U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 1st, 2018)

Japanese American Leaders Meet with Japanese Ambassador and Consuls General

On February 13 in Chicago, prominent Japanese Americans selected by their respective Consuls General from across the United States participated in a discussion with Japanese government leaders as part of MOFA’s annual meeting of the Ambassador, Consuls General and Japanese American Leaders (CG-JA).

Japanese American leaders gather for dinner on the evening prior to the meeting

The discussion focused on several key issues for the Japanese government and regions across the United States, including strengthening regional ties, public diplomacy and bilateral exchange programs. Participants shared their views on the U.S.-Japan relationship one year into the current U.S. presidential administration, the importance of partnering with other communities on issues of mutual interest, exploring new opportunities for programs that build goodwill between the two countries (the TOMODACHI Initiative, KAKEHASHI Project, etc.) and more. USJC Board Member Yuko Kaifu was a special guest and presented on the current status of JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles and its mission to promote public diplomacy and cultural exchange.

Irene Hirano Inouye (left) recognizes Ambassador Sasae as an Honorary Japanese American

Following the meeting, Ambassador of Japan Kenichiro Sasae hosted a lunch at the Union League Club of Chicago for the Japanese American leaders, Consuls General and Honorary Consuls General. After the Ambassador’s speech, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye gave remarks. As a special token of appreciation for his years of service and friendship to the Japanese American community, she presented the soon-departing Ambassador with a certificate recognizing him as an Honorary Japanese American.

Participants gather for a group photo

The CG-JA meeting is an annual collaborative effort between the Embassy of Japan and the U.S.-Japan Council. This year, the discussion was co-chaired by Irene Hirano Inouye and Takuya Sasayama, Minister and Head of Chancery at the Embassy of Japan.


2018 JALD Symposium in Yamaguchi City


The delegates of the 2018 Japanese American Leadership Delegation are getting ready to depart for Japan tomorrow! The ten delegates will be visiting Tokyo and Yamaguchi Prefecture. On March 8 in Yamaguchi City, they will present at the Japanese American Leadership Symposium, titled “The Japanese American Experience: Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the first emigration from Japan to Hawaii.” Three JALD participants who have ties to Hawaii or Yamaguchi will reflect upon the journey of Japanese Americans. They will share their family history, including how their families overcame obstacles in adjusting to life in America.

The panelists will share their personal views on the role of Japanese Americans at a time when diversity and tolerance towards others are limited. They will also discuss how to promote the spirit of diversity and inclusion in both Japan and the United States. Dr. Tosh Minohara (Professor, Kobe University), himself a Japanese American, will moderate this discussion following the panelists’ presentations.

This symposium is organized by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), co-organized by USJC and the Yamaguchi International Exchange Association, and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more information and to register, please click here. A flier of the event is also available here.


The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2017 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP).

Reflection from Lea Okudara (ELP ’17)

“What did I get myself into?” I thought after the ELP orientation call—heart pounding, mind racing, in shock and awe of my ELP classmates. “How did I get picked?”

The conference would be “intense,” everyone said—a string of long days, late nights and nijikais after networking dinners. The introvert in me was intimidated and nervous. But it’s what I signed up for: a different experience to meet new people, get involved and get over my aversion toward networking.

Arriving at 2 a.m. after traveling 14 hours from Buenos Aires, I was comforted by a warm welcome from a familiar face, my ELP roommate Kimberly Haruki (who I met during my time with Hawaii Tourism Japan). She was still up from jetlag!

Dinner with the 2017 ELP class and Irene Hirano Inouye (front row, second from right), Kaz Maniwa (back row, left) and Allison Murata (front row, second from left)

Once meeting the rest of our ELP class and ELP alumni for dinner turned into drinks, and orientations turned into dinner, then more drinks, my nerves started to settle. Conversations weren’t awkward, forced or peppered with ulterior motives. Everyone was interested in “what can I do for you?” rather than “what can you do for me?” This is not the type of networking I expected. It was awesome!

For me, the conference wasn’t about the sessions or executives in attendance, which don’t get me wrong, were educational and impressive; it was about building relationships. There were so many opportunities to get to know one another and create lasting memories—whether singing into the wee hours of the morning with other night owls, having a dance off in a restaurant or talking quietly in the corner. It wasn’t just our class that bonded; the entire ELP and USJC ‘ohana welcomed us with open arms and hearts.

Sanjikai with the ELP ‘ohana and friends

What makes USJC special is that it creates opportunities that not only strengthen U.S.-Japan relations, but also develop personal relations with identity, culture and each other. Whether born and raised with Japanese values and customs, or recently discovering them, our heritage is a common denominator that connects us all. Sharing collective goals and culture helps cultivate authentic friendships, solid networks and successful partnerships.

I’m humbled and grateful to USJC members, board and staff for this opportunity; Representative Mark Nakashima for introducing me to the program; and Eric Takahata and Nate Gyotoku for recommending me. A big mahalo to my amazing classmates, ELP alumni and sponsors too, who made the conference an unforgettable and life-changing experience!

Touring the city with fellow ELP ’17 participants

I look forward to continuing to better connect and engage others in the ELP and USJC experience, including a current pet project our 2017 ELP class hopes to share soon. Also, if anyone is in Argentina from springtime, let me know por favor!

Recent Events

Alumni of the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program Discuss Regional Collaboration with U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka

Many thanks to the U.S. Consulate Fukuoka, USJC Associate Tomoyuki Yamaki (Mitsui ’16) for organizing the meeting, and USJC Associate Shotaro Kurata (Mitsui ’15) for the article below!

On February 21, four alumni of the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program in Kyushu met with Joy Sakurai, Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate Fukuoka.

The meeting opened with remarks from Vanessa Zenji, Consul for Public Affairs, who welcomed the TOMODACHI alumni to the Fukuoka American Center. Shotaro Kurata, Regional Mentor for TOMODACHI alumni in Kyushu, thanked Ms. Sakurai and Ms. Zenji for their support, and discussed recent activities by TOMODACHI alumni in the region.

(L-R, back row): Shinya Watanabe (Mitsui ’14); Mr. Kurata; Mr. Yamaki; Mr. Hotta; Hideki Noda, General Manager, Planning and Coordination Division, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. Kyushu Office; (L-R, front row): Ms. Zenji; Principal Officer Sakurai and Kaoru Utada, Alumni Manager, TOMODACHI Initiative

Takahiro Hotta (Mitsui ’17) shared what he gained by participating in the program last year. He shared that he had to skip some program sessions in Tokyo due to the heavy rain in northern Kyushu, as he is in charge of disaster risk management for the Fukuoka Prefectural Government. Coincidentally, Hurricane Harvey hit just before he visited Houston for the program. These events gave him insight on the difference between Japan and the United States in terms of disaster preparedness. Learning that FEMA provides leaders with emergency management training, he realized that education plays an important role in developing leadership—beyond characteristics like calmness and tolerance, which tend to be emphasized in Japan. Mr. Hotta added that hearing about the experience of Japanese American leaders helped him recognize the importance of knowing history and background in order to understand each other.

Mr. Hotta presents on the flooding in northern Kyushu

Mr. Yamaki shared his experience participating in the Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit last May. While in Hawaii, he met with key leaders of the Fukuoka Kenjinkai in Kauai and Big Island, and realized the importance of grassroots exchange and personal connections. He also discussed how he created a tour of Yame, where Senator Daniel K. Inouye has ancestral roots. There are many places in southern Fukuoka that have ties to Japanese American leaders like the late astronaut Ellison Onizuka. Mr. Yamaki suggested that TOMODACHI alumni and the U.S. Consulate Fukuoka leverage those connections to inspire the younger generation and strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Principal Officer Sakurai, who grew up in Hawaii, discussed how this year is the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Ms. Sakurai also shared stories of her own family and friends. She spoke about her experience as an intern for the office of Senator Inouye, and how respectful he was to everyone. Lessons she learned from him include “Actions speak louder than words. You cannot always win the fight. So pick your battles wisely and make sure to pick the right words when you speak.”

Mitsui alumni and Consulate officials hold a discussion

The TOMODACHI alumni and the Consulate officials also discussed how they can work together to inspire the younger generation, especially high school and university students, to become interested in the U.S-Japan relationship. Due to geographical and financial reasons, Kyushu youth tend to be more familiar with countries in East Asia. Although it requires steady work like talking to each student individually, the U.S. Consulate Fukuoka and TOMODACHI alumni in Kyushu agreed to work together on this issue.


Applications Open for the 2018 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program

2017 U.S. Mitsui delegates in Japan

We are now accepting applications for the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program. Generously funded by Mitsui & Co., Ltd., and entering its sixth 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. Selected through a competitive process, participants represent professional, geographic, and gender diversity.

Ten (10) American and ten (10) Japanese young professionals from a mix of public and private sectors will travel to each other’s country for one week to engage as a group and meet with established and up-and-coming leaders from business and government. The American delegation will travel to Miyagi Prefecture and Tokyo, and the Japanese delegation will travel to Seattle, Washington and Washington, D.C.

The deadline for the American delegation is April 5, and the deadline for the Japanese delegation is April 19. Click here for more information.

Member News

Roy Yamaguchi Selected for 2018 Asian Hall of Fame


Congratulations to Member of the Board of Councilors and Chef and Restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi on being inducted into the Robert Chinn Foundation’s 2018 Asian Hall of Fame! The Asian Hall of Fame is a national recognition event for Asian Pacific Americans that honors achievements across industries. Mr. Yamaguchi will be honored at an induction ceremony on May 5 in Seattle, WA. Click here for more information.

Upcoming Events

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II


When: Ongoing through December 8, 2018
Where: National Museum of American History (Washington, DC)

In February, the National Museum of American History opened an exhibit to mark 75 years since Executive Order 9066 authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. On display are 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.

Allegiance (Los Angeles Premiere)


When: February 21 – April 1, 2018
Where: Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (Los Angeles, CA)

Broadway musical Allegiance, created by Member of the USJC Board of Councilors George Takei, is set to premiere in Los Angeles, CA. Allegiance is a musical inspired by Mr. Takei’s own experience, and tells the story of a family upended by the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII.

The Los Angeles premiere of Allegiance is a special engagement and co-production of East West Players and Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, by special arrangement with Sing Out, Louise! Productions and ATA. Click here for more information.

Hold These Truths

When: February 23 – April 8, 2018
Where: The Arena Stage (Washington, DC)

“Hold These Truths” is a play based on the true story of Gordon Hirabayashi, the American son of Japanese immigrants who defied an unjust court order to uphold the values on which America was founded. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit this page.

On April 3, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies and the Japanese American Citizens League are offering tickets for a special reception immediately preceding the play.

Register Now for the Japan-Texas Economic Summit!


When: May 7 – 9, 2018
Where: Marriott Marquis Houston (Houston, TX)

Registration is open for the Japan-Texas Economic Summit! Following the highly successful Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit in 2017, the Japan-Texas Economic Summit will bring together business leaders, investors, state and local officials, and economic development organizations from across the Lone Star State and Japan. Texas is a leading destination for foreign direct investment from Japan, and we will welcome government and business representatives from the Government of Japan and prefectures throughout the country to explore further opportunities to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the state of Texas.

Join us for what will be a momentous step forward in the Japan-Texas economic partnership! Please visit the event page to see more details and to register.

The Japan America Society of Southern California’s 109th Anniversary Dinner & Gala


When: May 16, 2018
Where: The Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

USJC is proud to be an honoree of the Japan America Society of Southern California’s Kokusai Shimin Sho “International Citizens Award” at the 109th Anniversary Dinner & Gala Celebration. This award recognizes individuals, businesses or organizations who have significantly enhanced the U.S.-Japan relationship and are committed to strengthening bonds between the two nations.

For more information, please visit this page.


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.

Administrative Assistant (Tokyo)

The Administrative Assistant will have primary responsibility for administrative and operational support to USJC. This position is in the Tokyo office and reports to the Executive Director of USJC (Japan), and also requires close communication with the USJC (U.S.) staff based in Washington, DC.

Click here for more information about the position.

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 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.