U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 20th, 2014)


The ten delegates of the 2014 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program returned home on March 15 after a busy week of meetings, discussions and networking opportunities with Japanese leaders. The themes of discussion largely centered on women’s empowerment, the importance of strengthening regional collaborations and Abenomics.

This year’s delegation visited Fukuoka prefecture, where many Japanese Americans (including two of the delegates this year) have their ancestral roots. They met with Governor Hiroshi Ogawa, and discussed how ties between Fukuoka and states and cities in the United States can contribute to opportunities for new business, government and community collaborations.  The delegates also participated in a seminar “Finding a Voice in Government: Japanese Americans Making a Difference in their Communities and in U.S.-Japan Relations,” co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Council, with support from the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka and the Japan-America Society of Fukuoka, which was attended by nearly 150 people. They also met with members of the Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly (the U.S.-Japan Friendship League), some of whom had visited Hawaii earlier this year.

In Tokyo, they met with Prime Minister Abe. The Delegation shared that a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship benefits not only both countries but also the entire Asia-Pacific region.  They also described the purpose of the trip as building people-to-people relationships with Japanese leaders from all sectors of society in order to strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations.

Prime Minister Abe thanked the delegation for demonstrating their continued support for Japan and said, “I would like to renew my appreciation for the Japanese American Leadership Delegation.  For Japanese Americans, JALD provides a better understanding of Japan.  I am counting on your continued cooperation to build bridges across our two nations in the future. I also would like to express my sincere appreciation for the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s great contributions to the strengthening of Japan-U.S. relations.”

Other individuals and organizations that the delegation met include HIH Princess Takamado,  Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), Forum 21, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yohei Kono, Representative Taro Kono. They also took part in a Forum 21 meeting and met with leadership from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation. USJC Board Members Ernest M. Higa and Paul Yonamine, as well as Council Member Bill Ireton, also met with the delegation and spoke about their experience as Japanese Americans working in Japan. 

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

Click here to view more photos from the Fukuoka and Tokyo portions of the trip. Click here for more information of the program and biographies of all ten delegates.


In the context of the ‘Abenomic’ economic reforms, Prime Minister Abe has given the highest priority ever to the issue of delivering better work-life balance to allow fuller participation of women in Japanese society and thereby address key demographic issues faced within the Japanese economy. As Japan translates this policy vision (referred to as ‘Womenomics’) into concrete steps, the U.S.-Japan Council seeks to foster a dialogue about how Americans can contribute to the successful promotion of Japanese women in Japan and on the global stage.

More information about this program is available online.


The 2013 USJC Annual Report is now available online! Check out this recap of our 2013 events, initiatives, leadership and sponsors.



On March 11, U.S.-Japan Council Members attended the New York debut performance of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. The orchestra was in the city to kick off their World Tour. They performed works from Japanese and Western composers to a full house on the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The tour is sponsored by the Japanese internet services company Rakuten Inc. and supported by TOMODACHI. In addition to the NYC performance, TOMODACHI supported a music exchange on March 10 between students of the Special Music School, college musicians from Fukushima, members of the Tokyo Philharmonic including conductor Mr. Eiji Oue.

A number of USJC Members attended a special reception sponsored by Rakuten after the performance. Rakuten Chairman (and former USJC Annual Conference keynote speaker) Hiroshi Mikitani welcomed everyone to the reception and the first performance of the Tokyo Philharmonic’s World Tour. His remarks were followed by Dr. Barbara Ruch, a professor emerita of Japanese Medieval Studies at Columbia University. She has worked to support the renaissance of early Japanese music both in Japan and on the world stage. She expressed how moved she was to hear the two Japanese pieces performed in person and exclaimed that the rest of the world was hungry to hear these works performed. The final speaker was Mr. Kusaka from the Counsel General of NY who offered a toast to commence the reception.

U.S.-Japan Council Board Members Frederick H. Katayama, Susan Onuma and Gary Moriwaki were in attendance and had the opportunity to meet and talk with Mr. Mikitani and Dr. Edwin Schlossberg, the husband of Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. Dr. Schlossberg found common ground with the two TOMODACHI Uniqlo Fellows currently studying at Parsons The New School for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology as he had previously taught at both universities. USJC Associate Member and violinist Ryu Goto also attended and gave his congratulations to conductor Oue. A total of fourteen USJC members attended, including Yumi and Eichiro Kuwana (pictured). The reception closed with five music students from Fukushima joining orchestra members to perform Hana wa Saku, an unofficial anthem of March 11. Mr. Mikitani was then serenaded by the group with a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday, as the 11th was his birthday.

Videos are available on the USJC YouTube Channel.


Six TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange students gathered on March 11, 2014 in Washington, DC to present what they learned from their visit to Japan that included a special trip to the Tohoku region. The presenters were DC public high school students who, along with six Japanese students from Keio High School, participated in the exchange program in the summer and fall of 2013. The Japanese students joined their American counterparts in DC in July, where they visited socially-minded organizations and met with former Japanese American Veterans Association Executive Director Terry Shima. The students visited Japan in November.

The DC students’ families, friends, educators and other Washington community members attended the presentation, held on the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The students received a written message from Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, congratulating them on their participation in a program that deepens understanding between the United States and Japan. Afterwards, each of the six students discussed their visit to the Tohoku region, recalling their impressions of various sites.

During the presentation, one of the students, Atiya Artis, shared a memorable encounter with a woman who happened to sit in front of her on a train in Tohoku. When Atiya found out the woman had lost all her family in the tsunami, she tried to console her fellow passenger, but was overcome with her own strong emotions. Instead of speaking, Atiya began singing “Lean on Me” on the train. Atiya said during the presentation that she empathized and connected with this tsunami survivor, and that she will never forget her.

Inspired by their visit, many students pledged to study Japanese and to return to Japan. The students continue to meet regularly in Washington, DC and are working on social action projects including a Tohoku exhibit and creating a children’s book to share stories about Japan.

The TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program is organized by the American Councils for International Education in collaboration with partners Globalize DC, the Akira Foundation and Keio Senior High School. The March presentation was sponsored by Globalize DC.


Applications are now open for the 2014-15 class of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program (TMWLP). The 10-month mentorship program pairs highly-motivated Japanese female university students with Japanese female mid-career professionals to encourage networking among a select corps of Japanese women who show promise as Japan’s next generation of leaders. This year’s program will take place in four locations: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Naha.

Motivated, bilingual Japanese citizens and permanent residents are encouraged to apply as either participants or mid-career mentors, so please distribute this to your networks. More information about TMWLP is available online hereApplications are due by April 21, 2014.



The end of March marks the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, our nation’s capitol. This spring celebration commemorates the numerous gifts of Japanese cherry trees from Japan to the United States. These trees represent an effort to enhance the growing friendship between the 
United States and Japan and celebrate the continued close relationship between the two nations. 

These cherry blossom trees that line the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC attract thousands of tourists each year, as they are quite the sight to see in full blossom. Local Washingtonians and tourists visit this area to enjoy the festival and to take pictures of this magical site. Light pink fluffy flowers fill the branches, transforming the area into a sea of pink petals. When the wind blows these petals rain down like soft snow. 

In addition to being a gorgeous site, the cherry blossom season can be a time to reflect on how these trees represent much more about the growing relations between the United States and Japan and what our future relations will be. For me, the cherry blossom season is a time to appreciate the strengthening relations between our two nations and how these relations have defined what it means to be a Japanese American. I am honored to be associated with strong and influential Japanese American organizations, like the U.S.-Japan Council, and I am proud of the strides they have made to strengthen our relations with Japan. 

With a cold and miserable winter experienced nearly across the U.S., spring is to begin in March and with it, another cherry blossom season.

-Allison Ikeda



Congratulations to USJC Board of Councilors Vice Chairman Norman Y. Mineta, who has been named Democratic Honorary Co-Chair of The Congressional Study Group on Japan (CSGJ). The former U.S Cabinet Member and Member of Congress joins a bipartisan organization dedicated to frank and candid dialogue between current American lawmakers and their peers in Japan. Mr. Mineta joins Senator Mazie Hirono, a fellow Member of the USJC Board of Councilors, in CSGJ’s leadership.

“Secretary Mineta’s commitment to bipartisanship at home and the U.S.-Japan alliance abroad is evident throughout his many decades of public service,” said Connie Morella, President of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, which serve as secretariat for The Congressional Study Groups.

More information is available via the CSGJ press release here.


In 2006, Council Member Atsuko Fish founded the Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative with a mission to empower Japanese women to become leaders and to make positive social change. In partnership with Simmons College, the nation’s leading educational institution for women, the JWLI Fellows Program in Boston offers unique, hands-on training in Boston on nonprofit management and strategic leadership for women. After their training, JWLI graduates go on to share and disseminate the knowledge and experiences with women and leaders in Japan. This year, four women from Japan will be selected for the program, tentatively scheduled from September 8-October 3.

Click here for more information and application requirements.