U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (January 7th, 2016)

USJC Receives Foreign Minister’s Award

Happy New Year!

Here is some joyous news to start the year: USJC is proud to have received the 2015 Foreign Minister’s Award for “outstanding contributions in promoting the friendship and deep ties between Japan and the U.S.”

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye receiving the award from Ambassador Sasae

On December 16, USJC, represented by president Irene Hirano Inouye, received the award from Ambassador Keniichiro Sasae along with three other prominent Japanese American organizations: the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF). The award ceremony was part of the Embassy of Japan’s Japanese American Appreciation Week.

(L-R) Ms. Hirano Inouye, Mr. Cal Shintani (First Vice Chair of NJAMF), Ambassador Sasae, Mr. Mike Cardarelli (President of JAVA), and Mr. David Lin (National President of JACL)

“Never in our history have our [bilateral] relations been better,” Ambassador Sasae said. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) decided it was important to recognize select organizations and individuals who made this possible.” He then presented the award to each organization.

“The U.S.-Japan Council has been at the forefront of promoting deeper ties between Japan and the U.S.,” Ambassador Sasae said. “USJC connects government, political, business, and cultural leaders between the two countries.” He also recognized the TOMODACHI Initiative for “expand[ing] Japan-U.S. friendship” through educational, cultural and leadership opportunities to Japanese and American students.

Upon receiving the award, Irene Hirano Inouye thanked MOFA for its strong support, such as funding the Japanese American Leadership Delegation program and facilitating leaders like Prime Minister Abe and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoji Muto to speak at the USJC Annual Conference in Tokyo. In discussing the TOMODACHI Initiative, she said, “Having met the many young people who participate in TOMODACHI, I can say that the future of U.S.-Japan relations is very bright.”

Many Council members in the DC region attended the award ceremony — about a dozen were members of the other three organizations as well — and participated in a photo opportunity at the conclusion of the ceremony.

To learn more about the award, please visit the Embassy’s Facebook page.

We thank MOFA and the Embassy of Japan for this prestigious award, and congratulate the fellow awardees!

The USJC family with Ambassador Sasae and the award

Recent Events

Irene Hirano Inouye speaking at the New York seminar (Photo courtesy of Jiji Press)

Irene Hirano Inouye speaks at Jiji Top Seminars in New York and Los Angeles

On October 23 and November 23, 2015, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye spoke at the Jiji Press Top Seminar in New York and Los Angeles, respectively. Every year, Jiji Press holds seminars in several international cities, inviting prominent leaders in business, government and more. The Jiji Top Seminar has been organized for nearly forty years, with membership consisting mainly of Japanese business executive in the United States.

Many of our supporters attended the New York event, including Corporate Partners and other sponsors. Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, Consul General of Japan in New York, also took the time to attend. Under the theme “The evolving leadership of Japanese Americans,” Ms. Hirano Inouye spoke about the history of Japanese Americans, the Japanese American National Museum, the origins and current programs of USJC and the TOMODACHI Initiative.

The Los Angeles event also brought in many attendees — about fifty people — from the Japanese community in the region. Ms. Hirano Inouye spoke about USJC, TOMODACHI, and Japanese American leadership overall, and shared a video of three Japanese American pioneers, including Senator Daniel Inouye.

These events were made possible thanks to the leadership of Mr. Itsuro Umemoto, Bureau Chief of the Jiji Press New York Bureau. He met Irene Hirano Inouye through the introduction of Ms. Yuko Kaifu, Council Leader/USJC Member who is part of the Jiji Top Seminar membership in Los Angeles. Our sincere thanks to Jiji Press for this wonderful opportunity!

USJC Members Celebrate 2015 at the Tokyo Bonenkai

USJC President Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye

The USJC Japan Members End-of Year Party (Bonenkai) was held on December 7 at ANA InterContinental Tokyo. Approximately 38 participants, including Council members, Annual Conference Host Committee members, USJC supporters, and guests celebrated one of the most successful years for USJC in Japan. Ms. Janelle Sasaki, Membership Co-Chair for Japan, opened the event as the master of ceremonies, followed by USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, who expressed her deep appreciation to the audience for making the 2015 Annual Conference in November a great success. She added that planning for the 2016 Annual Conference has already begun.


Next, Mr. Russell Kawahara, Member of the USJC(J) Board of Directors and 2015 Annual Conference Host Committee Co-Chair, recognized the Host Committee members who were present. Following that, two 2015 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) participants, Ms. Evelyn Tokuyama and Mr. Steve Sakanashi, spoke about the program, their experience participating in it, and its overall impact in their lives both professionally and personally.


Ms. Sasaki shared her experience and a Japanese American perspective of the Tohoku Trip, an optional event offered on the heels of the Conference. The trip was organized by ELP alumni Ms. Lauren Ohata and Mr. Jonathan Abbott, and showed the strengths of the next generation of leaders born out of ELP.

After the toast by Mr. Alex Jampel, Membership Co-Chair for Japan, participants connected over dinner. As the event wrapped up, participants enjoyed raffle prizes, generously donated by USJC members, including a Christmas ornament from Ms. Hirano Inouye, Wendy’s gift certificates from Mr. Ernest Higa, Chair of the USJC(J) Board of Directors, and six months of mentoring and lunch from Ms. Royanne Doi, Member of the USJC(J) Board of Councilors and 2015 Annual Conference Host Committee Co-Chair. The Bonenkai concluded with closing remarks by Mr. Paul Yonamine, Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors.

To see more photos from the event, view the online album here.

Japanese Americans in Military Share Insights into Furthering Diversity

Three of six speakers at a recent panel discussion honoring Japanese Americans in the U.S. military were USJC members. Council Leaders/USJC Members Rear Admiral David Boone (ret.), Colonel Bruce Hollywood and Associate (Member) Lt. Commander Janelle Kuroda (USNR) were among the speakers on December 14 at the Japan Information and Culture Center.

Colonel Hollywood addresses the audience

Colonel Hollywood, Executive Director of the Japanese American Veterans Association, served as moderator. He said that the relationship between Japanese and Japanese Americans are the foundation of a strong U.S.-Japan alliance, and noted the diversity of the speakers, which included a lawyer, a doctor and engineers. (Col. Hollywood is also participating in the 2016 Japanese American Leadership Delegation program.)

Rear Admiral Boone discussed his experience growing up with an American father and a Japanese mother. His bilingual, bicultural upbringing helped his career in the Navy. “It pushed me to ask the right questions and think about the other culture,” he said. “As military personnel, it is important to be a global citizen.”

Lt. Commander Kuroda discusses her experiences in the service

Lt. Commander Kuroda said she wanted to continue her family’s legacy, as her granduncle served in the 100th Infantry Battalion. After working internationally in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, she is now based in Washington, DC as a Foreign Affairs Officer. (She was a 2010 participant of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.)

Lt. General Thomas Bostick, the son of an African American man and a Japanese woman, spoke about the importance of diversity. He noted that his father, who served in the military for 26 years, faced segregation, and touched upon the discrimination that African Americans, Japanese Americans, women and others have faced. “Think how things would’ve been if society had been more inclusive,” he said. He also said that although there has been significant improvement, like how all combat roles were opened to women (a milestone that was achieved just the week before), more needs to be done.

Adding to the discussion of diversity, Captain Cynthia Macri (ret.) explained that she was previously the Special Assistant of Diversity for the Chief of Naval Operations. She said that gender-neutral society changes were necessary, noting that there were very few women who reach the rank of four stars. When considering military personnel’s career advancement, “we need to see people as families, not individuals,” she said.

Rear Admiral Yuki Sekiguchi, Defense and Naval Attaché at the Embassy, brought a Japanese perspective to the discussion. He touched upon the importance of the United States and Japan understanding each other’s circumstances — like Article 9 in Japan — when cooperating for common goals.

The panel takes questions from the audience

Much to the audience’s delight, World War II veteran Terry Shima, who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made a special appearance and delivered closing remarks. “The 442nd and the Tuskegee airmen contributed to the climate of postwar reform,” he said, adding that the panelists and other Japanese American leaders were continuing that legacy by achieving a high level after “compet[ing] with the best of the best.” He also recognized the many civilian leaders who further propelled the movement towards equality, like Secretary Norman Mineta, the late Mike Masaoka and the late Senator Daniel Inouye.

This event was part of the Embassy of Japan’s Japanese American Appreciation Week. Click here for more information and to see the panelists’ bios.


The following is part of a year-long series of articles by the 2015 class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.

Reflection from Miki Sankary (ELP 2015)

Akemashite Omedeto (Happy New Year)!

The USJC Annual Conference this past November forever redefined my vision for Japanese American relations. Previously, having spent most of my life in the United States, visiting my mother’s family in Japan had shaped my relationship with the country.

My grandmother’s passing in 2010 left a hole in my heart. She was my last living grandparent in Japan, and had taught me the essence of “the Japanese way.” To her, I owe most of my deep connection with and understanding of Japanese culture. When she passed, my development of Japanese language and culture stalled. But I am happy to say now that through ELP and the community of USJC and TOMODACHI, I am reinvigorated to pick up where I had left off.

Although the program itself was short, the ELP experience brought new friendships that will last a lifetime. This is a family full of warm-hearted, compassionate, and ambitious brothers and sisters who all have incredible stories of what U.S.-Japan relations mean to them (as you will see in their reflections this year). Seeing my peers in the ELP cohort inspires me to find ways to apply our unique perspectives to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.

The USJC Annual Conference reestablished my relationship with Japan and the United States. Seeing hundreds of motivated people actively involved in deepening and strengthening the relationship between our two countries, I am truly humbled and honored to be a part of such a prestigious community. The ELP program has rejuvenated my desire to deepen my connection with Japan, most notably by executing on my lifelong dream of working for the Olympic Movement.

ELP 2015 with former U.S. Ambassador John Roos at the TOMODACHI Generation Summit at Sophia University

From a very young age, I found that strong international relations could be formed through friendly sport competitions. Having experienced firsthand what it means to play sports in a country different from one’s own, I realized early on that the Olympic Movement is a vehicle for cross-cultural exchange among athletes and supporters throughout the world. These programs foster and promote peaceful relationships among people of various backgrounds, through competition, business, and social interactions. With the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics on the horizon, it was a dream come true to meet the hammer throw Olympian, Dr. Koji Murofushi, who is also Sports Director of the Tokyo Organising Committee. As a distant cousin of mine, he shares the same family name as my mother. My family has cheered him on for years. Hearing his keynote speech, which shared his experience of being a ‘hafu’ (mixed Japanese) and called for a sustainable 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, only reaffirmed my lifelong passion to work for the Olympics. I sincerely hope to make significant contributions to the 2020 games given my professional experience as a sustainability consultant.

Meeting Dr. Koji Murofushi, Sports Director, The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

The USJC Conference in Tokyo brought together leaders from around world, thereby strengthening international ties. Cultivating these ties face-to-face is crucial for bettering our world. I would like to thank the USJC community for everyone’s efforts, financial contributions and time in making this a reality. My Japanese spirit has been reawakened, and I am passionate about being an active, inspiring leader in the USJC community for many years to come. As the Japanese saying goes, “Keizoku wa chikara nari (Perseverance is strength).”

ELP Sessions with Dr. Emily Murase and Mr. James Higa


2016 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Class Announced

Congratulations to the following individuals, who were selected as the 2016 delegates! They will visit Tokyo and Kobe from March 5 to 12, 2016, after attending a pre-trip orientation in Los Angeles from January 29 to 30. For more information on JALD, please visit the program’s webpage (bios of the delegates will be posted soon).

  • Bruce E. Hollywood – Fellow, White House Leadership Development Program (Washington, DC)
  • Bruce Harrell – City Council President, City of Seattle (Seattle, WA)
  • Eric Shintaro Hiraga – Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff, Denver International Airport (Denver, CO)
  • Stan Masamitsu – President, Tony Group (Honolulu, HI)
  • Kiyo Matsumoto – United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Monte Del Mar (Noda) Mesa – General Manager, Guam Premier Outlets (Tamuning, Guam)
  • Eric Nakajima – Director, Massachusetts Broadband Institute (Amherst, MA)
  • Darren T. Nakata – Attorney-at-Law, Perkins Coie LLP (Portland, OR)
  • Mark Yokoyama – Chief of Police, Alhambra Police Department (Alhambra, CA)
  • Tasha A. Yorozu – Managing Attorney, Yorozu Law Group (San Francisco, CA)

Annual Conference 2015 – Wrap Up Video

2016 is in full-swing! But our favorite moment from 2015 was the 2015 Annual Conference in Tokyo Japan.

Whether you were able to join us, re-live the excitement and energy through this #‎USJCAC wrap-up video to see some of the speakers and members who attended. (Maybe you’ll even see yourself!)


Looking for more videos? Check out our 2015 Annual Conference Video Playlist on YouTube.
We will be uploading speeches and more videos to this channel throughout the month!

Member News

Peter Kelley Receives Foreign Minister’s Commendation

Mr. Kelley with Ambassador Sasae and his wife Ms. Karen Duggan (Photo courtesy of NAJAS)

Congratulations to Friend of the Council Peter Kelley, President of the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS), who received the Foreign Minister’s Commendation last month! His award was for “play[ing] a key role in expanding and strengthening the network” of NAJAS and “greatly contribut[ing] to the advancement of mutual understanding and goodwill between Japan and the United States at the grassroots level.” He received the award at a ceremony at the Ambassador’s Residence on December 10. For more information, click here.

Upcoming Events

January 22 – U.S.-Japan Council’s New Years’ Reception (New York, New York)

Please join us in welcoming Mr. Paul Yonamine, the new Chairman of the USJC Board of Councilors, to New York. Mr. Yonamine is Country General Manager and President of IBM Japan. With over 23,000 employees and $8 billion of consolidated revenues, IBM Japan is the most successful and strategically important overseas unit of the IBM Corporation.

We will be also thanking Fred Katayama and Moni Miyashita for their 6+ years of service on the Board of Directors.

For more information on this event, please view the flyer.
To RSVP you and your guest, please fill out the following form.

January 24 – JCAW Presents: Shinshun Matsuri 2016 (Washington, DC)

Looking for a way to ring in 2016? The Japan Commerce Association of Washington, D.C. (JCAW) is holding a “Japanese New Year Celebration” this January.

The festival includes performances such as traditional dances, cultural games, origami and calligraphy workshops. Love food? The event boasts a large selection of Japanese cuisine from local restaurants, including zouni, takoyaki and oden. There will also be a mochi-making demonstration!

To view and download the event flyer, please click here. To learn more about the event and to purchase tickets, please visit the JCAW event page.

Ongoing – “Allegiance” The Musical (New York, NY)

“An important show with a phenomenal cast, it deserves to be seen!” – Entertainment Weekly

When USJC Board of Councilors Member George Takei first envisioned the idea of a Japanese American themed musical back in 2008, he never knew if it would ever come to fruition. Seven years later, Allegiance is on Broadway and is loved by those who see it!

The musical is “inspired by true events”– and follows the story of the Kimuras, a Japanese American family dealing with a post-Pearl Harbor America. Allegiance touches on many aspects of the Japanese American condition during World War II– from fighting for the United States military, to protesting the internment, to keeping the family united in uncertain times.

Starring George Takei himself (known for his role in the original Star Trek series) and Lea Salonga (known for her performances both on Broadway and in Disney movies), this powerful performance should not be missed!

To learn more about the musical or to purchase tickets, please visit its website. The musical only runs through February 14th, so make sure to reserve your tickets now!

Ongoing – Out of the Desert: Resilience and Memory in Japanese American Internment (New Haven, CT)

After more than a year of curatorial work, the exhibition “Out of the Desert: Resilience and Memory in Japanese American Internment” is now open at Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library. This is Yale Library’s inaugural exhibition to draw from multiple archives across the university. It is also the first-ever exhibit centered on Asian American history.

The exhibit can be traced back to the 2013 USJC Annual Conference in Washington, DC. At the conference, USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa introduced Courtney Sato (ELP ’13) to Council Member Delphine Hirasuna, curator of the exhibit “The Art of Gaman.” After meeting Ms. Hirasuna, Ms. Sato began research to identify internment materials already housed in Yale’s collections. She quickly uncovered a vast but largely unknown collection of materials related to internment.

The work features a digital touchscreen exhibit that is live at outofthedesert.yale.edu. Visitors to the website can scroll through exhibit materials, including a copy of the 1943-1944 Manzanar High School Yearbook, engineering maps of Poston, correspondence between internees and Quaker activists, and handmade Junior Red Cross scrapbooks. The exhibition will run through February 26, 2016.



USJC is seeking a full-time Executive Director for the Council’s newest initiative, the Silicon Valley – Japan Platform (SVJP). The Executive Director position will have primary responsibility for administrative and operational support to USJC’s Silicon Valley Project, including: office management; executive and organizational support for the Executive Director, Chairman and Executive Committee, SVJP; and general administrative support duties. Travel, especially between Japan and Silicon Valley, is expected.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.


The position will have primary responsibility for engagement of the approximately 400 Council Leaders/Members who comprise the membership of the organization, the majority of whom are Japanese American and all of whom are leaders committed to U.S.-Japan relations. Council Leaders/Members live and work across the United States and in Japan, represent different generations, and come from diverse professional backgrounds. Additionally, this position will be responsible for engagement and outreach of Corporate Partners, as well as leaders of other organizations with aligned mission and purpose. The position will develop outreach and engagement strategies, plan and implement regional educational programs and networking, and amplify the impact of the organization through the activities of its Council Leaders/Members. The position requires an individual who is flexible, experienced, diplomatic, able to multi-task and prioritize, well-organized, able to plan and meet deadlines, an excellent communicator in writing and verbally, and is comfortable working independently and as part of a team. Frequent short-duration travel throughout the United States and occasionally to Japan is anticipated.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.


Working under the Executive Director of TOMODACHI, the Program Manager is responsible for helping to find, select, develop, manage, monitor and evaluate 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 and other key TOMODACHI team members in the implementation of this mission.

For more information and to apply, click here.