U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (March 31st, 2016)

Fifth Anniversary Commemoration for Tohoku in Boston

Thank you to Ms. Shoko Asei, Intern at Fish Family Foundation, for this article! USJC also thanks Board Member Atsuko Fish and the Fish Family Foundation for organizing this event.

Four Berklee College of Music students (L-R: Takeru Saito, Kumpei Iki, Yuta Yamaguchi, Shun Kumagai) with Atsuko Toko Fish, USJC board member (All photos by Kelly Davidson)

On the evening of March 23, the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) hosted a fifth anniversary commemoration for Tohoku in downtown Boston. Close to 200 participants, including government representatives, scholars and non-profit leaders, gathered to remember Tohoku. The event, which was called “Tohoku, Five Years After,” was hosted by USJC in cooperation with the Berklee College of Music, the Consulate General of Japan in Boston, and the Fish Family Foundation. Presentations addressed various ways in which U.S.-Japan cooperation has helped Tohoku’s recovery.

The event featured the Mayor of Ofunato Kimiaki Toda as the keynote speaker, followed by presentations by Andrew Gordon, Professor of History at Harvard University, and Ken Buesseler, Senior Scientist of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Each speaker shared their involvement, strategies and projects in the area of their expertise, and commented on how rebuilding efforts took shape over time.

In his keynote speech, Mayor Toda discussed the achievements made in reconstruction thus far. He showed how, despite the limited municipal budget allocation, his plans were implemented with forward-looking vision. He stressed the importance of entrepreneurial spirit in training, education and sustainable city planning. Images of the city highlighted the great progress made, giving the audience a sense of hope and optimism. Mayor Toda ended his speech by expressing deep gratitude and appreciation to members of the Boston community who have showed unshakable faith and support for Japan in the past five years.

Mayor Toda

During the panel discussion, moderator David Campbell, the Founder and Chair of All Hands Volunteers, presented questions to the speakers and sought further insights on the topics of their earlier presentations. Laura Winthrop Abbot, Senior Vice President at USJC, shared her experience in leading the TOMODACHI Initiative. Professor Gordon shared his insights on the impact made by the documentation and recording of 3.11 through the Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters Project, which was launched by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard. The audience also asked many questions, particularly to Dr. Buesseler, an expert on radioactive contamination, with regards to concerns about environmental damage and external exposure caused by the nuclear power plant accident.

(L-R) Dr. Buesseler, Professor Gordon, Ms. Winthrop Abbot, Mayor Toda, Mr. Campbell

The evening concluded with a heartwarming performance of “Sukiyaki (Ue wo Muite Arukou)” and “My Hometown (Furusato)” by Berklee students from Tohoku who are currently studying on the TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund. The audience was touched not only by their music but also their personal stories of hardship and emotional struggle over the past five years. Afterwards, USJC Board Member Atsuko Toko Fish noted that the performance was “deeply touching to the heart and soul” and concluded the event by saying that she hoped the 3.11 earthquake commemoration will be an enduring symbol of U.S.-Japan friendship.

(L-R) Yuta Yamaguchi, Kumpei Iki, and Shun Kumagai, Berklee College of Music students

This evening of remembrance and reflection honored the five-year journey of recovery in the aftermath of 3.11. Attendees were filled with a sense of purpose, hope, gratitude and inspiration, and the meaningful conversations shared among them highlighted the success of the event. The hosts extend their sincere appreciation to the supporting organizations, the event committee, volunteers, and everyone who attended the event.

More photos can be found here.

Recent Events

Meeting with Mr. Motohiro Satoh, Vice President & Assistant Secretary, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, Inc.


On March 29, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye visited Mr. Motohiro Satoh of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in New York City. She thanked him for the strong support of JCCI and its J.C.C. Fund.


TOMODACHI Week Brings Three Programs to the Nation’s Capital


The week of March 21 was a very busy and exciting week for TOMODACHI programs in Washington, DC. Participants of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership ProgramTOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program, and the TOMODACH-STEM @ Rice University Program were all visiting the DC area, which provided many opportunities for inter-program discussion and enrichment.

The participants of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program met with leaders from various industries to learn about different perspectives on women in the workforce. In small groups they visited different organizations and companies, where they met with Council Leaders like Margaret Cummisky to learn about their career paths. Regional Vice Chair Edson Mori also met the participants at a lunch featuring USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye. Over the weekend, Council Leader Rima Matsumoto and her husband took part in a couples coffee session, where they shared their insights on how to manage work-life balance in a household where both partners are working full-time. The group of women returned to New York at the beginning of the following week to present policy proposals for the Government of Japan. Click here to see a collection of the participants’ and supporters’ social media activity!

MetLife program participants ask a panelist about the joys and challenges of working in DC

Two of the TOMODACHI Sumitomo Scholars were in DC and joined some of the events with the MetLife participants. The scholars, who both have an interest in policy and government, toured the U.S. Capitol, met with Irene Hirano Inouye and were hosted by Regional Chair Mark Uyeda and Vice Chair Edson Mori for a home hospitality dinner.

The Sumitomo Scholars met U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (second from left) while touring the Pentagon

After spending four weeks conducting research internships at Rice University laboratories, ten Japanese science & engineering undergraduates participating in the TOMODACHI-STEM @ Rice University Program were in DC for a one-week Science & Technology Policy Study Tour. The students met with individuals from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the George Washington University Center for International Science & Technology Policy, and the National Science Foundation. Howard University also hosted them for a day-long visit. The highlight of the week was a joint one-day program hosted by the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program, which also welcomed the TOMODACHI Sumitomo Scholars. The students returned to Japan on March 26, and are looking forward to sharing with their peers what they learned about science and engineering research.

The STEM program participants at the Einstein Memorial on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences

Please be on the look out for the April issue of the TOMODACHI newsletter for more information about these programs!

TOMODACHI Social Innovation in Seattle (SIIS) Program Concludes

Thank you to Council Leader Britt Yamamoto for his contribution to the following article!

Dr. Yamamoto congratulates the graduating scholars

We want to celebrate the recent completion of another successful iLEAP TOMODACHI Social Innovation in Seattle (SIIS) Scholars Program. After three years, close to 75 young (18 to 25 years old) Japanese individuals have graduated from the five-week intensive program, where they learn about leadership and social innovation through group projects, professional training, personal growth and exploration. In this past program, the Scholars were also presented with new Surface Pro 4 computers thanks to the generosity of Microsoft Corporation.

iLEAP is led by Council Leader Dr. Britt Yamamoto, and the success of the SIIS program is made possible through the contribution of many Seattle USJC members who serve as mentors, speakers and event coordinators, including Harold Taniguchi, Lynn Hashimoto, John Okamoto, Diane Adachi and Colleen Fukui-Sketchley. The Seattle USJC membership is very committed to the sustainability of the program and have a collective vision to all travel to Tokyo in summer 2020 for a gathering with the (by then) over 300 graduates of the SIIS program!

Ms. Hashimoto (center) with the scholars

For more photos of the graduation ceremony, click here. Information about a USJC event that was held with these scholars on March 10 is also available here. There are also videos available from the Graduation Ceremony and their final presentations, in which they discuss their “responsibility as the 3/11 generation.”



2015 USJC Annual Report now available!


The 2015 USJC Annual Report is now available! They are currently being mailed to members and sponsors, and a digital version is also on our website. We hope you will be proud of our collective accomplishments resulting in another successful year of impactful programs and events. This wonderful design was once again made possible through the generosity of Board Member Leona Hiraoka. A Japanese version of the report will be available soon.

Staff Updates

We are excited to welcome Ms. Wendy Abe as the new Director of External Relations at USJC. She will begin working on April 1 and will be based in Honolulu. Previously, she was Executive Director at Palama Settlement, a non-profit organization in Honolulu. She formerly held leadership and executive positions as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President at Blood Bank of Hawaii, President at Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and Vice President at Aloha United Way. Ms. Abe was a member of the 2009 Japanese American Leadership Delegation and served as Chair of the 2014 USJC Annual Conference Host Committee in Hawaii. She also represented the Hawaii region in the Membership Committee and was a member of the USJC Board of Directors.

On April 1, we will also welcome Ms. Kana Takagi as the new Administrative Assistant at the USJC office in Tokyo. Previously, she served as Alumni Coordinator for TOMODACHI. Before joining as staff, she worked as a TOMODACHI intern for 10 months from September 2014. She was then selected to the Environmental Leadership Program funded by the U.S. Department of State, and spent four months in Washington, DC. She is an alumna of two TOMODACHI programs: the TOMODACHI Metlife Women’s Leadership Program and Building the TOMODACHI Generation. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Keio University, Tokyo.

USJC Director of External Affairs Nobuaki Yasunaga, who was based in Tokyo, left USJC on March 31 and will now work for Amway Japan as Leader, Government and External Affairs. We very much appreciate his contributions and leadership these past 18 months, and wish him the best for his future endeavors!

On the TOMODACHI side, we welcomed Ms. Aya Hashimoto in March as a Program Manager. She has over 20 years of business experience in the United States and Japan, including ten years working in Japan for the U.S. Forces. She worked for the United States Arm Garrison Japan in an administrative and management capacity, and has also worked in Atsugi and Yokosuka. She has experience working in businesses in San Diego and Hawaii. She received her B.A. in Humanities from Keisen Women’s College in Tokyo. She brings project management and program implementation experience to TOMODACHI.

Member News

Dawn Yamane Hewett Selected as Delegate of U.S.-Japan Leadership Program

Congratulations to USJC Associate Dawn Yamane Hewett, who was selected as a delegate of the U.S.-Japan Leadership Program (USJLP)! Ms. Hewett is the Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives, Office of General Counsel, at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The purpose of USJLP, which is the flagship program of the United-States Japan Foundation, is to develop a network of communication, friendship and understanding among the next generation of leaders in each country. See more information in the USJLP news release here and the webpage here.

Upcoming Events

April 3 – Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta (Boston, MA)


To commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the Tohoku disaster, the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta will travel to Boston to perform at the city’s Symphony Hall. The orchestra was created by students of Fukushima high schools who found music to be an essential vehicle for recovery in the immediate aftermath of 3/11. The students performed at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2014 and gave a performance at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall in August 2015 which was attended by the Empress. The organizer for this event, Mr. Peter Grilli, is a USJC Friend of the Council. TOMODACHI and the U.S. Embassy are both contributing funds to this program, which includes a series of exchanges for the Fukushima youth in Boston from March 24 to April 4.

For more information, please see this webpage or this flyer. Tickets are available here.

April 6 – The Evolution of American Perceptions on Japan through Film

When: April 6, 2016 at 11:30am – 2:30pm
Where: The Mayflower Hotel, East Room (1127 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036)

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA will host a panel discussion on stereotypes, propaganda, realism, war, globalization, and history as depicted in Hollywood movies. The event will include a keynote speech from Masanori “Mashi” Murakami, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants who was the first Japanese player to ever play for a MLB Team. A number of people in the USJC community will participate in this event, including Fred Katayama, USJC Council Leader who will moderate a panel discussion, and Yoko Narahashi, a speaker at the 2015 USJC Annual Conference who is one of the panelists. Click here to learn more about the event and to register.

May 16-21 – 2016 Japan-Colorado Business Conference

When: May 16-21, 2016
Where: The Curtis Denver (1405 Curtis St., Denver, CO, USA 80202)

This is a five-day business-to-business partnership program in Denver supported by USJC. It is organized by the World Trade Center Denver, Japan America Society of Colorado, Japanese Firms Association and Metro Denver area economic development organizations. The registration deadline is April 15. Click here for more information, and click here to see the flier.



USJC seeks a talented, dynamic individual for a newly-created position of Executive Director, U.S.-Japan Council (Japan). The Executive Director will provide leadership and oversight of the Council’s general programs and activities and of the TOMODACHI Initiative. This will include responsibility for the implementation of program goals and objectives, providing leadership and oversight of program development and management, fundraising, communications and operations. The Executive Director will be based in Tokyo and manage the staff in Japan and will work closely with the U.S.-Japan Council (U.S.) staff in the United States.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.


USJC is seeking a full-time Executive Director for the Council’s newest initiative, the Silicon Valley – Japan Platform (SVJP). The Executive Director position will have primary responsibility for administrative and operational support to USJC’s Silicon Valley Project, including: office management; executive and organizational support for the Executive Director, Chairman and Executive Committee, SVJP; and general administrative support duties. Travel, especially between Japan and Silicon Valley, is expected.

For the full description, please visit the job posting on our website.