U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (Nov 21st, 2019)

1. 2019 Annual Conference: Summary and Photos

The U.S.-Japan Council, together with the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan), brought around 650 individuals to its tenth Annual Conference in Los Angeles from November 4 to 5. This year’s theme, “Bold Ideas, Bolder Leadership: The Next Stage of U.S.-Japan Relations,” explored leadership and innovation within government and corporate spheres, as well as female and next generation empowerment and Japanese American identity within the entertainment industry.

Plenary dialogue with Kazuo Hirai (left) and John Roos (right)

Both global and local-level partnerships between the United States and Japan propelled discussions. Kazuo Hirai, Senior Advisor and former CEO of Sony, discussed how innovative leadership can cultivate international ties with John Roos, former U.S. ambassador to Japan. Minister Kenichiro Mukai, head of Chancery at the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America, delivered remarks about the importance of exchanges in finding shared values between the two countries. David Stilwell, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, offered a video message on the value of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis spoke to the strong Japanese American community within the state, and KTLA anchor Frank Buckley facilitated a panel focusing on the rich history shared between Japan and Southern California that included LA County’s Economic Development Corporation CEO Bill Allen; Takeshi Komoto, Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry at the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America; and Maria Salinas, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Sessions also explored technology, science and innovation. Amy Webb, CEO of the Future Today Institute, presented on Japan’s role in the future of AI technology. Toyota Motor Corporation’s Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada gave remarks on future-driven innovation. A session on culinary diplomacy, hosted at JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, explored the medicinal value of Japanese fermented foods, such as miso and soy sauce. Further breakout sessions focused on entrepreneurship, offering guidance for bringing innovative ideas into reality. A series of Leadership Workshops, taking place on November 5, offered hands-on skills training and networking opportunities – and featured guest speaker David Boudia, Olympic diver.

Japanese American Stars: (L-R) Jan Yanehiro, Bobby Webster, Koine Iwasaki, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani

The conference embraced its Hollywood location by featuring Japanese and Japanese American leaders within the entertainment industry. A plenary session moderated by Member of the Legacy Council Jan Yanehiro (JALD ’10) brought together young Japanese American athletic stars, including Bobby Webster, General Manager of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors; dancer Koine Iwasaki; and champion ice dancer siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani to share their experiences in the spotlight. Council Leader Bill Imada (JALD ’11) faciliated a panel of Japanese American professionals in the entertainment industry. The conference reception featured a special performance by Japanese musician, actor and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador MIYAVI.

TOMODACHI alumna Maika Itsuno shares how the program impacted her life

Young and accomplished alumni of USJC’s next generation-focused programs took the stage. Maika Itsuno and Natsumi Komatsu, both alumni of the TOMODACHI Initiative, shared their personal stories of how the program impacted their lives. A panel of Emerging Leaders Program alumni, including Naomi Funahashi (ELP ’11), Derek Kenmotsu (ELP ’17) and Kenyon Mayeda (ELP ’12), shared their families’ Japanese history and how these roots have affected their own goals. A new TOMODACHI program was also announced at the conference: the TOMODACHI-U.S. Embassy Go for Gold Leadership Program, which will give Japanese university students pursuing the field of sports management the opportunity to participate in a study tour in the United States.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye reflects on the future of the organization

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Council, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye reflected on its origins when a group of Japanese Americans came together to explore ways to deepen U.S.-Japan ties. She invited the audience to look forward to the next decade as USJC pursues future initiatives to continue bringing Japan and the United States closer together.

To see the print program of the Conference, which includes the schedule and the bios of speakers, click here. Further speakers are listed in an insert here.

Photos and Videos
Click here to see more photos from the Conference. A video playlist can be found here.

2020 Annual Conference
The 2020 USJC Annual Conference will be held in Chicago, IL from November 20 to 21. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us!

2. Recent Events

Portland Members Discuss How to Manage Change

Many thanks to Pacific Northwest Regional Co-Chair Verne Naito for the following article and photos!

On October 14, Portland hosted its first Leadership Development Program in the law offices of Lane Powell PC. Titled “Leading and Managing Change,” the event was attended by Portland Region members and 18 prospective members from the Portland business community. Special guests included the Consul General of Japan in Portland Takashi Teraoka, the president of the Japan Business Association of Oregon, and USJC’s Director of External Relations, Wendy Abe.

The speaker, Steve Hanamura, is a leadership coach and consultant, and a regular speaker at the Executive Development Institute of Seattle. He gave an inspiring talk on leadership and how to find the leader within you. His presentation was very well received by the audience.

The evening included networking and opportunities for prospective members to learn about USJC from current members. This will be the first of a series of leadership programs in the Portland Region.

Members in Chicago Discuss Diversity and Inclusion

Many thanks to USJC Associate and ELP ’19 Ryota Sekine for the following article and photos!

On October 24, USJC members in Chicago organized their 3rd Bento Talk, titled “On Diversity & Inclusion at Work,” at the 1871 Tech Incubator in the Merchandise Mart. The event gathered 48 people from all walks of life, including academia, legal practice, arts & culture, government and entrepreneurship.

Bento Talk speakers and guests engaged in discussion over dinner. Counter-clockwise from left: Speakers Christopher Deutsch and Susan Conger-Austin, USJC Board Member Tomoko Kizawa, USJC Associate Kai Mitsushio, and guests Emmanuel Ndifor and Max Ibata-Arens.

Guests enjoyed a traditional bento box dinner catered by Kamehachi, a multigenerational Japanese American women-owned restaurant, while they engaged in networking and roundtable dialogues on diversity, equity and inclusion. Tomoko Kizawa, USJC Board Member and Inclusion Leader at Deloitte, served as the moderator. Panel speakers included Susan Conger-Austin (Assistant Dean, International Affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology), Christopher Deutsch (Principal at Lofty Ventures), Ella McCann (USJC Associate and International Program Manager at Chicago Sister Cities International), Justin Gainer (Customer Success Manager at Cubii), and Linda Keane (Professor of Architecture and Environmental Design at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago). The speakers each shared their own vision for more inclusion in their respective fields. USJC Associates Anna Ninoyu, Ryota Sekine (ELP ’19) and Council Leader Marion Friebus-Flaman organized the event.

(L-R): Ryota Sekine, Justin Gainer, Linda Keane, Christopher Deutsch, Ella McCann, Susan Conger-Austin, Tomoko Kizawa and Anna Ninoyu

If fellow USJC regions are interested in organizing their own Bento Talks, please reach out to the Chicago region. The mission of Bento Talks is to gather USJC members and the wider community to inspire strong people-to-people diplomacy through a shared meal and conversations on topics that we all care about, including diversity & inclusion, food, design, education and tourism.

Irene Hirano Inouye Visits with Officials from Yame, Fukuoka

Irene Hirano Inouye (front row, center), Janelle Sasaki (back row, third from left), Royanne Doi (back row, center), and Tomoyuki Yamaki (back row, second from right) with leaders from Yame

In October, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye visited with officials from Yame, Fukuoka. Irene’s late husband, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, has roots in Yame.

This visit was organized by USJC Associate Tomoyuki Yamaki, alumnus of the 2016 TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program. Mr. Yamaki, who works for the Fukuoka Prefectural Government, has been very active in strengthening ties between Fukuoka and Hawaii (which have a sister prefecture/state relationship), and organizes a tour in Yame.

USJC (Japan) Representative Director Royanne Doi and Council Leader Janelle Sasaki also joined the meeting. Here is a Facebook post by one of the representatives in Yame.

3. JALD News

The following article is part of a year-long series by participants of the 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD).

Reflection from Kelly Yamasaki (JALD ’19)

At the luncheon hosted by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), with Kana Kaneko of the CGP

I know quite a few people in Denver who are past JALD delegates, and while they told me who we would meet and what type of activities we would do, they really didn’t tell me what it was like to take part in this trip. I was told about days filled with meetings and late-night ramen runs, but not about the intensity of the discussions and the seriousness of the issues being debated. When I was asked to participate in the Symposium and then we received a reading assignment on Asian security before Orientation, I got my first clues about the true nature of our trip.

I’m not very political, and in my work and everyday life I have no reason to give much thought to the relationship between the United States and Japan. This program has been a crash course in understanding the relationship of our two countries from political, economic, business and cultural points of view. It has given me the opportunity to interact with Japanese people in a way that I have never been able to do on my own as a tourist, and I am immensely grateful to have this opportunity.

At the symposium with fellow delegates Britt Yamamoto (left) and Mariko Silver (right)

While the access we had to political and business leaders was incredible, the special moments and most important experiences for me were with the other delegates. It is so rare to have an opportunity to step out of our busy lives and bond with such a range of accomplished people. I also believe that the diversity of our group added to my enjoyment of the experience. While we continuously mentioned that our group was geographically diverse and came from the academic, business and nonprofit worlds, I don’t think that does justice to the true range of our experiences. Because we came from such different backgrounds, we had to quickly understand one another’s strengths, agree to a division of responsibilities, and support one another. We shared a true desire to see each of us present ourselves and our group to our hosts in the most positive light.

At a sushi place near Tsukiji Market, with fellow delegate Vickie Sakurada Schaepler

I believe that the range of backgrounds of our group also helped present a true picture of the Japanese American community to our hosts. We repeatedly heard that connections are made people-to-people, and I believe that is true. But those connections can be made throughout the United States and Japan, and not just between Washington, DC or California and Tokyo. I think that there is as much to gain, if not more, by forging connections between our smaller Japanese American communities and Japan. I also think our group learned more about the diversity of the Japanese American experience from one another, and that we shed some of our own preconceptions about what it’s like to be from Idaho or Nebraska or Michigan.

On a personal level, I leave this trip inspired to do more for our local Japanese American community in Denver, and to look for other opportunities to make connections to Japan.

4. Announcements

New USJC Website Launched! 


We are excited to announce the launch of our new website, which features streamlined menus, clear navigation and a responsive layout for all platforms. Many thanks to Board Member Leona Hiraoka, Council Leader Rita Brogan, the USJC Communications Committee and other supporters for their guidance. Please visit usjapancouncil.org to explore USJC programs, events and activities! 

5. Member News

Kaz Maniwa Honored by the Government of Japan


Congratulations to USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa (JALD ’00) for receiving the 2019 Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On November 13, a reception was held at the residence of Consul General in San Francisco Tomochika Uyama, who presented the awar

The reception was attended by roughly 85 of Kaz’s family and friends, including Dr. Daniel I. Okimoto (Co-Chair of the Silicon Valley Japan Platform and Member of the USJC Board of Councilors) and David Kenji Chang (USJC Board Member), who offered congratulatory remarks, and Allen Okamoto (Member of the USJC Legacy Council), who gave a toast.


Kaz remarked, “For all the people here tonight, whether I have known you all my life or we have become friends more recently, we all share similar values – you are honest, humble, smart, fun. You are not driven solely by acquiring wealth but the duty to serve and build our community. You have compassion for your fellow man and are always generous to others, and you are outraged by injustice in our society. So even though we do not always articulate these values, there is an implicit understanding between us: you are here tonight because you represent these values that are important to me.” 

Many USJC members, Emerging Leaders Program alumni and staff attended the festivities. 

6. Upcoming Events

Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators in 2019

When: December 12, 2019 from 4:00 pm-5:30 pm
Where: Nippon Foundation Building, 2nd Floor Conference Room (Tokyo, Japan)

Six elected state officials from diverse backgrounds and regions of the country will join the 2019 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program and speak at this symposium to discuss their respective political and personal journeys in the United States. Many of the delegates this year have followed non-traditional paths, choosing to become a politician after pursuing different careers. The audience will have the opportunity to learn about their personal choices, as well as the important role Asian American politicians play in their political arenas, especially in light of current events. The speakers will also reflect upon their experience in Japan. This discussion will be moderated by Mrs. Nobuko Sasae, President of Nobuko Forum Japan.

Please register from the QR code on this flier or fax your information to 03-5157-5158 by 5:00PM on Wednesday, December 12, 2019 JST.

Chiura Obata: American Modern

When: November 27, 2019 – May 25, 2020
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC)

Chiura Obata (1885–1975) is a Japanese American artist who was born in Okayama and immigrated to California. Today Obata is best known for majestic views of the American West. During World War II, he created art schools in the Japanese American incarceration camps to help fellow prisoners cope with their displacement and loss.

Chiura Obata: American Modern presents more than 150 paintings and personal effects, many on public display for the first time in this tour. The exhibition’s presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is the final stop of a five-museum tour and the only venue east of the Rocky Mountains. For more information, please visit the SAAM website.

6. Opportunities

Accountant (Washington, DC)

The Accountant will have primary responsibility for day-to-day accounting functions and operational support for the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) in the United States and Japan. This position is in the Washington, DC office, and provides direct support to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in managing the financial operations for the WDC and Tokyo offices, as well as staff working in California and Hawaii. The Accountant will be responsible for all accounting functions including but not limited to accounts payable, accounts receivable, month-end closing, account analysis, donor financial reporting, and general bookkeeping activities.

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.