U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (December 7th, 2017)

Ambassador Hagerty Hosts Reception for the TOMODACHI Initiative

On December 5, at a reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty at his official residence, the TOMODACHI Initiative announced an enhanced partnership for next generation leaders in the United States and Japan. Over 150 guests, representing donor companies, government, nonprofit organizations and TOMODACHI alumni attended the reception, including Minister for Reconstruction Masayoshi Yoshino, representing the Government of Japan, and Governor of Fukushima Prefecture Masao Uchibori.

Prior to the reception, Ambassador Hagerty and USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye held a roundtable discussion with senior representatives of several TOMODACHI donor companies. The attendees discussed the role of TOMODACHI in U.S.-Japan relations, and the importance of investing in the development of next generation leaders.


Several announcements were also made at the reception, including the extension of partnerships with FAST RETAILING CO., LTD.Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in JapanHonda Motor Co., Ltd.Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., and Sumitomo Corporation, with commitments through 2020 and 2021.

In his remarks to the guests, Ambassador Hagerty emphasized the importance of social and educational exchanges between our countries to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship, and commented, “TOMODACHI has become the leading institution for cementing people-to-people bonds between our two countries. Today, the initiative has sent over 6,000 people across the Pacific from the United States to Japan, and Japan to the United States . . . Your time, your energy, and your support are changing lives and strengthening the very foundation of U.S.-Japan relations.”


Irene Hirano Inouye commented, “On reflection of the remarkable accomplishments we have made together for the future of U.S.-Japan relations, we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to [our] donors, government and implementing partners, advisors and supporters . . . We will continue to invest in next generation leaders, providing opportunities and supporting their dreams and hopes for a brighter future. We believe that the TOMODACHI Initiative not only strengthens U.S.-Japan relations, but also serves as a catalyst that contributes and thrives in making a more cooperative, prosperous and secure world.”


The reception also featured nine TOMODACHI alumni. Two of them shared their experiences from their TOMODACHI programs and their commitment as next generation leaders. Kaito Manabe, alumnus of the TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program, shared his dream to be an astronaut and reflected on his study abroad experience. Ayaka Obata, alumna of the TOMODACHI MUFG International Exchange Program, discussed the loss of her uncle due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as her journey to become a storyteller who can describe not only the tragedy of the disaster but also the positive efforts towards recovery.

Ayaka Obata shares her experience with TOMODACHI

Recent Events

Community Leaders Discuss Women’s Leadership in Little Rock

(L-R) Arkansas community leader Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, President William Tsutsui and USJC Director of External Relations Wendy Abe

On November 9, Council Leader William Tsutsui, President of Hendrix College, hosted a Regional Women in Leadership (RWL) event in Little Rock, Arkansas. Forty-four people attended this event, which included students and professionals representing business, education and government sectors. The event focused on the advancement of women in Japan. The RWL series is generously supported by the Embassy of Japan, and in 2017, focused on coordinating events in first-time cities and communities like Little Rock.

Northern California Welcomes New Members of the Community with Ramen

Ayaka Mimori (left), alumna of the TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference in Dallas, was one of the participants

Ramen lovers gathered in late October in Northern California to welcome Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Paul Yonamine, Council Leaders Lynda Yonamine and Suzanne Basalla, and John Basalla. The Yonamines and Basallas now call Northern California home, having moved from Tokyo and Washington, DC, respectively.

The group with USJC jack-o’-lanterns

While preparing tasty ramen for the hungry guests, Chef Mari Takahashi of Nombe shared interesting facts about ramen and its preparation.

Chef Takahashi (right) with Council Leader Gordon Endow

Based in San Francisco, Nombe offers Japanese/California cuisine, catering for private events, pop-ups, cooking and sake classes, and events for team-building. The ramen event was planned by Council Leader Jan Yanehiro, Jenna Zimmerman, Board Member Allen Okamoto and Associate Dana Heatherton—a perfect event for a San Francisco autumn night. Welcome to California, Paul, Lynda, Suzanne and John!

(L-R) Suzanne Basalla, Paul Yonamine and Jenna Zimmerman

Please click here to see more photos from the event.


The following article is part of a year-long series by members of the 2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD).

Reflection from Jason Fujimoto (JALD ’17)

With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right)

In Kanazawa, we learned about the intertwining influence of culture and community in societal progress, which parallels my hometown of Hilo, HI. A key component to the success of Kanazawa’s development over the centuries was the “Machishu,” or local community leaders who were instrumental in stewarding public-private partnerships, infrastructure planning and urban revitalization rooted in culture and tradition. The Machishu’s leadership also catalyzed civic engagement in the Kanazawa community, whose members shared core values of innovation, respect for tradition and collaboration.

The delegation with Mr. Matsutaro Fukumitsu, 13th President of the Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery, founded in 1625

I have much gratitude for the unique and rich experiences garnered as a member of this year’s Japanese American Leadership Delegation. I now have a greater understanding and appreciation for U.S.-Japan relations and our important role in helping to foster and strengthen this relationship in the communities we serve. It was also an honor to connect with and learn from my fellow delegates, who all brought with them their own special Japanese American stories.

Similarly, Hilo is proud to be the home of more multi-generational and century-old businesses per capita than any other town in the State of Hawaii. This did not happen by chance. Hilo survived two devastating tsunamis, which brought people together, created a sense of shared fate, and forced the town to rebuild together. Additionally, Hilo’s frequent rain and atypical “paradise” weather minimized reliance on tourism and encouraged the town’s businesses to thrive instead from serving and caring for our local community. These influences catalyzed strong community leaders who helped shape Hilo’s values.

I find myself in an especially influential situation, given Hawaii’s dominant mix of Japanese Americans and unique geography in the middle of the Pacific. In Hawaii, Japan-U.S. related initiatives are at the forefront of many community organizations.

I continue to serve on the Military Affairs Committee of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, where we build grassroots support and increase awareness around the environmental, economic and national security benefits the U.S. military brings to the state. These efforts are especially important as Hawaii is the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command, the largest unified combatant command in the world, of which Japan is a strong partner.

I also enjoy my continuing involvement with the Hawaii Asia Pacific Association Young Leaders program, which is leading the creation of a 100-year vision for the State of Hawaii. We recently traveled to Daisen, Japan, to understand how they too are embarking on a very similar mission. Much of their discussions about their vision started with key questions about the “soul of Daisen” and the “Daisen Spirit.”

I am thankful for the U.S.-Japan Council and for being a part of the 2017 JALD program. In combination with my other involvements, this has given me great hope around the importance and power of advancing U.S.-Japan relations for the benefit of both countries and their people culturally, economically and politically.


The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2017 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP).

Reflection from Michael Sueoka (ELP ’17)

The 2017 USJC Annual Conference in Washington, DC ended just a couple weeks ago, and I can still feel the excitement!

At the USJC Annual Conference with the gentlemen of my ELP class (From left: Rylan Sekiguchi, Kevin Otsuka, me, Derek Kenmotsu)

I was born and raised in a homogeneous suburb outside Los Angeles with no Japanese American community or Japanese culture in sight. I did not grow up playing in a JA basketball league, go to Japanese school, make mochi or attend any festivals of any kind. However, shortly after college, an ELP alumnus introduced me to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. This is where I started learning, and found a Japanese American community that’s proud of its culture and its part in American history.

After a few years volunteering at the Japanese American National Museum, I heard about the Emerging Leaders Program. I applied and was fortunately accepted.

As I prepared for the USJC Annual Conference, I thought it was going to be like any other conference – a place to make business connections. But I walked away with much more. I walked away with a community of fellow Japanese Americans across the world, many having gone through the same identity evolution and cultural discovery as me. I walked away with an extended family in the incredibly welcoming ELP alumni. I walked away with new friends, with whom I share unique experiences. I walked away with personal stories from world leaders who are active in this community. I walked away with inspiration and a sense of pride.

Socializing with USJC Board Member James Higa

Since being back home, I have already made plans to meet with Kenta Takamori, the Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Japan Platform. I met with all the Los Angeles ELP participants the weekend after Thanksgiving. I’ve already created a list of who I want to invite to the ELP program from my current tech network. I can’t wait to get them involved!

This experience was not just a conference or just about business. This was about building real relationships with other people who share an affinity for the Japanese American community and strong U.S.-Japan relations.

At the U40 Networking Event with my 2017 ELP Class!

I cannot express how grateful I am for those leaders before me who gave me this opportunity. Without them, this would not be possible. It is their stories, their struggles, and their love for this community that gives me that inspiration and pride.

I am incredibly excited to continue growing with my ELP class, participate in the upcoming ELP programs and activities, continue to strengthen friendships, and forge new ones.


Watanabe Scholarship: Virtual Sessions, 2018 Applications Opening Soon and 2017-18 Scholar Highlights!

Applications for the 2018-19 U.S.-Japan Council Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship Program will be available soon! This program provides financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate students for a semester or year-long study abroad program in either the United States or Japan. A generous endowment gift of $10 million from Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe to USJC makes it possible to award scholarships to students for whom study abroad would not be possible without financial support. Beginning this year, scholarships will be awarded to both American and Japanese undergraduate students who are pursuing international study in either the United States or Japan.

A virtual information session for interested U.S. and Japanese applicants, as well as university and college administrators, will be held in early December. For more information on the virtual information sessions, please see the flier and sign up here!

For information on eligibility, timeline and application requirements, please see this page.


Click here or on the image above to see video messages from the 2017-18 Watanabe Scholars!

Members News

Janelle Sasaki Featured in PRESIDENT WOMAN


Council Leader Janelle Sasaki is featured in the December 2017 edition of PRESIDENT WOMAN, along with USJC staff member Kana Takagi! The article highlights the importance and value of mentorships. Ms. Sasaki also conducts a series of workshops on mentorships for the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program. PRESIDENT WOMAN magazine is one of the most prominent business magazines in Japan, and can be purchased at any bookstore or convenience store in Japan.

Upcoming Events

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II


When: Ongoing through December 8, 2018
Where: National Museum of American History

In February, the National Museum of American History opened an 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.

Registration Now Open for the Japan-Texas Economic Summit!

Registration is now open for the Japan-Texas Economic Summit, to be held at the Marriott Marquis Houston from May 7 to 9, 2018. Following the highly successful Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit in 2017, the Japan-Texas Economic Summit will bring together business leaders, investors, state and local officials, and economic development organizations from across the Lone Star State and Japan. Texas is a leading destination for foreign direct investment from Japan, and we will welcome government and business representatives from the Government of Japan and prefectures throughout the country to explore further opportunities to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the state of Texas.

Join us for what will be a momentous step forward in the Japan-Texas economic partnership! Please visit the event page to see more details and to register.


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.

TOMODACHI Program Manager (Tokyo)

Working under the direction of the Director of TOMODACHI Programs, the Program Manager is responsible for developing, executing, managing, monitoring and evaluating TOMODACHI programs, including managing relationships with implementing organizations. The Program Manager will work with individuals from the U.S.-Japan Council, the U.S. Embassy, TOMODACHI Initiative sponsors, and other key TOMODACHI team members in the implementation of this mission.

Click here for more information about the position.

TOMODACHI Program Coordinator (Tokyo)

The TOMODACHI Program Coordinator is responsible for providing administrative support in the development, coordination, and execution of TOMODACHI Initiative programs, directly assisting the Program Director and Program Manager, and collaborating with leaders, external stakeholders and other experts. The Program Coordinator will serve as the principal liaison between implementing partners and external constituencies on day-to-day programmatic issues.

Click here for more information about the position.