U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 28th, 2019)

2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation Returns Home


The ​ten delegates of the 201​9 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program returned home on March 9 after a full week of meetings, discussions and networking opportunities with Japanese leaders. ​With the aim to ​strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations​, the ​program build​s​ people-to-people relationships with Japanese leaders from various sectors.

The group first visited Tokyo, where they met with Foreign Minister Taro Kono (a Friend of the Council) to discuss issues pertinent to the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship. Minister Kono has spent time with every JALD class since the program’s inception in 2000. As in years past, he brought parliamentarians who are part of the Japan-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship League, and encouraged networking among Japanese and Japanese American leaders.

Delegate Bryce Suzuki with Foreign Minister Kono

The delegates also met with many other leaders in Tokyo, including MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) Minister Masahiko Shibayama; U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty; Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Joseph M. Young; Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Kentaro Sonoura; and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), Forum 21, and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP).

With Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima (front row, fourth from left) and Vice Governor Taisuke Ono (back row, left)

In Kumamoto Prefecture, the delegates met with Governor Ikuo Kabashima of Kumamoto Prefecture and Mayor Kazufumi Onishi of Kumamoto City. They also participated in a symposium titled “Three Sectors, Three Approaches: Cities that Attract Youth,” co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation CGP, USJC and Kumamoto City, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Kumamoto Prefecture. Based upon their own experience in academia, civil society and the private sector, panelists discussed how to create cities that will continue to draw future generations. About 120 individuals attended the symposium, which concluded with a lively Q&A.

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

Delegates (left to right) Britt Yamamoto, Kelly Yamasaki and Mariko Silver, panelists at the Symposium in Kumamoto, pose for a photo

Click here ​to view more photos from the trip.

Recent Events

Sixteenth Business Advisory Board Meeting Welcomes Dr. Sachiko Kuno

Dr. Sachiko Kuno, President and Chief Executive Officer, S&R Foundation, addressing the audience

The 16th U.S.-Japan Council Business Advisory Board (BAB) Meeting was held at the Tokyo American Club on March 13, welcoming Dr. Sachiko Kuno, President and Chief Executive Officer of the S&R Foundation, as the featured speaker. More than 60 leaders from different sectors and fields gathered to listen to Dr. Kuno’s speech.

Member of the USJC Board of Directors Scott Sato opened the event by welcoming new and returning BAB members and USJC members, followed by remarks from BAB Chairman Masaaki Tanaka, who is also Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors.

New BAB members then introduced themselves, showcasing the diversity of USJC and BAB membership. Mr. Kazushi Ambe, Executive Vice President, Sony Corporation; Dr. James Kuffner, Chief Executive Officer, Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development, Inc.; and Ms. Yuko Yasuda, Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates Japan, Inc. briefly discussed their careers and their passion for strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.

Representative Director of the USJC Board of Directors Royanne Doi highlighted recent USJC activities, including the 2018 Annual Conference in Tokyo and the 2019 JALD Delegation’s recent visit to Kumamoto. She also welcomed four TOMODACHI alumni in the audience, encouraging the BAB attendees to meet and network with these next-generation leaders.

Dr. James Kuffner, Chief Executive Officer, Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development, Inc., addresses the audience

Dr. Kuno began her talk by discussing her youth in a small town in Yamaguchi Prefecture, raised by parents who always encouraged her education. Although she enjoyed academia, she began looking towards entrepreneurship as a way to use new medical discoveries to create “first-in-class” pharmaceuticals.

The success of her first two startups made her consider ways to deliver these new medicines to the developing world, inspiring her next “impact-oriented” startup that focused on creating low-cost vaccines to improve global health. Dr. Kuno has also founded startup incubators to encourage risk-taking and innovation, and spoke about the importance of supporting female entrepreneurs. She closed by encouraging attendees to act boldly, and to create and support businesses that consider not only profits but also social impact.

Following her talk, audience members were eager to ask questions. Two TOMODACHI alumni asked about finding business partners and building startups as women. Dr. Kuno encouraged them to seek out those with different backgrounds, and to remain confident in their own abilities at the same time.

TOMODACHI alumna Fatoumata Bah asks a question

After her speech, Dr. Kuno met with attendees and answered individual questions, as the guests enjoyed networking over food and drinks.

Click here for more photos.


TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award Program Brings Young Innovators to Silicon Valley

Many thanks to Associate Steve Sakanashi (ELP ’15) for the following article and photos!

At the Mountain View City Hall with Kaz Maniwa (fourth from left) and Ellen Kamei (fifth from right). Steve Sakanashi, who led the group, is in the back row, second from right.

On March 19, university students from the TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award Program met with former U.S. Ambassador John Roos in his Silicon Valley office and received advice on their startups. The students represented three university startups, all winners of the Campus Venture Grand Prix (CVG), a national entrepreneur contest organized by The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, LTD. The TOMODACHI Award is given to those who excel in creating business plans that focus on solving social challenges.

Datack, led by a Ph.D. candidate in medical data science who is also a neurosurgeon, drastically reduces doctors’ burden of medical documentation by using natural language processing technologies. L-Hub, led by a master’s student in robotics, combines IoT sensors and clinical data to provide personal training plans that enhance the final 10 years of elderly patients. Ecommons, led by young undergraduate students, eliminates 40 hours a month of overwork for teachers by providing the largest customizable database of lesson plans in Japan.

Ambassador Roos gave personalized coaching sessions to each startup

Students were greeted enthusiastically by Ambassador Roos and heard about his continued passion for the TOMODACHI Initiative. A recurring theme of advice was for each startup to begin with a big vision beyond Japan but start with a narrow focus of execution. Ambassador Roos helped each startup understand how their current focus could be strategically expanded into a much larger future potential. At the end of the meeting, one of the students said that he was inspired to come back to Silicon Valley as a strong global startup that Ambassador Roos’ firm, Geodesic Capital, would want to invest in.

During their visit to Silicon Valley, students also visited venture capital firms and networked with local startup hubs. One unique benefit was the ability to visit with local members of USJC, such as Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa, who helped students understand their role in U.S-Japan relations by sharing his personal story and the larger story of USJC. As an alumnus of the USJC Emerging Leaders Program, I also had the privilege of connecting the students to my ELP peers in Silicon Valley.

At A3 Ventures with Dana Heatherton (third from left)

At a private dinner coordinated by ELP alumni, our students found a community of highly accomplished yet warm-hearted big brothers and sisters ready to help them navigate the challenges of Silicon Valley. Their hospitality extended beyond this dinner and into their areas of professional expertise. Ellen Kamei ‘15, recently elected Councilmember of the Mountain View City Council, welcomed our group at her office in City Hall and explained how tech companies like Google value strong partnerships with local governments. Dana Heatherton ‘11, Director of Operations and Business Strategy at A3 Ventures, walked students through the journey of the American Automobile Association (AAA) and how they partner with tech startups to expand their value to a membership of 60 million people. Rylan Sekiguchi ’17 welcomed students to Stanford University for an event titled “Japan and the Bay Area,” where students gained new insights and networked with local event participants. Special thanks to these ELP alumni, as well as Naomi Funahashi ‘11, Nico Mizono ‘11, Kevin Otsuka ‘17, Aimee Eng ‘10 and Sonia Sugimachi Livdahl ‘18, for their support.

I am excited to see how the USJC community will continue to support the dreams of young Japanese startups as they venture beyond Japan.

Dinner with ELP Alumni

Applications Open for the 2019 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program


Entering its seventh 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. Ten American and ten Japanese young professionals will travel to one another’s countries for one week to engage as a group and meet with established and up-and-coming leaders from business and government.

The deadline to apply is April 4, 2019 for American applicants and April 18, 2019 for Japanese applicants. For more information and to apply click here.

Member News

Kathy Matsui and Atsuko Fish speak at WAW!

USJC members were involved in the Fifth World Assembly for Women (WAW!), which the Government of Japan held in Tokyo earlier this week. This WAW! was held in collaboration with Women 20 (W20), a group established to make recommendations to G20. Kathy Matsui, Chair of the USJC (Japan) Board of Councilors–who also coined the term “Womenomics”–moderated a panel discussion with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Ms. Yousafzai, who was one of the keynote speakers, discussed the importance of educational opportunities for women. Member of the USJC Board of Directors Atsuko Fish also spoke during WAW!, discussing her work with the Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (which USJC supports) and the Champion of Change Japan Award. A summary of the outcome of the Fifth WAW! can be found here (in Japanese).


2018 USJC Annual Report Now Available!


The 2018 USJC Annual Report is now available! They have been mailed to members and sponsors, and a digital version is on our website here. We hope you will be proud of our collective accomplishments resulting in another successful year of impactful programs and events. A Japanese version of the report will be available soon



 Chief Operating Officer (Washington, DC)

The COO will work with the President, Executive Vice President, CFO and key executives of USJC to implement an operational strategy that strengthens the organization’s effectiveness and managerial controls across several functions. This includes Human Resources and Professional Development, IT and Digital Platforms, Administration, Financial Analysis, and the development and implementation of an Annual Operating Plan. The COO will ensure operational support of programmatic areas including regional networking; initiatives both in the U.S. and Japan; partnership development with government, business and non-government partners at the international, national and regional level; and in the expansion and development of an array of cross-cultural leadership development and educational programs between the U.S. and Japan.

Click here for more information about the position.


 Regional Manager, Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

The Regional Manager, Southern California will support regional efforts in the areas of activities and events; outreach and engagement of local Council Leaders, sponsors, and supporters; membership cultivation; as well as cross-department work related to programs, communications and development. This position will focus on supporting the 10th Annual Conference, which will be held in Los Angeles in early November 2019. The broader goal of the position is to expand the organization’s external and internal connections and network in Southern California.

Click here for more information about the position.


 TOMODACHI Alumni Coordinator (Tokyo, Japan)

The U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) is looking for a qualified individual to support the TOMODACHI Alumni Leadership Program. The TOMODACHI Alumni Leadership Program serves to connect and empower the TOMODACHI Generation, individuals who have participated in TOMODACHI programs. We seek an individual who can assist the Alumni Manager and participate in various stages of engagement to support the next generation of leaders dedicated to the U.S.-Japan relationship. The individual hired for this position will need strong organizational and analytical skills and excellent attention to detail in order to integrate into our vibrant and passionate team.

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 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.