U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 2nd, 2017)

Watanabe Scholars Gather in Los Angeles for Leadership Weekend

From February 17 to 19, 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.

Mr. Watanabe smiles as he converses with the students

These ten scholars are recipients of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to undergraduate or graduate students for a semester or year-long study abroad program in either the United States or Japan. A generous endowment gift of $10 million from Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe to USJC makes this scholarship possible. The first year of the scholarship program focused on Japanese students studying in the United States.

Dr. Rooks comments on the students’ presentations

Despite a big storm in Los Angeles that disrupted some travel plans, the students were able to gather from other areas in California and states as far as Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. They had the opportunity to meet many USJC members and other leaders in the community, including Mr. Watanabe (Member of the USJC Board of Councilors), who spoke with each of them about their current studies and future aspirations. Other leaders included USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and JALD 2017 delegate Leslie Ito, who each shared their experience and family history as Japanese Americans; Council Leader Curtiss Rooks, who facilitated a discussion regarding global citizenship following the 2016 U.S. elections; and USJC Associates Kira Teshima and Evelyn Tokuyama, as well as Yuiko Tanaka Cervantes, who gave advice on career development as young professionals.

Mr. Watanabe and the inaugural class of the Watanabe Scholars

Founding Chairman Tom Iino, Board Member Dennis Sugino, Council Leader David Iwata, USJC Associates Craig Ishii and Emi Kamemoto, Mrs. Watanabe and Consul of Japan Shigeru Kikuma also joined the students for informal discussions over dinner. The students were also treated to a guided tour of the Japanese American National Museum, made all the more memorable because it was on February 19, the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.

During each discussion, the students shared their perspectives studying diverse subjects like community development, engineering and art. They also exchanged observations about their surroundings or the United States in general, especially following the elections. Despite this being their first time meeting one another, they got along well and spent time exploring Los Angeles together outside of the formal part of the program.


We thank Mr. Toshizo Watanabe and everyone who made this weekend possible!

Click here to see more photos from the weekend.

Click here to see the print program for the Leadership Weekend, including the bios of speakers.

Recent Events

Ninth Business Advisory Board Welcomes Jesper Koll

The ninthU.S.-Japan Council Business Advisory Board (BAB) was held at the Tokyo American Club on February 21, welcoming Jesper Koll, Chief Executive Officer of Wisdom Tree Japan, as a featured speaker.

Mr. Koll shares his perspective on the world economy

Scott Sato, Member of the USJC Board of Directors and the USJC (Japan) Board of Councilors, emceed the evening. Masaaki Tanaka, Vice-Chair of the Board of Councilors, who has been leading the Council’s BAB activities in Japan, gave opening remarks.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye shared updates on the Council’s activities, including Prime Minister Abe’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor in December 2016, the Japan-Hawaii Economic Summit, which will take place in Hawaii from May 9 to 11, and the 2017 Annual Conference, which will be held in Washington DC on November 13 and 14.

Through BAB, USJC aims to provide a platform for people to get to know one another and network during the reception. Hiroyuki Watabiki, President of Tokio Marine & Nichido Human Resources Academy Co., Ltd.; Richard Folsom, Representative Partner of Advantage Partners, LLP; and Eugene Saburi, President of Adobe System Co., Ltd were among the special guests who introduced themselves.

Member of the Board of Directors Yuko Kaifu speaks with Mr. Tanaka and guests

Mr. Sato then introduced Mr. Koll, who shared his insights on the world economy, especially in relation to the new administration in the United States. Mr. Koll emphasized the importance of the role that USJC plays in promoting people-to-people connections between the United States and Japan, attracting talent to both countries and supporting the younger generation, including those who are entrepreneurs.

(L-R) Chair & Representative Director of USJC Board of Directors (Japan) Ernest Higa, Chair of USJC Board of Councilors (Japan) Kathy Matsui, Ms. Hirano Inouye, Mr. Koll, Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Sato

Mr. Sato concluded the evening by thanking those who joined the event, and announcing the tenth BAB meeting, which will be held on June 22, with a keynote speech from Heizo Takenaka, Chairman/Director of Pasona Group Inc. and Professor Emeritus at Keio University.

More photos from the ninth BAB meeting can be viewed here.

USJC Members Share Family Stories in NYC

On February 16, USJC welcomed more than 50 members and supporters to a special reception at the Nippon Club in New York. Titled The Power of Our Family Stories: The Legacy of Japanese Americans, the reception featured a panel discussion with Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors Gary Moriwaki and Council Leaders Frederick Katayama and Susan Onuma. Moderated by USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, the panel discussion created an intimate setting in which the three leaders shared stories of the challenges their Japanese American families faced during World War II.

Mr. Moriwaki (second from left) describes his family’s experiences during the panel discussion

Ms. Hirano Inouye welcomed the attendees and shared the significance of the reception’s timing. On February 19, a few days following the reception, the United States observed the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans. Ms. Hirano Inouye then asked each of the panelists to share their families’ histories and experiences both during and following WWII.

Through the panelists, attendees learned that the way in which Japanese Americans viewed the experience of incarceration varied widely from person to person, even among family members. For most Japanese Americans who experienced incarceration personally, it was painful to look back upon the experience and share it with the next generation. All three panelists emphasized that in order to prevent such atrocities from happening again, it is important to bring diverse communities together to learn about and reflect upon the past.

(L-R) Yasuo Gotoh of Tokyu Hotels Co., Ltd., Ms. Onuma and Ayumi Takita of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership

Ms. Hirano Inouye also asked the panelists to describe how they built relationships with Japan, given that as Japanese Americans coming of age after WWII, they were often discouraged from identifying with their ancestral homeland. The panelists emphasized that although they were always cognizant of their heritage growing up, it was not until they were adults embarking on their professional careers that they were able to develop strong relationships with Japan. Acknowledging that Japanese Americans can serve as a bridge between Japan and the United States, the panelists hope to continue bringing Japanese and American communities together to strengthen relations between the two countries.

(L-R) Naomi Hasegawa of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Mr. Katayama and Estefanía Michel Ortega of Mizuho Bank

The panel discussion was very well-received by attendees, who had the opportunity to mingle with the panelists following the presentation and ask questions. Ms. Hirano Inouye also shared highlights from the 2016 Annual Conference and discussed ongoing preparations for the 2017 Annual Conference, which will be held in Washington, DC.

National Museum of American History Commemorates 75th Anniversary of EO 9066

On February 16, about a dozen USJC members attended the opening of ​a new exhibit at the National Museum of American History (part of the Smithsonian ​Institution ​in ​Washington, ​DC) called Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II.​ The exhibit opened last month in commemoration of the 75th anniversary since Executive Order 9066 was signed, resulting in the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

​(L-R) USJC Associate Georgette Furukawa-Martinez, Council Leader Edson Mori, Board Member Leona Hiraoka, USJC Director of Communications Shiori Okazaki, Council Leader Linda Taira

USJC members in attendance included not only DC-based Japanese Americans but also those from as far as California, whose family members had been in​carcerat​ed and had submitted items for the exhibit. Speakers at the opening included Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, ​both Members of the USJC Board of Councilors, ​who discussed the importance of remembering history and rejecting sweeping discrimination​; as well as Council Leader Keith Terasaki, who represented one of the donors, the Terasaki Family Foundation​. ​T​he original EO 9066 document was also on display, on temporary loan from the National Archives. The exhibit will ​remain open until February 2018.​

Ms. Taira (left) converses with Council Leader Mark Uyeda and USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla


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

Applications for the 2017 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program are now open! The program will accept 10 American and 10 Japanese young professionals from both the public and private sectors. They will travel to each other’s countries to discuss innovation, technology and business development in the context of U.S.-Japan relations, and meet with business and government leaders. The program is generously funded by Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and is now in its fifth year.

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

See here for more information about the program and how to apply.

2015 Mitsui delegates in Detroit

TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program Seeks DC Teacher-Chaperone for Japan Trip

Globalize DC is opening its search for a DC Teacher-Chaperone for the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program!

This program is a two-way exchange between six DC public high school students and six high school students in Japan. The program focuses on cultural exchange, leadership and social entrepreneurship, with special attention to the Tohoku region. The tentative program dates are July 10 to August 16, including two and a half weeks in Japan.

See here for more information the program!

Click here for more information on qualifications and how to apply to become the DC teacher-chaperone for this program.


Reflection from Sachi Siegelman (ELP 2016)

The following article is part of a year-long series by the 2016 class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.

I was grateful and honored to be selected as a 2016 Emerging Leader. USJC’s mission of strengthening U.S.-Japan relations is a vital one, and participating in ELP provides me with a unique opportunity to contribute to that mission. If my first USJC Annual Conference in November taught me anything, it is that before I can contribute, I have a great deal to learn. The speakers and USJC members were so knowledgeable about such a wide range of topics that I left the conference determined to become better educated and seek broader experiences.

The ELP class of 2016 with sponsors at the 2016 Annual Conference

The prominence of women at the conference was particularly inspiring. Living in the era of Womenomics and working in the tech industry, I am acutely aware of the hurdles women must overcome in order to advance. Irene Hirano Inouye’s leadership at USJC sends a strong message about the management capabilities of women. Kathy Matsui’s powerful story of overcoming personal challenges to achieve great success in Womenomics deeply impressed me. Likewise, Sandy Shirai, a leader in the Bay Area technology field, spoke movingly of the family sacrifices many women must still make in order to flourish in the business world. I only wish that I had been able to hear more from the speakers.

Just as memorable were the many personal connections I made at the conference. As a new ELP, the level of warmth and encouragement I received from many accomplished people made me feel like I was contributing to strengthening the ties between the United States and Japan.

ELP alumni get together in Hawaii

Of course, I forged the strongest bonds with my ELP class and ELP alumni. Despite our very diverse backgrounds, we still share the Japanese American experience, as well as a love for Japan, so after a few organized icebreakers we felt at home with each other. Since the conference, we have kept in touch and meet when we can. While I was in Hawaii for the holidays, the Hawaii ELP alumni organized a dinner at Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849. Back home in Northern California, the local ELP group got together for dinner in February and made plans for a gathering in March. Thanks to the Emerging Leaders Program, I now have a group of friends stretching across the country, all of whom are committed to the goals of USJC.


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!

Member News

Lori Matsukawa releases series on Japanese American internment

Council Leader Lori Matsukawa’s five-part series, Prisoners in Their Own Land: Remembering the Internment of Japanese Americans 75 Years Later is now available online. The series features stories of Japanese American families during World War II, the challenges they faced when returning home and how they sought redress decades later.

Click here or on the image below to see more.


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.

RESILIENCE for the FUTURE: Cross-Border Dialogue with Post-Disaster Social Entrepreneurs


When: March 6, 2017 at 6:00pm
Where: One Battery Park Plaza, New York

This World in Tohoku (WIT) event features Wataru Kainuma (Executive Director and Founder, Urushi Rocks Inc.; Director, Nonprofit Urushi Harunaka Kai), an entrepreneur from Fukushima Prefecture who aims to create a sustainable economy and society by promoting Japan’s long-standing tradition of urushi (Japanese lacquerware). The purpose of the event is also to commemorate the sixth year since the Great East Japan Earthquake. There will be an auction of beautiful urushi ware as well.

WIT is a cross-border social innovation platform that supports social entrepreneurs in the areas affected by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of 2011. It is led by Mio Yamamoto (Executive Director and Co-Founder, WIT), who is a USJC Associate. At this event, WIT will also introduce its cross-border activities to bring about social innovations and develop global citizens. After the talks by Mr. Kainuma and Ms. Yamamoto, participants will take part in a world-café style dialogue to explore how we can create a resilient civil society in Japan, the United States and beyond.

Please visit this page for more details.

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].

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, and Tourism (DBEDT), is 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.