U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 16th, 2017)

2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation Returns Home

The eleven delegates of the 2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program returned home on March 11 after a full week of meetings, discussions and networking opportunities with Japanese leaders. The purpose of the program is to build people-to-people relationships with Japanese leaders from various sectors of society in order to strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations.

The delegates at the Ohi Pottery Museum in Kanazawa, where the 11th master potter, Toshio Ohi (center), gave a presentation

This year’s delegation visited Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture. The delegates participated in a symposium titled “Culture and Community Engagement: A Japanese American Perspective,” (see this webpage for more information), co-sponsored by USJC and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ishikawa Prefectural Government. It was very well received, with over 150 individuals in attendance. The group also toured the Fukumitsu Sake Brewery (whose President was a discussant at the symposium), as well as Kenrokuen Garden and several museums.

The Symposium in Kanazawa featured (from left) Leslie Ito, Ken Russell and Wendy Takahisa, and discussed the impact culture has on community development

In Tokyo, the group met with Prime Minister Abe. The Prime Minister emphasized that he valued the role of Japanese Americans, touching upon his visit to Hawaii last year, where he visited Pearl Harbor and attended a dinner with 1,000 Japanese Americans. (For a summary of his speech, click here.) The delegation thanked the Prime Minister for his support of U.S.-Japan relations and of Japanese Americans. (More information is available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (in Japanese) and a video of the discussion).

The Prime Minister took photos with each of the delegates, including Gary Yamashita

The delegates also participated in a dinner with Tokyo-based USJC members, as well as the TOMODACHI reception commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. They also met with many other individuals and organizations, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), Forum 21, Ambassador Masaharu Kohno, Japan Foundation CGP, the U.S. Embassy, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yohei Kono, Representative Taro Kono and other Diet members.

The delegates with Ambassador Masaharu Kohno, Member of the USJC Board of Councilors (center)

The JALD program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organized by USJC.

Click here to view more photos from the trip. Click here for more information on the program and biographies of all eleven delegates.

Recent Events

Boston Luncheon Commemorates the Sixth Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake

(L-R) Hideki Matsunaga, Megumi Ishimoto, Board Member Atsuko Fish, and Consul General of Japan in Boston Rokuichiro Michii

On March 10, USJC and The Fish Family Foundation co-hosted a luncheon in Boston to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The luncheon featured Megumi Ishimoto, the founder of Women’s Eye, a Tohoku-based organization that empowers women and fosters the next generation of women leaders in Tohoku. She is an alumna of the TOMODACHI NGO Leadership Program supported by JP Morgan, as well as a 2014 Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative Fellow. Hideki Matsunaga, Board Member of Tono Magokoro Net and former Japan Platform Tohoku Team Lead, spoke about his involvement in a number of Tohoku-based projects and organizations including BEYOND Tomorrow.

Miami Event Discusses Strengthening Florida-Japan relations

On Tuesday, March 14, Florida International University invited Ken Okaniwa, Consul General of Miami; David Woodward, Executive Director of the Southeast U.S./Japan Association; and Deborah Grant, Director of Development at USJC to talk about ongoing projects designed to strengthen the Florida-Japan and U.S.-Japan relationship.

(L-R) Mr. Fuentes, Juan-Carlos del Valle, Executive Director of Development at FIU, Ms. Grant and Pedro Botta, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at FIU

FIU is poised to expand its East Asian Studies Department (housed at the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs), with a special focus on Japan. A special thanks to Council Leader Jose Fuentes (Attorney-at-Law at Becker & Poliakoff LLC), who supported the event.

Midwest Bids Kenji Negi Farewell

Members of the Midwest region gathered on February 17 to wish Associate Kenji Negi well as he prepares to move to Tokyo. Members expressed that they will miss Kenji very much, but that they are also excited to welcome new JALD delegate Mike Takada to the region.

Kenji Negi (seated, fourth from right) with USJC members and friends


TOMODACHI Reception and Roundtable Commemorate Sixth Anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake

On March 9, the TOMODACHI Initiative held a reception and roundtable in Tokyo, in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. There, TOMODACHI committed further support for the rebuilding of Tohoku and the fostering of tomorrow’s leaders.

The roundtable discussion with (left side of the table) TOMODACHI alumni and (right side of the table, L-R) Governor Uchibori, Irene Hirano Inouye, Chargé d’Affaires Hyland, and Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy Margot Carrington

The evening began with a roundtable discussion among USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, Chargé d’Affaires Jason P. Hyland of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, and five TOMODACHI alumni from Fukushima prefecture. The alumni shared their aspirations as tomorrow’s leaders in shaping the future of the region, and Governor Uchibori expressed his delight in meeting such ambitious young leaders who want to give back to their communities.

In addition to the individuals above, more than 200 distinguished guests attended the reception, including First Lady of Japan Akie Abe and Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Motome Takisawa. Representatives from TOMODACHI’s sponsors and partner organizations and TOMODACHI alumni also attended, as well as the 2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation.

Three TOMODACHI alumni shared how their experience abroad influenced their decision to become leaders of the next generation. Yuka Midorikawa, who participated in the TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Program, discussed how the program enabled her to face her regrets stemming from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and turn it into a positive energy. ‘Alika Guerrero, alumnus of the TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program, shared what he and his classmates studying the Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii Hilo learned from meeting the Ainu people. Yu Awai, who completed the TOMODACHI Disability Leadership Program in America, read a poem she wrote based on her experience in Boston.

Mrs. Abe (center) and Irene Hirano Inouye laugh with TOMODACHI alumni

Chargé d’Affaires Hyland called TOMODACHI “a great model for how to support our youth, how to bring the United States and Japan even closer together, and how to foster the skills and mindset young people need to succeed in life.”

Vice-Minister Takisawa said, “We hope that the many young leaders who participate in TOMODACHI programs will continue to bridge the United States and Japan, and help keep U.S.-Japan relations strong and steady in the future.”

Takeru Saito (left), who is from Fukushima and was part of the roundtable, performs jazz with fellow TOMODACHI Suntory Scholar Shun Kumagai

In addition to expressing her appreciation to the guests who have been involved with TOMODACHI, Irene Hirano Inouye announced the launch of the “TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Framework,” an effort to further strengthen support for the TOMODACHI Generation. This framework introduces new leaders in seven regions of Japan.

Afterwards, Shun Kumagai and Takeru Saito, who are current and former students at the Berklee College of Music through the TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund, entertained guests with their jazz performance.

(Back row, L-R) Governor Uchibori, Mrs. Abe, Irene Hirano Inouye, Vice-Minister Takisawa, Chargé d’Affairs Hyland and ‘Alika Guerrero; (Front row, L-R) Yui Awai and Yuka Midorikawa

TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Framework Launched

On March 10 and 11, several USJC members supported the orientation of young leaders involved in the TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Framework.

TOMODACHI Alumni Manager Kaoru Utada Furuya (left) shares a laugh with TOMODACHI alumni Kana Sagawa and Shota Eda

The framework, which was just launched on March 9 as part of the TOMODACHI reception commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake (see the article above), introduces new leaders in seven regions of Japan, each with at least one university student serving as the regional leader, one high school student as the deputy regional leader, and one young professional as the regional mentor. The framework further strengthens support for the TOMODACHI Generation by offering more opportunities for them to inspire and empower each other, and develop skills by organizing activities and events in their respective regions

The orientation was organized by TOMODACHI Alumni Manager (and USJC Associate as well as 2010 alumna of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP)) Kaoru Utada Furuya. Regional leaders and deputy leaders, as well as a few other TOMODACHI alumni, participated in dynamic discussions led by the regional mentors and other USJC members.

The career panel with (L-R) Mr. Ishii, Ms. Kato, Mr. Sakanashi, Ms. Vaughn and Ms. Taira

Events on March 10, held at the American Center Japan, included a workshop on leadership personality by 2014 alumna of the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program Mai Taira; a discussion on perfecting the elevator pitch, led by USJC Associate and ELP ’15 Steve Sakanashi; and a session on critical thinking in an age where fake news is rampant, led by Associate and ELP ’12 Ginger Vaughn. A panel discussion with the above three individuals, as well as Kazunori Ishii and Minori Kato, Associates and alumni (2016 and 2015, respectively) of the Mitsui program, showcased the variety of careers and pathways young professionals can take.

The session on Tobitate included discussions with officials from MEXT (left) and a virtual presentation by TOMODACHI alumnus Shota Sakurai (center), who is also a Tobitate scholar

Other discussions included sessions regarding other study abroad opportunities like EducationUSA (led by the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section) and Tobitate (led by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)). The young leaders also visited Prudential Financial, where they enjoyed an engaging lecture by Royanne Doi (Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Directors; Corporate Chief Ethics Officer at Prudential Financial) on how ethics is defined, what reasons lie behind misconduct, and why companies with good ethics are ultimately more successful.

The group enjoyed the presentation by Ms. Doi (front row, second from left)

Events on March 11 continued with remarks by USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, a moment of silence at 2:46pm (when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck six years ago), and further workshops with the regional mentors.

For more information about the framework, please see the new TOMODACHI Alumni website at www.tomoalumni.org.

Building the TOMODACHI Generation Program Continues to Inspire Young Leaders

Students revise their TOMODACHI pledge, a tradition of this program (All photos courtesy of TWC)

The Building the TOMODACHI Generation Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program successfully concluded in the beginning of March after two weeks of intense discussions on civil society. This year, the program welcomed 21 college students (nine Americans and twelve Japanese), who participated in panel discussions, site visits and team-building exercises.

Students engage in discussions with Mr. Go Kobayashi, Manager of the DC Headquarters, USJI (center)

Program highlights include the welcome session, which featured remarks by USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla, and the closing reception, which was attended by several DC-based USJC members, including Council Leaders Edson Mori, John Tobe and Mark Uyeda, and Associate Laura Winthrop Abbot. Topics covered during the program ranged from the role of civil society to cross-sector partnerships, with speakers that include USJC Associate and ELP ’15 Rei Tsuchiya, USJC Director of Education Mya Fisher and Director of Communications Shiori Okazaki.

A scene from the team-building exercises

See more photos from the closing reception on The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) Flickr album here. This program was developed through a partnership between TWC and the U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI). It is administered by TWC and generously funded by Morgan Stanley.

TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University for Female Students Kicks Off in Houston, Texas

The 2017 TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University for Female Students is a five-week research internship program for ten female undergraduates from Japan who are majoring in science and engineering.

Council Leaders Glen Gondo (back row, center) and Donna Cole (back row, far right) with TOMODACHI students and supporters

Under the leadership of Council Leader Donna Cole, USJC members have been active in supporting the students during their time in Houston. Some highlights from their trip include a welcome dinner hosted by Consul General Tetsuro Amano; a weekend brunch with successful women in STEM careers, hosted by Ms. Cole at her home; and a discussion with Council Leader Glen Gondo about his personal journey from internment camp to being dubbed “sushi king of Texas.”

The STEM @ Rice students also had the opportunity to meet University of St. Thomas TOMODACHI Kakehashi Inouye Scholars, and a Sumitomo Scholar studying at Rice.

USJC supporters including Dow Chemical also facilitated a factory tour for the STEM @ Rice students.

Now Accepting Applications for the 2017 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program

USJC and the TOMODACHI Initiative are pleased to announce the fifth year of the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program, a unique bicultural exchange program designed to motivate a new generation of leaders and creative thinkers who are interested in the future of U.S.-Japan relations. We are seeking qualified professionals from across America and Japan who are active in the public and private sectors.

The American delegation will travel to Iwate Prefecture and Tokyo, and the Japanese delegation will travel to Houston, Texas and Washington, DC.

Click here to read the 2017 program announcement. Details are also available online here.

2016 Mitsui delegates on a bus


2017 Annual Conference: Save the Date!


U.S.-Japan Council 2017 Annual Conference
Unity in Diversity: Shaping the Future Together
JW Marriott Washington, DC
November 13-14 (TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program on November 11 and USJC Members Day on November 12)

The 2017 Annual Conference will be held from November 13 to 14 at the JW Marriott Washington, DC. This year, we are returning to our nation’s capital to discuss changes under a new administration. Following an election that divided the nation, we will discuss how to respect differences of opinion and find common ground as we work together toward mutually beneficial goals. At the same time, we will showcase and examine how global perspectives and diversity empower both the United States and Japan. We will exchange views on how international businesses and organizations can continue to expand in a changing political environment, and get work done to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship. We will also provide opportunities to network with stakeholders in the new administration and on Capitol Hill, and provide insight into the political and diplomatic arenas. More information to come soon. Please save the date in your calendar!

2016 USJC Annual Report Now Available!


The 2016 USJC Annual Report is now available! They will soon be mailed to members and sponsors, and a digital version is also on our website here. We hope you will be proud of our collective accomplishments resulting in another successful year of impactful programs and events. This wonderful design was once again made possible through the support of Board Member Leona Hiraoka. A Japanese version of the report will be available soon.

Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative Now Accepting Applications

Applications are now open for the 2017 Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (JWLI) Executive Leadership Development Training!

JWLI empowers Japanese women to become leaders and to make positive social change in Japan. In its 10th year, JWLI is launching a new program called JWLI-II, which focuses on executive leadership training and encouraging Japanese women to be action-oriented leaders.

JWLI-II is a four-week training program in Boston and will include participation in the Women’s Leadership Program at Babson College, a five-day intensive entrepreneurial management program, and visits to successful nonprofit organizations in Boston to learn their best practices in nonprofit management and leadership.

Applications must be submitted by May 8. Click here to learn more about the program and how to apply!

Watanabe Scholars Leadership Weekend Highlight Video Now Available

The highlight video of the 2017 Watanabe Scholars Leadership Weekend (February 17-19) is now available! The inaugural cohort of Watanabe Scholars gathered in Los Angeles to meet one another, undergo leadership training and to report their experiences of living and studying in the United States. These ten scholars are recipients of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, which is made possible by a generous endowment gift of $10 million from Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe to USJC.


Click here or on the image above to see the highlight video of the Watanabe Scholars Leadership Weekend!

Click here to see more photos from the weekend.

Member News

Kenshiro Uki featured on Eater

USJC Associate Kenshiro Uki (ELP ’14) spoke to Top Chef’s Sheldon Simeon in a video featured on Eater! They talk about the difference between ramen and saimin, Sun Noodle’s impact on food culture in Hawaii and across the United States, and the early beginnings of the Uki family’s noodle operation. Click here or on the image below to see the segment.


Upcoming Events

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II


When: Ongoing through February 19, 2018
Where: National Museum of American History

In February, the National Museum of American History opened a year-long exhibit to mark 75 years since Executive Order 9066 authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. On display will be 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.

Japanese Traditional Comedy Show – Rakugo


When: March 24, 2017 at 6:30pm
Where: Jones Hall, University of St. Thomas Houston

This traditional Japanese comedy show, or rakugo, is co-hosted by the Japanese Association of Greater HoustonThe University of St. Thomas HoustonCole Chemical & Distributing, Inc. and USJC. There will be seven Japanese comedians performing and snacks will be provided.

Admission is free but seating is limited. Please RSVP by March 15 by emailing Ms. Ingrid Hill at [email protected].

Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscovered


When: April 8, 2017 at 10:00am
Where: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

For the first time in nearly 140 years, three large-scale works by the legendary Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro are reunited at the Freer| Sackler beginning Saturday, April 8. The exhibition showcases Moon at Shinagawa from the Freer|Sackler along with Snow at Fukagawa from the Okada Museum of Art and Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Depicting the themes of snow, moon, and flowers, the triptych was last shown in Japan in 1879. The Freer|Sackler is the only location at which all three original pieces are on view.

For more information, please visit the Freer|Sackler website here.

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 & Tourism, the summit is a three day event 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” (Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Oita, Okayama, Nagano and Shizuoka) have been invited.

For more information and to register, please click here.


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.