U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (February 28th, 2019)

Watanabe Scholars Leadership Weekend

The scholars at their welcome dinner with Lauren Ohata (right)

From February 15 to 17, 24 recipients of the 2018-19 Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship gathered in Los Angeles to participate in the 2019 Watanabe Scholars Leadership Weekend.

The Watanabe Scholars Leadership Weekend is a unique feature of the Watanabe Scholarship that brings together the cohort of Japanese scholars currently studying in the United States. The scholars meet one another, participate in leadership training and report their experiences of living and studying in the United States. This year, they were joined by four American scholars who will study in Japan during the spring semester of 2019. On the night of their arrival in LA, the scholars attended welcome dinners. They were joined by USJC Associates Craig Ishii, Lauren Ohata and Staci Toji, who shared their career paths and involvement with the Council.

Alumnae Masumi Abe (left) and Ayumi Kuriki

On the second day of the program, the scholars heard from a panel featuring two Watanabe Scholarship alumnae: Masumi Abe, who is pursuing a graduate degree at California State University at Fullerton, and Ayumi Kuriki, an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles. The two alumnae talked about their own study abroad experiences and shared advice with the scholars on how to make the most out of their time abroad and connections with USJC. Later in the day, a panel of USJC Associates David Kenji Chang (who is also a Board Member), Evelyn Tokuyama and Amy Watanabe shared their insights on how they prepared for internships and job searching when they were students.

The students also attended a session led by Mr. Watanabe, who spoke about the importance of goal setting and how to envision and achieve your dreams. The students then enjoyed a reception where they connected with USJC Regional Chairs (click here to learn more about the Regional Chairs meeting that same weekend in Los Angeles).

Mr. Watanabe addressing the students

Looking back at the weekend, Maaya Sato, one of the Japanese Scholars, commented, “I am moved to know that there are many great people out there who really care about us and are willing to support us. I am beyond grateful and honored to be a part of USJC as a Japanese student who is eager to pursue a career in the United States after graduation.”


Click here for more photos.

Recent Events

2019 USJC Regional Chairs Meeting in Los Angeles

(L-R) Grant Tanabe (Regional Chair of Japan), Kei Ashizawa (Regional Vice Chair of Texas) and Ann Teranishi (Regional Chair of Hawaii) participate in discussions

On February 15 and 16, USJC Regional Chairs gathered in Los Angeles for a meeting. The Regional Chairs are members who represent Japan and areas across the United States. They discussed their regions’ achievements, plans and challenges, and how they can further support the mission of USJC.

Southeast Regional Chair José Fuentes with Diet Member Rui Matsukawa

Regional Chairs had the unique opportunity to meet with Members of the House of Councillors Iwao Horii and Rui Matsukawa. They also met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials Eiichi Hasegawa, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister; Tadahiko Kozaki, Secretary to Mr. Hasegawa; Naoki Takahashi, Director, Regional Policy Division; Kentaro Yamane, First North America Division; and Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Chiba. Professor Nanako Murata-Sawayanagi from Toyo University also attended the meeting.

USJC Regional Chairs meet with Diet Members and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Officials (Photo courtesy of Bruce Hollywood)

The weekend also included networking with USJC members in Southern California, as well as the 2019 Annual Conference Host Committee in Los Angeles that is led by Board Members Yuko Kaifu and Dennis Sugino. Regional Chairs also attended a reception with Mr. and Mrs. Toshizo Watanabe, and met Watanabe Scholars studying in their respective regions. Thank you to everyone for their participation!

The Regional Chairs (and Co-Chairs or Vice Chairs when applicable) are:

  • Hawaii (Ann Teranishi & Yoh Kawanami)
  • Japan (Grant Tanabe)
  • New England/Boston (Ginny Fordham)
  • New York & Vicinity (Susan Onuma)
  • Northern CA (Emily Murase & Dana Heatherton)
  • Midwest (Lisa Sakai)
  • Mountain (Tim Higashide)
  • Pacific NW (Colleen Fukui-Sketchley (Seattle) & Verne Naito (Portland))
  • Southeast (José Keichi Fuentes)
  • Southwest/Southern CA (Terry Hara)
  • Texas (Donna Cole & Kei Ashizawa)
  • Washington, DC (Bruce Hollywood)

Click here to view more photos from the Regional Chairs Meeting.


Winners of the U.S. Embassy-Keio SFC-TOMODACHI Entrepreneurship Seminar Discuss Their Business Plan in Silicon Valley

Dr. Okimoto shares his thoughts with the students

In February, students from Osaka University and Kyoto University who belong to one of the two winning teams of the U.S. Embassy-Keio SFC-TOMODACHI Entrepreneurship Seminar traveled to Silicon Valley for one week. The students of “Team Genesis” met with Member of the USJC Board of Councilors (and Co-Chair of the Silicon Valley Japan Platform (SVJP)) Dr. Daniel Okimoto and his wife, USJC member Michiko Okimoto. The Okimotos welcomed the students warmly, and provided feedback on the team’s business plan to create an environment in Japan where people can openly and honestly discuss sex and sexual consent. The Okimotos also led a discussion on many issues, particularly Japanese industries as seen from an international perspective.

After a brief discussion on the differences between the United States and Japan in regards to sexual health, sexual consent and gender equality, Team Genesis presented its business plan.

The students listen to feedback on their business plan

After listening to their ten-minute pitch, Dr. Okimoto commented on the incredible courage needed for young women to pursue a business with such strong societal implications, especially in Japan where sex and sexual violence remain topics that are often not openly discussed. In such an environment, he said, it can be difficult for university students to take on the challenge of changing societal views, but their continued belief in themselves and their mission was truly inspiring.

He then offered many constructive comments to the students, sharing his expertise on the flow of people and businesses, as well as the importance of creating incentives and reaching as many people as possible. The students found this advice highly relevant as they continue to improve their business plan.

Dr. Okimoto also discussed his work with SVJP, his views on the disparity between networking in Japanese corporations and international standards, and his attitude towards risk and problem-solving, providing insightful commentary to the attendees.

He concluded the meeting by emphasizing his strong belief in the potential of Japan, inspiring the students to continue building ties between the United States and Japan in order to maximize this potential throughout the world.

Team Genesis with Dr. Okimoto

Applications Open for the 2019 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program


Entering its seventh year, this exchange program provides participants with unique access to leaders in the U.S.-Japan arena, and the opportunity to broaden their perspectives to enhance work or initiatives in their professional fields. Ten American and ten Japanese young professionals will travel to one another’s countries for one week to engage as a group and meet with established and up-and-coming leaders from business and government.

The deadline to apply is April 4, 2019 for American applicants and April 18, 2019 for Japanese applicants. For more information and to apply click here.

Applications Open for the TOMODACHI-UNIQLO Fellowship


The TOMODACHI-UNIQLO Fellowship is a scholarship program managed by the TOMODACHI Initiative. This scholarship program supports those who aspire to be globally-oriented business executives or fashion designers in the future as they study abroad at graduate design schools in the United States.

Eligible applicants are Japanese citizens who have been accepted to either the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York (FIT), or Parsons The New School for Design, School of Fashion (Parsons). The scholarship provides up to $90,000 for FIT, and up to $150,000 for Parsons.

Application guidelines are available through each school. Please apply directly to the respective schools. For more details, please click here.

Member News

Secretary Norman Mineta in The Asahi Shimbun; Documentary Set to Premiere on PBS on May 20

The Asahi Shimbun recently published an in-depth article on Secretary Norman Mineta (Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors), based on interviews he gave during the 2018 USJC Annual Conference, when his documentary Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story (co-produced by Council Leaders Dianne Fukami (who also directed the film) and Debra Nakatomi) premiered in Japan. The article was published in time for the Day of Remembrance, February 19, which commemorates the day that President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Click here to read the article (available to paid subscribers only).

The film is now scheduled to premiere on PBS on May 20, 2019, from 9 to 10pm Eastern Time. For more information, please click here.

In Memoriam

USJC is saddened by the passing of Professor Emeritus Donald Keene, a Columbia University professor who, through his literary criticism, changed the global understanding of Japanese literature. Many USJC members, especially in New York and Japan, studied under him or knew him well. A well-known and beloved figure in both countries, he will be missed dearly by the USJC community.

Upcoming Events

Trilateral Japan-U.S.-Israel Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics

When: February 28, 2019 at 6:30pm-8:00pm
Where: Greenberg Traurig LLP (Atlanta, GA)

Partnerships and investments between the United States, Japan, and Israel are transforming societies across the globe and creating a more interconnected world. Join us for a panel discussion featuring government, private sector and academic experts who will discuss challenges to overcome and opportunities for trilateral collaboration, as AI integrates further into society and our everyday lives.

USJC is a co-organizer of this event. For more information and to register, click here.

Three Sectors, Three Approaches: Cities That Attract Youth

When: March 7, 2019 at 6:00pm-8:00pm
Where: Kumamoto City Hall, Large Hall (Kumamoto City, Japan)

This symposium is part of the 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation Program and is co-organized by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), USJC and Kumamoto City, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kumamoto Prefecture is facing a serious issue: a decrease in young people. Declining birthrate is not the primary cause; rather, the number of people who move out of the prefecture exceeds those moving in. At this symposium, Kumamoto residents and Japanese American leaders will exchange ideas on how to create an attractive city for future generations. The three Japanese American panelists, representing academia, civil society and the private sector, respectively, are: Dr. Mariko Silver, Dr. Britt Yamamoto, and Ms. Kelly Yamasaki. Dr. Kirk Masden (Associate Professor, Kumamoto Gakuen University) and Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye will moderate this discussion following the panelists’ presentations.

To see more information, please click here. To register for the event, please email [email protected].

Chiura Obata: An American Modern

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

When: Ongoing through 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. 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.)

An American Dream

When: March 15, 2019 at 7pm – 10pm
Where: Harris Theater (Chicago, IL)

Set during World War II, this opera explores the lives of two women: a Japanese American forced to leave her home, and a German Jewish immigrant preoccupied by those she left behind. In its Seattle Opera world premiere, it was called “a heart-wrenching opera… eloquent and moving” by The Seattle Times. Join us for the Lyric premiere of a contemporary American chamber opera. Performances at 7pm on Friday, March 15 and Sunday, March 17.

For more information, click here.

The Future of the U.S.-Japan Friendship: How International Exchange and Tourism are Changing Perspectives

When: March 21, 2019 at 3:00pm-5:45pm
Where: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (Washington, DC)

Join the Japan International Transport Institute (JTTRI・JITI) and the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) to hear from experts in international exchange and tourism between the U.S. and Japan. They will speak on the current situation and issues in their field, the many aspects of their efforts, and the measures which need to be taken to deepen international exchange, including tourism between the U.S. and Japan. Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Secretary Norman Mineta is a keynote speaker and USJC Executive Vice President & COO Laura Winthrop Abbot is a panelist.

Click here for more information and to register.


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.

Intern (Tokyo, Japan)

The TOMODACHI Initiative is seeking qualified interns on a part-time or full-time basis. This internship program offers outstanding opportunities for college students, graduate students and graduates who are interested in U.S.-Japan relations. Duties generally consist of program and event coordination and support, website/social media support, organization and attendance at special events, student outreach and communication, writing and translation (as able). Duties may be tailored to the intern’s interests. Interns will work with individuals from the U.S.-Japan Council, the U.S. Embassy and other key TOMODACHI team members.

Click here for more information about the position.