U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (October 15th, 2015)

Japanese American Leaders Share Achievements of the Redress Movement

We thank Ms. Kana Takagi, Development Intern at the Environment and Energy Study Institute (and former TOMODACHI intern and alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program as well as the Building the TOMODACHI Generation program) for this article! USJC Members who attended the event include Secretary Norman Mineta, Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors; Council Members Priscilla Ouchida (who is also Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)) and John Tobe; and Associate Member (and USJC Development Director) Georgette-Furukawa Martinez.

(L-R) Mr. Cal Shintani, Mr. Tomo Mizutani, Mr. Terry Shima, Dr. Mitch Maki, Ms. Ai Tokuno

The community screening and panel discussion of the documentary, RIGHT OF PASSAGE, sponsored by Nitto Tire, was held at the National Press Club on September 30. The event, which welcomed outstanding panelists as well as a committed audience, was hosted by Nitto Films and supported by USJC, the JACL, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and the Japanese American Veteran Association.

The film clearly illustrated perplexing legislative processes and turning points in the Japanese Americans’ redress campaign. At the same time, it brought together the emotion, passion and personal relationships of the heroes who were determined to never give up. Thirty years after the closing of the internment camps, with a population of only one-half of one percent of the total population of the United States, how did Japanese Americans achieve such a historic event?

(L-R) Director Janice Tanaka, Congressman Mark Takano, Co-Producer Nancy Araki

They started utilizing media to let public know about what happened, and the redress campaign was launched. The JACL and the Japanese American community asked for a bill to create the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), and the President and Congress appointed a nine-member panel. The first hearing was held in Washington DC, followed by hearings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston and again in Washington DC. Ms. Karen Narasaki, Commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, said witnessing the hearing was one of the most memorable moments for her during the campaign. Many of the Nisei generation did not hear anything from their parents who experienced internment; people kept their memories to themselves. But the hearing turned the situation around. The meetings provided a positive platform for people to tell their stories. This was repeated in communities in many parts of the United States, leading to the success of the whole movement to make the government officially recognize the violations of fundamental rights.

(L-R) Mr. Eric Federing (Legislative Director to then Congressman Mineta at the time of Redress) reminisces with USJC Board of Councilors Member Secretary Norman Mineta

Right after the film, members of the audience were eager to praise and thank the filmmaker Ms. Janice Tanaka for her astonishing work that combined historical events and a strong narrative. The discussion, moderated by Dr. Mitch Maki, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs at CSU Dominguez Hills and an author of Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress, dug deeper into the story. Secretary Norman Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, reflected upon the movement and his experience as a U.S. Representative from the state of California (1975-1995). He pointed out that the people mattered most. The movement strengthened communities on a grassroots level and demonstrated the ability for people to gain momentum in a democratic society.

(L-R) Mr. Shintani, Mr. Michael Cardarelli, Secretary Mineta, Ms. Ouchida, Mr. Shima, Ms. Shirley Higuchi, Congressman Takano, Ms. Keiko Brockel and Mr. Mizutani

“Taste of Tohoku” Event Brings Delicious Regional Cuisine to Northern California

We thank Council Member Dianne Fukami for her contributions to this report!

(L-R) Council Member Dianne Fukami and Board Member Allen Okamoto greet attendees as they enter

Nearly 120 people attended “Taste of Tohoku,” a culinary diplomacy event organized by Northern California members of the U.S.-Japan Council on October 1. Held at the official residence of the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, it was an appreciation dinner to thank attendees who had donated to “Rias no Mori,” a non-profit organization in the Tohoku area committed to supporting survivors of the disaster there nearly five years ago.Consul General Jun Yamada, who is from the Tohoku area, hosted the affair and lent the services of his chef, Katsuyuki Takahashi, known for his kaiseki talents. Using a variety of ingredients all sourced from Tohoku, Chef Takahashi created a gourmet meal of three different kinds of soups, beef stew, beef tongue, shabu shabu Iwate beef, squid and carrots, kamabokozunda rice cakes, sashimi, chirashi and a dessert using peaches from Fukushima.

A sampling of the delicious food served at the event

Guests were also treated to a sake tasting featuring more than a dozen different types all produced in the Tohoku region. Organizers were members of the USJC Board of Directors Allen Okamoto and Jan Yanehiro, and Council Members Dianne Fukami, John Noguchi, Steve Teraoka, Tasha Yorozu and Kaz Maniwa (who is also Senior Vice President at USJC).

Guests included members of the USJC Board of Councilors Hiro Ogawa (who generously donated a case of Kenzo wines) and Susie Roos, Former Ambassador John Roos, and a number of other members and community supporters.

Ms. Yanehiro relishing the wonderful food and great company

Ms. Yanehiro served as emcee, with short remarks by Consul General Yamada, Mr. Okamoto (who talked about USJC and its commitment to Tohoku), and Ms. Fukami (who gave an update on the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Tohoku). Ambassador Roos led the guests in a rousing cheer of “kampai!” All guests received a gift bag (with gifts from Kikkoman, ITO EN, and Hosoda Bros) when they left.

(L-R) Former Ambassador Roos, Consul General Yamada, Mr. Okamoto, and Ms. Yanehiro

By all accounts it was a highly successful evening. Guests were able to experience the bounty from Tohoku presented in a gourmet setting in a beautiful residence, and to sip and sample as much Tohoku sake as they wished. All proceeds went to Rias No Mori. We thank the Consulate-General and all sponsors for their strong support!

For more pictures of this event, please view our Flickr album.

TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program News

This article concludes the series of reflections from the 2014 Class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program. We are excited to meet the 2015 Class who will join USJC for the Annual Conference in Tokyo this November.

Reflection from Jonathan Abbott (ELP 2014)

I was home on March 11, 2011. At 2:46 p.m. my Tokyo apartment started to tremble. I went outside where I joined dozens of people on the narrow streets near my house. People looked at each other in disbelief as the earth trembled with more force.

I remember looking at my watch because the shaking never seemed to end. The earth felt light under my feet, like the streets would crack open. When it stopped, someone brought a TV into the street and we watched the tsunami wipe out lives in Tohoku.

Before I came to Japan, I did not know how to define “American Culture.” Living in Japan helped me see a lot of things I never noticed about America before. As an outsider in another country,I became prouder of the struggles of American Japanese, of their heroism during World War II, and the place American-born Japanese carved out for themselves in society after the war. I became prouder of people like my mother and her family, who had been interned at Heart Mountain in Wyoming.

The author teaching middle school students in Japan about the Internment camps and Nisei veterans

In Japan, I was an English teacher in public schools. I followed the designated school curriculum. It taught English, but not communication; memorization, but not thinking; words, but not passion. In school textbooks “Americans” were blonde and Caucasian; teachers were “foreigners” who came from countries students could not remember.

I went to Tohoku with a volunteer group that left late Friday nights after work. We drove the 300 miles to Iwate, split the gas bill, and came home Sunday evening. I was encouraged to do more. I wanted to teach my culture; about being American and Asian, to explain that the two can be part of a whole. I wanted students to know about America and its people and for Americans to learn what a special place Japan is.

In Tokyo, I gave lectures at my schools and at community centers to teach about Japanese in America. I started a group called KidArt International. I invited American artists to Japan to encourage creative expression, and to show students America and its diversity, as well as how English is a tool for communication. So far our visiting artists have touched the lives of 3,000 people in five different areas of Japan.

The author giving a lecture about American-born Japanese to seniors at a community center in Japan

I was thrilled to be selected as a TOMODACHI Emerging Leader in 2014. At the USJC Annual Conference in Hawaii, I was able to meet like-minded individuals and make friends in both Japan and America. I met passionate people who have helped change the world in which we live. I feel honored and humbled to be part of such an accomplished group. I hope USJC continues its mission of connecting the two countries and I am looking forward, as an Emerging Leader, to help spread its message.

The author with high school students at a KidArt International Event


Tokyo Members and Staff Visit the Olympic OfficeOn October 15, USJC (J) Board of Directors Member James Minamoto, Friend of the Council Yumi Yamaguchi and USJC Director of External Affairs Nobuaki Yasunaga visited the office of the Tokyo Organization Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and met with Mr. Koji Murofushi, Sports Director. Together, they discussed the mission of USJC as well as the upcoming Tokyo-based Annual Conference in November.

Mr. Murofushi is a keynote speaker at the 2015 Annual Conference and is expected to discuss the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and U.S.-Japan relations.


Final Call for registration for the Annual Conference ends on October 31st. For more information about the Conference or to register your spot now, please visit the Annual Conference page.

Member News

Council Member Julie Azuma awarded with the Consul General’s CommendationOn October 2, Council Member Julie Azuma was presented with the 2015 Consul General’s Commendation by Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi. She was supported by many USJC Members including Board Member Frederick Katayama and Council Members Patricia Kozu, Nancy Matsumoto, Susan Onuma, Toko Serita and Grant Ujifusa. During the event, she spoke about her work with USJC; Japanese Americans, Japanese in America (JAJA); the Japanese American Association (JAA); and Different Roads to Learning, the business she founded that focuses on bringing educational materials to children diagnosed with autism and special needs.

For more information on Ms. Azuma or the Commendation, please read the Consulate General’s press release.




The Executive Assistant 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. The position requires an individual who is flexible, able to multi-task and prioritize, takes initiative, is well-organized, able to plan and meet deadlines and is comfortable working independently and as part of a team. Travel, including to Japan, is expected.

How to Apply

Candidates should provide a cover letter, resume and 2-3 professional references to [email protected], subject line, “Executive Assistant- Silicon Valley Project.” Candidates must submit all necessary information and documents. Successful candidates will be requested for a phone or in- person interview. Review of applications will begin October 16, 2015.

Please download the PDF version of this description here.