Japan Flood Friendship Fund
1819 L Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036

If you have any inquiries or would like to partner with us, please write to [email protected] or call 202-223-6840.

Member News

Consulate General in Honolulu Thanks Members Affiliated with Hawaiian Electric

Four USJC members who work for the Hawaiian Electric Company were recently honored at a dinner hosted by Consulate General Koichi Ito in Honolulu. The Consulate thanked Hawaiian Electric (whose President/CEO is Council Leader Alan Oshima) for welcoming Foreign Minister Taro Kono, a Friend of the Council, in August. Council Leader Darcy Endo-Omoto (Vice President of Government & Community Affairs at Hawaiian Electric), who had met the Foreign Minister through the 2018 Japanese American Leadership Delegation program, was instrumental in organizing the visit.

Council Leaders Alan Oshima, Darcy Endo-Omoto and Brennon Morioka, as well as Associate Yoh Kawanami at the Consul General’s residence. Consul General Ito, Deputy Consuls General, and other Hawaiian Electric executives join them.

Upcoming Events

Chiura Obata: An American Modern

(Image: Chiura Obata, Grand Canyon, May 15th, 1940. Collection of Amber and Richard Sakai.)

When: January 18, 2019 – March 10, 2019
Where: Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art (Okayama, Japan)

Chiura Obata (1885–1975) was born in Ibara City and studied nihonga, known as Japanese-style paintings. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1903. During WWII, Obata and his family were incarcerated at the Tanforan detention center in California and the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah; he established art schools at both sites.

The Chiura Obata exhibition first opened in the United States, and will now be presented in Okayama. Around 140 of Obata’s works will be on display, including various kinds of works such as nihonga, watercolour, sumi-e and woodblock. As part of this exhibition, there will be two lectures (on January 19 and February 11), as well as an explanation of the artwork (January 25) on display. While registration is not necessary for these events, tickets for the exhibit are required. For more information, please see details on the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art website (in Japanese), or download the flier here. (General information on hours, admission fees and how to access the museum is available in English here.)

2019 JWLI Spring and Fall Programs Call for Applications

For the 2019 programs, JWLI will be accepting both Spring and Fall applications during the same application period.

Spring Program Dates: April 16, 2019 – May 10, 2019 (tentative)
Fall Program Dates: October 7, 2019 – November 1, 2019 (tentative)Applications for the ​Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (​JWLI​)​ Spring and Fall Programs are now available! Online applications will close at 9pm on January 31, 2019 (ET). JWLI​​ looks forward to reviewing applications from enthusiastic women leaders in Japan. For more information and to apply, please visit the JWLI website. JWLI is led by USJC Board Member Atsuko Fish and supported by USJC​​.


Membership Engagement & Regional Coordinator

The Membership Engagement & Regional Coordinator will have primary responsibility for the administrative and operational support of activities relating to the engagement of members, including membership and regional activities. Duties will include leading operational membership activities, database management, monthly reconciliation of membership and donor contributions, and supporting the Director of External Relations in the implementation of regional events and activities.

Click here for more information about the position.

Intern (Washington, DC)

The intern will provide support for Programs and Communications on a part-time or full-time basis. Duties will consist of program and event coordination and support, website/social media support, organization of and attendance at special events, outreach and communication, writing and translation (if able). This is an excellent internship for those hoping to gain experience in the programmatic, digital and strategic marketing and/or nonprofit fields. USJC’s internship program offers outstanding opportunities for college students, graduate students and graduates who are interested in U.S.-Japan relations.

Click here for more information about the position.

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.