U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (December 8th, 2016)

On Prime Minister Abe’s Upcoming Visit to Pearl Harbor


Seventy-five years ago, on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked, beginning a long war in the Pacific that resulted in many lives lost. The United States and Japan have become solid allies since then, with a mutual understanding that has grown deeper over the past seven decades. Few events have been as emblematic of the growth of the two countries’ ties as President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima this past spring and the decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Pearl Harbor in late December with President Obama.

It is significant that the two leaders are demonstrating their continued commitment to strong bilateral relations with this important summit in Hawaii, not only for historic reasons, but also because it is a special place that has strong ties to both countries, both geographically and culturally. This meeting in the middle of the Pacific symbolizes how robust U.S.-Japan relations can benefit the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

The U.S.-Japan Council aims to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations through people-to-people connections. The strong personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Abe has resulted in this year’s reciprocal visits. Both leaders took an important, courageous step forward that will have a lasting impact. Now, as the world reflects on the lessons of the past 75 years, it is critical to reaffirm the importance of maintaining worldwide peace and stability for generations to come.

Click here to read USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye’s interview with the Nikkei Asian Review about this topic.

Recent Events

USJC Members Learn about Applying Lessons from Japan’s 3.11 Disaster to Texas Emergency Preparedness

Suzanne Basalla (left) and Donna Cole

On December 7, USJC members welcomed USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla to Houston, where she joined an Asia Society of Texas program titled “Learning from the Past: Japan’s 2011 Triple Disaster and Emergency Preparedness in Southeast Texas.” She shared her firsthand observations about Japan’s preparedness and the response of both countries to the 3.11 disasters, including the contributions of the TOMODACHI Initiative to Tohoku’s long-term recovery. Local experts looked at potential disasters in Southeast Texas that could also become complex, involving both natural and man-made elements, and focused on preparedness and disaster risk reduction options. Following the talk, USJC Board Member and Regional Chair Donna Cole gathered local members and supporters for a casual dinner and discussion of USJC’s upcoming activities, especially in Texas in the coming year. We thank Ms. Cole and Council Leader Glen Gondo for their generous welcome and support, and appreciate all the USJC members and friends who showed Suzanne their southern hospitality!

Regional Women in Leadership Update: Hawaii, DC and New York

The Regional Women in Leadership series, funded by the Embassy of Japan, continues to inspire women and men across the country. Here are some recent events.

First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige of Hawaii joined the Women in Leadership Luncheon hosted by USJC members in Honolulu on November 8th. Other guests included various Japanese students studying in Hawaii.

Ms. Amano-Ige (standing) and USJC Board Member Susan Eichor (right)

On November 28, USJC members in New York hosted a luncheon titled “The Balancing Act: Couples Empowering Women.” Panelists included Council Leader Fred Katayama and his wife Kaoriko Kuge; Council Leader Yoko Otani and her husband Nick Homma; and Kaori Nagao and her husband Taka Juba. Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, Council Leader, moderated the panel that discussed how women balance careers and families with the support of their husbands. Mr. Katayama reflected upon the event later and said: “It was intimate, warm, casual, honest and very personal. The event [captured] what the USJC mission is all about: educating people and allowing them to network, connecting Japanese and Japanese Americans and other Americans on a people-to-people basis.”

(L-R) Ms. Kuge, Mr. Katayama and Judge Matsumoto

Suzanne Basalla hosted a luncheon in Washington, DC on December 5th, where guests discussed the important role of mentoring in developing women leaders in the United States and Japan. Nobuko Sasae (seated second from the left), conference interpreter and wife of Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, joined the luncheon.


We thank all the members who organized and hosted these events, as well as everyone who attended!


The following is the first article in a year-long series by the 2016 class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program, who participated in the 2016 USJC Annual Conference last month. (Click here to see photos.)

Reflection from Russell Saito (ELP 2016)

The author (second from left) with fellow 2016 ELPs

I am sincerely honored and grateful to have had the amazing opportunity to participate in the 2016 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program held in Silicon Valley from Nov 11th to 15th. I have organized numerous leadership programs in the past and participated in many more, but ELP was by far the most meaningful program I’ve ever been involved in. For the past three weeks, I have reflected every day on the workshops I participated in and the people I met during the program.

The best part about graduating from the ELP program is that it seems more like a beginning than an ending. I hope to continue to learn and grow, both personally and professionally, by staying in close contact with my ELP family (both here in Tokyo and across the United States), volunteering at other TOMODACHI programs in Japan, and participating as a USJC Associate member. I was truly impressed by the geographical and social diversity of our ELP class, and hope to contribute as a virtual node for my peers who want to stay in touch with what is happening in Japan.

With Council Leader Rona Tison (right) and fellow ELPs

USJC provided us with the best available platform, tools and resources to effectively advance strong U.S.-Japan relations. As a proud graduate of the seventh TOMODACHI ELP, my next goal is to interact more with the USJC community as an Associate and to find ways to add value to the community. In particular, I would like to produce innovative, collaborative solutions to problems facing both the U.S. and Japan with regard to leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate innovation. Two outstanding USJC programs that are good models for this are the Silicon Valley Japan Platform (SVJP) and the TOMODACHI ELP program. I hope to find a way to learn from both of these programs.

I cannot adequately express my thanks to everyone who helped put the ELP program together, both this year and in the past. For me, one of the highlights of the conference was having an opportunity to meet our sponsors and learn firsthand their motivations for donating and their goals for the program. I would like to extend my very special thanks to Irene Hirano Inouye and our program organizers, Kaz Maniwa and Allison Murata, for their unwavering, long-term dedication to this event (as evidenced by the fact that neither slept at all during the program, because they were working so hard to ensure its success).

With Tokyo-based ELPs from current and past years: (L-R) Steve Sakanashi, Kaoru Utada Furuya, Yuri Hongo and Jonathan Abbott


Videos from the 2016-17 Watanabe Scholars

Three of this year’s Watanabe Scholars have shared their experience from their first semester studying in the United States!


Information and application materials for the 2017-18 scholarship program are coming soon!

Member News

John Onoda Inducted into PRWeek’s Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Member of the USJC Board of Councilors John Onoda (Senior Consultant, FleishmanHillard International Communications) for being inducted into PRWeek’s Hall of Fame! The Hall of Fame recognizes “those who have made outstanding contributions to the development of the communications industry.” Mr. Onoda was one of six leaders chosen this year. See PRWeek’s video about his work and accomplishments here or by clicking on the screenshot below (Mr. Onoda is the fifth individual from the top).

Mio Yamamoto featured in Japan Today


USJC Associate and Emerging Leaders Program alumna (2014) Mio Yamamoto was featured in Japan Today for her leadership in social entrepreneurship in Japan. Ms. Yamamoto, along with two co-founders, started the NPO World In Tohoku (WIT) following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Click here or on the image below to learn more about her and WIT!


Upcoming Events

George Takei’s Allegiance on the Big Screen


When: December 13, 2016 at 7:30pm
Where: Select Movie Theaters

More than 600 theaters nationwide will show the cinematic version of Allegiance, created by Member of the USJC Board of Councilors George Takei, on Tuesday, December 13th. It will be shown for one night only, at 7:30 p.m. local time. The film will include an introduction from Mr. Takei, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and taped interviews with the cast and creators. Allegiance is a musical inspired by Mr. Takei’s own experience, and tells the story of a family upended by the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Tickets can be purchased at allegiancemusical.com/movie or at participating theater box offices (theaters and participants are subject to change).

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, and Tourism (DBEDT), is 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” (Oita, Okayama, Nagano and Shizuoka) have been invited.

For more information, please click here. Registration and lodging information is forthcoming.