U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 30th, 2017)

American Jewish Committee and USJC Hold U.S.-Japan-Israel Panel Discussion

On March 20, the U.S.-Japan Council and the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Asia Pacific Institute (API) jointly held an event with the Consulate of Japan in New York titled “U.S.-Japan-Israel: Thriving Partners in a Changing World.”

Held at the Japan Society of New York, the event celebrated the friendship and trilateral ties among the three countries. Four panel speakers — Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the USJC; David Harris, AJC CEO; Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, Consul General of Japan in New York; and Amir Sagie, Deputy Consul General of Israel in New York — shared their perspectives on achievements and areas of collaboration for the future.

USJC Council Leader and JALD 2017 delegate Wendy Takahisa (far left) introduces the panelists

The speakers highlighted the strong connections that already exist among the three countries in the areas of trade and finance, business development and investment, technology and innovation and more. They also spoke about the shared experiences and bonds between the Japanese American and Jewish American communities.

Ms. Hirano Inouye talked about the importance of the diversity of leadership within the U.S.-Japan relationship, including Jewish Americans, a view that was shared by the late Senator Daniel Inouye. Security and defense in the international system, women’s empowerment and equality, and leadership development and engagement are examples of areas where the three countries and communities in the United States can share lessons learned and work together on contemporary issues.

Mr. Harris highlighted the history of the Jewish American community’s support of the diplomatic and economic relationship between Japan and Israel, and laid out a multi-point agenda with specific areas in which the three countries could collaborate.

(L-R) Ms. Takahisa, Ambassador Takahashi, Mr. Harris, Ms. Hirano Inouye, Mr. Sagie and API Chair Jeffrey Stone

USJC is looking forward to continuing to partner with AJC on future programs and activities to further highlight the importance of the trilateral relationship and strengthen the bonds between the Japanese American and Jewish American communities.

USJC Staff Bids Farewell to Suzanne Basalla

We are sorry to be losing Suzanne Basalla from the staff of USJC. Suzanne joined the Council as Executive Vice President and COO in Fall 2012, when she returned to the United States from Tokyo following her service as Senior Advisor to then U.S. Ambassador John Roos.

Suzanne speaking at a USJC event

Suzanne has been recruited to the new Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in the position of Chief of Staff, effective mid-April. This is a wonderful opportunity for her, and while Suzanne’s departure is a tremendous loss to the USJC leadership team, we congratulate her on this next great step in her career. We were honored to welcome Dr. Gil Pratt, CEO of TRI, as a keynote speaker at the 2015 USJC Annual Conference in Tokyo shortly after the announcement of TRI’s establishment. TRI will have offices in Silicon Valley, Boston and Tokyo. Suzanne and her husband John will be moving to Silicon Valley and will remain connected to USJC. Our many thanks to Suzanne for her tremendous contributions to USJC and our best wishes in her new endeavor.

We are also pleased to announce that Ms. Laura Winthrop Abbot will be rejoining our staff in Washington, DC, assuming the position of Executive Vice President and COO. Laura was the founding Executive Director of the TOMODACHI Initiative beginning in 2011, and following the completion of her husband Spencer’s military assignment in Tokyo in 2015, she returned to Washington, DC to join our staff as Senior Vice President for a year. Following an assignment with the State Department, it is wonderful to have Laura back on our staff.

Below is a farewell message from Suzanne:

As I prepare to transition to my life as a member of the Northern California region, I look back at my years on the U.S.-Japan Council staff with great pride and fondness.

Suzanne (back row, second from right) with the USJC Washington, DC staff

I still remember experiencing the magic of USJC for the first time at the 2010 Annual Conference. There, I discovered a dynamic group of individuals who shared my passion for strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, introduced me to the role of people-to-people connections in the relationship, and taught me about the unique contribution of Japanese American leaders. Within months, that connection turned to a partnership when Ambassador John Roos and our team in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo joined forces with Irene and USJC to create the TOMODACHI Initiative. Today, TOMODACHI has become the exemplar public-private partnership in youth exchange and leadership programming, and USJC has become the premier organization supporting U.S.-Japan relations at the people-to-people level.

Through the privilege of my position, I have seen how success has been possible through the commitment and contributions of our members, Board leadership, funders, implementing partners and staff. Ultimately, USJC’s success is due to the vision, creativity and leadership of Irene, who has given me so much guidance, inspiration and opportunity.

I will miss you all, and look forward to staying engaged with USJC in whatever ways I can. See you at the 2017 USJC Annual Conference in Washington, DC from November 12 to 14!


Recent Events

New York City Council Members Learn About the TOMODACHI Initiative

On March 27, three New York City Council members visited the USJC Tokyo office during a week-long program administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The members who visited the office included Helen Rosenthal, representing 6th District, Manhattan, Daniel R. Gardonick, 4th District, Manhattan, and Ritchie Torres, 15th District, Bronx.

Mr. Gardonick shakes hands with Ms. Abiko

The session was joined by Dale Kreisher, Cultural Affairs Officer, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Tokyo; Mayumi Abiko, Program Specialist, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Tokyo; and Yuri Hongo, Program Associate, World in Tohoku (who is also a USJC Associate and a participant of the 2016 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP)). USJC (Japan) Executive Director Junko Tsuda gave an overview of USJC, and highlighted signature programs including the Annual Conference and the Asian American Leadership Delegation. She also explained the history and progress of the TOMODACHI Initiative over the past few years. Mr. Kreisher then shared the importance of this innovative public-private partnership and spoke about several TOMODACHI programs.

City Council members have a dynamic discussion with TOMODACHI staff and supporters

The programs that were shared with the City Council members included the TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Training Program and the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program, both of which bring participants to New York City. As Ms. Rosenthal co-chairs the Women’s Caucus, the discussion revolved around women’s leadership, the differences and similarities between the two nations, and the importance of strong mentorships.

The group also discussed how to handle the decrease in the number of Japanese students studying in the United States. Mr. Kreisher mentioned the integral role that TOMODACHI plays in providing short-term, impactful programs to youth all across Japan, and the importance of keeping alumni engaged in order to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship.


Seattle Members Enjoy Dinner Together

Many thanks to Regional Chair Harold Taniguchi for the below article!

The Seattle USJC group had its first dinner meeting of the year on March 9. Kaz Maniwa, USJC Senior Vice President, joined the group as part of his visit with the TOMODACHI Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program. As part of the program, several USJC leaders served as mentors to 25 young Japanese people, who are exposed to leadership, personal development and entrepreneurial skills, as well as the Japanese American experience. This five-week program ended with a graduation ceremony and a visit from USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, the Seattle Japanese Consul General Masahiro Omura, and executives from Microsoft.

After his talk with the young scholars on March 9, Kaz was joined by a few USJC members for an informal meet and greet at the iLEAP offices. He then joined the local USJC meeting at a nearby restaurant.

USJC Seattle members and friends

The meeting agenda included updates from USJC, including some thoughts on the 2017 Annual Conference, work done by various committees, the revised membership criteria, and a discussion about potential new members and candidates for ELP. They also gave updates on several local and national activities, including local nonprofit events and federal actions involving immigration.

DC Members Gather for Spring Happy Hour

About a dozen USJC members based in Washington, DC gathered for a happy hour on March 28. New DC Regional Chair Edson Mori, along with Vice Chair David Boone, welcomed members and staff as they caught up for the first time this year. Mr. Boone shared his experience visiting Tokyo and Kanazawa earlier this month as part of the 2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation program, Suzanne Basalla spoke about her transition to her new job, and former Regional Chair Mark Uyeda, who is now Co-Chair of the Washington, DC Annual Conference Host Committee, shared updates about the 2017 Annual Conference.

(L-R) Associate Rei Tsuchiya; Council Leaders Mark Uyeda, Dawn Yamane Hewett, David Boone; Associate Janelle Kuroda; Council Leader Edson Mori; Associate Georgette Furukawa-Martinez

Click here to see more photos.


Participants of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program Visit Washington, DC and New York

Fifty college students and their mentors visited Washington, DC and New York City for a week from March 21 to 29, as part of the 2016-17 TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program (TMWLP).

TMWLP empowers female college students in four Japanese cities (Tokyo, Naha, Osaka and Sapporo) through a number of mentoring sessions. The culminating project of the program is the study trip to DC and NY, where they meet leaders from various sectors.

Congressman Castro (back row, third from right) with the students (Photo courtesy of Cultural Vistas)

The DC portion included congressional visits and tours, including a meeting with Congressman Joaquin Castro (Co-Chair of the U.S.-Japan Congressional Caucus); a tour of the Smithsonian exhibit “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II”; a panel discussion with Japanese women professionals; a lunch with female Japanese diplomats; visits to the Departments of State and Agriculture; a talk with Washington Post writer Kathryn Tolbert, who spoke about her work documenting war brides; meetings with community leaders in Hyattsville, Maryland; a “working couples coffee” session where couples shared how they balance their professional lives with their family; and a networking reception with USJC members and supporters. The students also met with the leaders of a number of nonprofit organizations, including Bossed Up (where USJC Associate Emi Kamemoto serves as Partnerships Coordinator), Kizuna Across Cultures and Asia Foundation.

Bossed Up Founder & CEO Emilie Aries (left) with Partnerships Coordinator (and USJC Associate) Emi Kamemoto (center) spoke about ways to keep well-balanced professional and personal lives

In New York, they visited Barnard College and Columbia University, heard from USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, had a discussion with Council Leader Judge Toko Serita, and spent a day with MetLife leaders.

Discussion topics during the trip included how to cultivate confidence, especially as a young woman just embarking on her career; how to be resilient in the face of rejection and other challenges; and how to become a versatile cross-cultural leader who can work in both Japan and the United States. The many meetings provided a comprehensive view on leadership, in terms of professions (from business to government to civil society), lifestyle (preventing burnout and balancing professional and personal lives), and other career choices. Many of the speakers commented that they enjoyed sharing their stories with the ambitious and passionate students

The students meet with Running Start, an organization that seeks to foster young women political leaders (Photo courtesy of Marta Checko)

We extend our thanks to all the speakers and supporters, as well as MetLife for making this program possible!

TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award Winners Go to Silicon Valley

The following article was provided by USJC Associate Steve Sakanashi, who accompanied the students on their trip to Silicon Valley.

This month I traveled from Tokyo to Silicon Valley as a volunteer mentor on the TOMODACHI Social Entrepreneurship Award Program trip. I accompanied university students who founded three startups, all of which were winners of the University Venture Grand Prix (UVGP), a national entrepreneurship contest run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Tokyo New Business Conference and other implementing organizations.

(Front row, L-R) Mr. Maniwa, Dr. Okimoto and Mr. Sakanishi with the award winners

Koyonosha Inc. is an AgTech (Agriculture Technology) company focused on increasing the profitability of Japanese farmers through micro bubble technologies. ShareTre is an online platform that provides a robust and simple way for coaches to share and develop video-based practice plans. Common Ice Plant is exploring the cultivation of ice plants as a health supplement for people with diabetes.

From the very moment we landed at Mineta San Jose International Airport, our cohort was supported by various members of the USJC community. On our first day, Ellen Kamei, USJC Associate and ELP ’15, welcomed our group to Silicon Valley and helped set up an additional meeting with AgTech startup founder, Tim Koide ELP ’11.

The students listen intently to Mr. Koide’s presentation

At Stanford University, we were welcomed to campus by Naomi Funahashi, USJC Associate and ELP ’11. We met with USJC Senior Vice President, Kaz Maniwa, and learned about the history and significance of Japanese Americans. Dan Okimoto, Council Leader and Co-Chair of the Silicon Valley Japan Platform, also joined us to hear pitches and give feedback. The students all expressed how impactful and motivating it was to understand their connection to the larger Japanese American community.

Ms. Funahashi greets the students

Later that day, we visited former U.S. Ambassador John Roos, the initial catalyst for creating the TOMODACHI Initiative. Dressed in jeans, he brought a casual warmth and encouragement that helped the startups gain confidence in their endeavors. He personally asked each startup to stay in contact with him, providing updates on their continued progress.

Ambassador Roos shares a laugh with the student entrepreneurs

Amid our many pitch meetings, the time we had with Tim Koide was uniquely helpful. As a Japanese American who had lived in Japan and a startup founder in the agriculture industry, Tim had precise insight into the challenges the startups were facing. Next month, when Koyonosha Inc. returns to Silicon Valley to meet with two large Japanese American nurseries, Tim plans to help guide the founder through his experience.

With SVJP leading the way, I am excited to see how our USJC community will continue supporting Japanese startups as they cross the Pacific.

Click here to see more photos from the trip.

TOMODACHI Sumitomo Scholars Visit DC as Part of Spring Leadership Program

On March 29, five Japanese recipients of the TOMODACHI Sumitomo Scholars Program visited Washington, DC as part of the Spring Leadership Program. This week-long program is sponsored and coordinated by the Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. The scholars spent time talking with USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye. They asked questions related to differences between business and nonprofit leadership and about the potential role that USJC and the Japanese American community have in bringing people together globally. The students also shared the many adventures they’ve had since beginning their studies in the United States nearly eight months ago. These included a cross-country road trip, kendo and tae kwan do club competitions, and introducing SPAM musubi to their campus community. In the evening, the students were joined by young professionals in the Washington, DC area for dinner.

Click here to see some photos from the dinner.

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

Applications are still open for 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: Registration Now Open!


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

Registration is now open for the 2017 Annual Conference, which will be held from November 11 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.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please click here for more information on sponsorship benefits.

Conference Schedule

Saturday, November 11  
9:00am – 5:00pm 2017 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders & Alumni Programming
6:00pm – onward Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Alumni Reunion
Sunday, November 12  
10:00am – 4:00pm Members Day
6:00pm – onward Networking Dinners  
Monday, November 13  
9:30am – 7:30pm Full-Day Public Symposium
Tuesday, November 14  
9:30am – 12:00pm Half-Day Public Symposium & Offsite Visits
Offsite visits scheduled throughout the day

Venue: JW Marriott, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC

Attire: Business

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!

Member News

Kaoru Utada Furuya Speaks on Panel Commemorating Kumamoto Earthquakes

To commemorate the one year anniversary of the Kumamoto earthquakes, the Asahi Shimbun Company held an event titled “Kyushu and Kumamoto – Earthquake Recovery Support Project – Forum & Fair.” TOMODACHI Alumni Manager (as well as USJC Associate and ELP ’10) Kaoru Utada Furuya spoke on a panel titled “Tips for Local Governments and Aid Workers to Collaborate.” She talked about the history of the TOMODACHI Initiative and its innovative programs, as well as TOMODACHI alumni activities in Kumamoto to help the disaster-affected areas recover from the aftermath of the earthquakes.

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.

Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscovered


When: Ongoing through July 9, 2017
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.