U.S. Japan Council Newsletter (January 16, 2020)

Foreign Minister Motegi Meets with Japanese American Leaders

On January 13, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi met with eight Japanese American leaders in San Francisco in order to learn more about Japanese Americans and discuss ways that Japan can further engage and collaborate with them. Foreign Minister Motegi shared his recognition of the struggles faced by Japanese Americans during World War II and commended the community for overcoming these obstacles in order to become valuable contributors within the United States, as well as agents of soft diplomacy for the U.S.-Japan relationship. The Japanese American leaders had the opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts with Foreign Minister Motegi.

Foreign Minister Motegi (center), Consul General Uyama (right) with Japanese American leaders. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan)

USJC members in attendance included Board Member Tasha Yorozu (JALD ’16), Member of the USJC Board of Councilors and SVJP Co-Chair Daniel Okimoto, Council Leaders Gary Mukai and Leroy Morishita, and USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa (JALD ’00). The meeting was chaired by Consul General Tomochika Uyama.

Recent Events

Nineteenth Business Advisory Board Meeting Welcomes Ren Ito, Vice President of Global Strategy at Mercari, Inc.

On December 16, the 19th U.S.-Japan Council Business Advisory Board (BAB) Meeting was held at the Tokyo American Club, featuring Ren Ito, Vice President of Global Strategy at Mercari, Inc., as the keynote speaker. Over 40 industry leaders from diverse fields gathered to listen to Mr. Ito speak.

The event began with opening remarks by USJC Board Member Scott Sato, followed by remarks from USJC Business Advisory Board Chairman Masaaki Tanaka and Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Paul Yonamine. Representative Director of the USJC (Japan) Board of Directors Royanne Doi touched on recent USJC activities, including the Kansai Business Forum, 2019 USJC Annual Conference, and sixth Asian American Leadership Delegation.

Two BAB members also introduced themselves, showcasing the diversity of USJC and BAB membership. Koichiro Kimura, Group Chairman and Territory Senior Partner for PwC Japan Group, explained the importance of a global business environment in Japanese companies today, discussing his own global foundations and how he uses them in his current position. Miho Aoki, Associate Professor at Showa Women’s University, talked about her experience in various corporate industries, and her decision to move to the field of education and develop the next generation of Japanese women leaders.

Mr. Ito addresses the audience

Mr. Ito, who spent 15 years working in the Japanese foreign service, began by briefly introducing Mercari Inc., a C2C marketplace which allows its users to buy and sell goods. Founded in 2013, almost 10% of the Japanese population are monthly users of Mercari. Mr. Ito explained the company’s goal of improving the negative perception of selling second-hand goods. A recent study by Mercari found that in just the past year, there was an increase in people who would consider reselling their items.

Mr. Ito went on to describe current global tech trends and business methods of adapting to these trends. With a shift in the youngest generation’s preference for experiences over consumption, Mercari’s market has moved away from luxury goods and towards meaningful experiences and handmade objects. Mr. Ito stressed the importance of creating a platform on par with social media and in line with the thought patterns of the new demographic of consumers.

Mr. Ito (right) speaks with TOMODACHI alumni

Following his speech, Mr. Ito received questions from TOMODACHI alumni. In response to questions about the challenges of business expansion abroad, Mr. Ito explained that companies in Japan must begin thinking globally from their inception in order to expand abroad, but that even with the necessary resources there can be limits to expansion. Mr. Ito was also asked about his decision to move from the foreign service to the tech field. He replied that his time as a diplomat exposed him to many different people, and he began to consider switching fields upon seeing a large movement to the private sector following the 2016 U.S. election.

Click here to see more photos. 

2019-20 Watanabe Scholars Gather for Leadership Weekend in Tokyo

From December 6 to 8, seventeen American Watanabe Scholars currently studying in Japan convened in Tokyo for a Leadership Weekend. The weekend kicked off with an opportunity for the Watanabe Scholars to network with USJC staff and TOMODACHI alumni over dinner.

(L-R) Mya Fisher, Kelly Nuibe, Jennifer Butler, Robin Lewis, Emi Terada

The scholars had a chance to hear from a panel of young professionals representing various fields. Speakers included Kelly Nuibe (ELP ‘19), Jennifer Butler (TOMODACHI Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ‘14), Emi Terada (TOMODACHI Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ‘19) and Robin Lewis (TOMODACHI NGO Leadership Program supported by J.P. Morgan ‘15). Speakers shared their stories and offered advice about entering the workforce, financial planning, job transitions and how timing plays a big role in making important life decisions. During lunch, Council Leader Roy Tomizawa spoke about his life and career in Japan from a Japanese American perspective, including stories about the challenges he has faced in different jobs, finding new opportunities and the joy of taking risks.

Hitomi Shibata (center) speak to scholars during speed-dating style networking

Students participated in a speed-dating style networking activity with professionals in global careers in order to learn more about their experiences working abroad. The participating professionals included Council Leader Yuhka Mera, Hitomi Shibata (TOMODACHI Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ‘19), Michael Turner from the U.S. Embassy Tokyo and Garvey McIntosh from NASA. The students then met with Representative Director of the USJC (Japan) Board of Directors Royanne Doi to hear her personal story of settling in Japan and ways in which she learned to thrive in a male-dominated field in a society still working toward workforce gender equality. The students also had lively conversations over dinner with Mr. and Ms. Watanabe, Japanese alumni of the scholarship and Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, who served on the selection committee.

2017-18 Watanabe Scholar, Sara Inoue (left) shares her study abroad advice with a current American Watanabe Scholar

Two Japanese alumni of the scholarship also joined the group to discuss the impact of their study abroad experiences. One of the alumni shared that it helped her to better understand herself and how much she valued being connected to the USJC community. 

Reflecting on the weekend, one scholar commented, “All of the people I’ve met this weekend are sincere and truly invested in us and want to help us if they can. It’s really humbling to see that and unbelievable that they care.”

The Leadership Weekend concluded with a resonating thought shared by one of the scholars. “Unlike other scholarships, I truly feel that once a Watanabe Scholar, always a Watanabe Scholar.”

Click here to see more photos.


Sumitomo Scholars Visit Washington, DC and New York City

The five participants of the 2019 TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program completed a training program this month, which was hosted by representatives from Sumitomo Corporation of Americas’ headquarters in New York. This scholarship program provides financial assistance to high-achieving Japanese undergraduate students to enable year-long study abroad in the United States.

The week-long training kicked off in New York with a welcome dinner, where the students shared their experiences and impressions with employees and executives of Sumitomo Corporation of America (SCOA). Following a meeting at SCOA’s New York headquarters, the students visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum to learn about a significant part of U.S. history and the impact this tragic event had on the city.

The scholars share their study abroad experience 

The following day, the students visited Hartz Mountain Corporation, a Sumitomo Corporation of Americas subsidiary retail pet care company in New Jersey that sells food, hygiene products, toys and preventative medicine for pets throughout the United States. The students had the opportunity to tour the facility and meet with the sales and marketing team to learn how Hartz is effectively targeting the pet care market.

The students then traveled to Columbia Business School’s Center on Japanese Economy and Business (CJEB) to have lunch with Japanese fellows who are currently conducting research. After lunch, the students met with Dr. Hugh Patrick, founder and chairman of CJEB, to discuss Japan’s current economic climate. They then had dinner at New York’s Sakagura restaurant with the CJEB fellows, as well as USJC members in the New York region.

The scholars visit the USJC office in Washington, DC

The program continued with a trip to Washington DC, where the students were briefed by SCOA’s Senior Director of Government Affairs on the United States’ political landscape. Later that day, the students visited USJC’s headquarters to meet with Executive Vice President Laura Abbot and discuss their experience studying in the United States. The group then enjoyed lively conversation at dinner with local young professionals and USJC members. The following morning, students embarked on a staff-led tour of the United States Capitol, where they were granted access into the chamber of the House of Representatives to hear live statements and proceedings. 

Following the tour, the scholars traveled back to New York where they were treated to a quintessential New York City experience: dinner at the Hard Rock Café and tickets to see Aladdin on Broadway. The program concluded with presentations from SCOA’s business and corporate groups, and a farewell lunch attended by SCOA colleagues.

Click here to see more photos. 

ELP News

Reflection from Niki Robins (ELP ’19)

The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2019 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP).

Click here or on the image above to hear Niki Robins (ELP ’19) talk about her experience with the Emerging Leaders Program, meaningful conversations she had about Japanese and Japanese American identity, and how she strives to use inclusive language in her work.

Click here to read more from Niki. 


2020-21 Watanabe Scholarship Applications Available!

The 2020-21 Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship Program applications are available now! This scholarship is offered to both American undergraduate or graduate students who plan to study in Japan as well as Japanese students intending to study in the United States. If you or someone you know is seeking financial aid to study abroad in either the United States or Japan, please click here to learn more about application requirements and eligibility.

This scholarship is possible thanks to a generous endowment gift of $10 million from Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe to the U.S.-Japan Council. It supports students for whom study abroad would not be possible without financial support, with special consideration for students from single-parent households and/or students who are the first in their family to attend college.

Member News

Ellen Kamei Elected Vice-Mayor

Congratulations to USJC Associate Ellen Kamei (ELP ’15) and Margaret Abe-Koga, who was a speaker at the 2016 USJC Annual Conference, for being elected Vice-Mayor and Mayor of Mountain View, California! Click here to read more. 

Sakura Yagi Featured in Eater New York

USJC Associate Sakura Yagi (ELP ’16) was recently featured in Eater New York. The article talks about how Sakura has modernized the East Village’s Japanese restaurants founded by her father, and how she is shaping the future of New York’s Little Tokyo. Click here to read more.

Upcoming Events

2020 USJC Annual Conference

When: November 20-21, 2020
Where: Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile (Chicago, IL)

*ELP Programming will be held on November 18 and Members Day will take place on November 19. 

Chiura Obata: American Modern

When: Ongoing through May 25, 2020
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC)

Chiura Obata (1885–1975) is a Japanese American artist who was born in Okayama and immigrated to California. Today Obata is best known for majestic views of the American West. During World War II, he created art schools in the Japanese American incarceration camps to help fellow prisoners cope with their displacement and loss.

Chiura Obata: American Modern presents more than 150 paintings and personal effects, many on public display for the first time in this tour. The exhibition’s presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is the final stop of a five-museum tour and the only venue east of the Rocky Mountains. For more information, please visit the SAAM website.


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.