U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (November 14th, 2014)

Friend of the Council Takashi Ohde, Board of Councilors Member Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and TOMODACHI Executive Director Laura Winthrop Abbot at the Business Advisory Board reception

TOMODACHI Reception Celebrates Partnerships and Progress


On November 13, about 130 guests gathered at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy to celebrate the partnerships and progress of the TOMODACHI Initiative.

The reception welcomed ten alumni from recent TOMODACHI programs, ranging from high school students from Tohoku to young professionals working in Kyushu, who traveled from their respective regions for this special evening. Two of the alumni, Kazuma Tamura, a high school student from Iwate prefecture who participated in the TOMODACHI 2014 MUFG International Exchange Program; and Sachiho Tani, a university student from Hyogo prefecture who took part in the TOMODACHI-MetLife Women’s Leadership Program 2013, spoke to the audience. Mr. Tamura discussed how his experience with the Great East Japan Earthquake pushed him to work with disaster-prevention activities, and how TOMODACHI enabled him to meet a diverse group of people, helping him articulate his ideas to more individuals worldwide. Ms. Tani talked about her journey to find her own identity, how TOMODACHI broadened her perspective by exposing her to different leadership styles, and how she is determined to become a strong global leader.


The reception also celebrated seven Strategic Partners, who have generously contributed one million dollars or more to the TOMODACHI Initiative. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited and SoftBank Corp. are continuing their multi-year commitment to TOMODACHI. Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd., Goldman Sachs Japan Ltd., the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in Japan and McKinsey & Company, Inc. are joining as new Strategic Partners.

In her speech, Ambassador Kennedy highlighted TOMODACHI’s new partnership with Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) to sponsor a new internship program for American students in Japan. This program was created as a direct response to President Obama and Prime Minister Abe’s commitment to facilitate internship opportunities and increase student exchanges between the two nations.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye discussed the strong, positive impact of TOMODACHI which not only transforms the lives of young people, but also extends to host families, the employees of sponsor companies, partner institutions and those who are part of the TOMODACHI participants’ communities.


Among the attendees were several distinguished guests that included former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Ambassador Tom Schieffer and Vice Minister Shinichi Yamanaka from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Business Advisory Board Launches in Tokyo

Masaaki Tanaka (center) with members of the Business Advisory Board

On November 12, the USJC Business Advisory Board Inaugural Reception took place in Tokyo. The Business Advisory Board is a group of business leaders in Japan with experience in the United States, who are also familiar with the work of USJC. Members are invited to advise USJC leadership about innovative programs in networking and leadership and expand the Council’s network in Japan.

About 70 individuals attended, several of them friends and connections of Masaaki Tanaka, Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors, who initiated and led the creation of the Business Advisory Board. A central piece of the program, emceed by Paul Yonamine, Member of the USJC Board of Directors, was Mr. Tanaka’s discussion on how this Board encourages membership in a personal, long-term capacity, rather than participation because of individuals’ work responsibilities, which tend to be more temporary.

Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Member of the USJC Board of Councilors, gave a dynamic and concise speech on American politics, with an analysis of the recent midterm elections. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye thanked the business leaders’ support of the Council, discussed the Council’s activities and asked for the leaders’ expertise, while Royanne Doi, Member of the USJC Board of Directors, discussed specific areas that need guidance in preparation for the upcoming Annual Conference in Tokyo.

We express our sincere appreciation to the individuals who participated, and look forward to working with the business leaders!

Asian American Leadership Delegation on Way to Japan

The 2014 Asian American Leadership Delegation, which features five Asian American state legislators, is embarking today on the week-long program to Japan. The Delegation will travel first to Kyoto, then Tokyo, to meet with Japanese political and government leaders, business executives and non-profit leaders to exchange ideas as well as build networks that can mutually benefit the U.S.-Japan relationship.

The state legislators, each from a different region and cultural background, are:

  • Representative Sylvia Luke – House of Representatives, State of Hawaii
  • Representative Raj Mukherji – House of Representatives, State of New Jersey
  • Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos – House of Representatives, Washington State
  • Representative Hubert Vo – House of Representatives – State of Texas
  • Representative Donald Wong – House of Representatives – Commonwealth of Massachusetts

On Friday, November 21, the legislators will participate in a symposium in Tokyo to reflect on their exchange of ideas and their new networks, and to discuss their varied personal and political journeys. To learn about their diverse backgrounds and experiences, please register through the Sasakawa Peace Foundation website by Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5pm Japan time.

USJC is partnering with the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of the National Conference of State Legislators for this program, which is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. More information about the program and biographies of the five delegates can be found at  the AALD webpage .

TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program News Corner

Reflection from Brandon Marc Higa (ELP 2014)


The Okinawan proverb ichariba-chode (lit. once we have met, we are like brothers and sisters) holds true for my experience as a 2014 ELP delegate. I felt a distinct connection with my ELP cohort during our first exchanges, which took place weeks prior to the USJC Annual Conference. By the time we finally met one another over dinner it felt as though we knew each other from a past life. The more I listened to everyone’s stories it became obvious how our shared heritage as Japanese-Americans gave us purpose to dedicate our professional and personal lives to building bridges between the United States and Japan. Words cannot describe the surreal feeling of meeting complete strangers who share the same passion and commitment to a cause you feel strongly about.

The underlying theme of the TOMODACHI Initiative is that relationships matter. To that end, I wholeheartedly believe the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program sets the standard. The people-to-people connections I made with my cohort and USJC Members brought the richest times of my young adult life. Fond memories I had of living in Tokyo while working at the U.S. Embassy and the National Diet of Japan once again had significance. I have not felt this connected to my Japanese-American heritage and passions for U.S.-Japan foreign relations since transitioning from my career in diplomacy to return to the islands. The USJC Annual Conference provided the opportunity for me to revisit my research interests in U.S.-Japan security relations, as well as international exchanges between U.S. and Japan.

So what happens next? Immediately following the conference, I did two things: reach out and thank the USJC regional membership for hosting the conference; and reach out to friends and colleagues who I will mentor to apply for the 2015 ELP cohort in Tokyo.

As a personal takeaway from the conference, I haven’t decided whether to challenge or accept Mr. George Takei’s advice for fellow actors to abstain from running for office. Personally, I think he would have made a fine Councilmember, although not holding office has not held him back from successfully advocating for progress and social change for Japanese-Americans and LGBTIQ individuals. He clearly garners the followers, fan base and adoration so many dream of.

(From left to right) George Takei, Brandon Marc Higa, Brad Takei

2014 ELP Kenshiro Uki Featured in HONOLULU Magazine

Photo Credit: Olivier Koning for HONOLULU

HONOLULU Magazine recently profiled the story of Sun Noodle, the Hawaii-based company behind nine of The New York Times’ top 10 ramen restaurants. 2014 Emerging Leader Kenshiro Uki is the General Manager of Sun Noodle New Jersey, following in the footsteps of his father, Sun Noodle founder Hidehito Uki.

Read more at: https://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/November-2014/How-Kalihi-Noodle-Factory-Sun-Noodle-Fueled-Americas-Ramen-Boom/


Oct. 29 – Membership Reception in Boston

Thank you to Ms. Jun-Ang Ni, Intern at the Fish Family Foundation, for the following photo, text and video:

Lieutenant General Osamu Onoda, JASDF (ret.), Board of Directors Member Atsuko Fish, and Suzanne Basalla in Boston

On October 29, the Fish Family Foundation hosted a wonderful evening honoring the connection between Japan and America. The night began with a greeting and introduction by Ms. Atsuko Fish, Member of the U.S.-Japan Council Board of Directors and the hostess of the evening, who warmly welcomed the audience with the beautiful backdrop of Boston at night.

Around the speakers’ table, familiar faces intermingled with new ones, all joined together by a single thread: Japan. There were many notable individuals who came together to weave and knit those individual threads into one single cloth, binding past with present and nation with nation, including: Dr. Susumu Ito, a veteran of the all Japanese-American 442nd Regiment during World War II; Mr. Shun Kanda, Senior Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a new USJC Member; Dr. Shigeo Kondo, a veteran of the Japanese Army during World War II; Ms. Naomi Moniz, Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University; Mr. Paul Niwa, a USJC Member and Professor at Emerson College; and Mr. Yuji Shimizu, Senior Vice President and CTO of Toray Plastics America.

After thanking everyone, Ms. Fish introduced the first speaker, Suzanne Basalla. Ms. Basalla, Executive Vice President and COO of USJC, shared her deep connection with Japan and her fascinating career path. Her speech led the audience through her route to success and clearly expressed gratitude for her connection to Japan and the life she is living. After Ms. Basalla, retired Lieutenant General of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Osamu Onoda, the star of the show, took to the stage and delivered a heart-warming, hopeful, yet fiery speech regarding Japan’s security strategy in the growing East Asian region.

Mr. Shun Kumagai, a talented and passionate student at Berklee College of Music and a recipient of the TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund, closed out the night with a beautiful performance demonstrating his mastery of the saxophone. This concert reinforced the idea that Japan would never be hindered so long as there were young and inspired citizens like Mr. Kumagai. With that, the evening ended with many looking forward to further events highlighting the shared history and partnership between Japan and America.



Digital Communications Position Opening at USJC

USJC is currently hiring for a Digital Communications Specialist/Manager in our Washington, DC office. We’re looking for an experienced professional to handle our website, social media, graphic design, audio/visual presentations and this very newsletter. If you or someone you know are enthusiastic about U.S.-Japan relations and fit the job description posted online, we’d love to hear from you!

Please send a cover letter and resume to [email protected] by November 16.