U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (October 31st, 2013)


From U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye:

This week for me was marked by inspiration and reflection. I had the privilege of attending the memorial service of our dear friend, Speaker of the House and Ambassador Thomas Foley, who passed away recently. Held in the U.S. Capitol, the distinguished gathering included Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Walter Mondale, Japan’s former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, and many current and former members of Congress. Each speaker highlighted Ambassador Foley’s commitment to bipartisanship and his relentless efforts to bring Congressional members from across the aisle together to address issues and solve problems. President Clinton, who appointed Speaker Foley as Ambassador to Japan, talked about how he wanted Japan to know the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship by appointing one of the best Americans.

I reflected on Ambassador Foley making a real effort to attend the U.S.-Japan Council’s Board of Councilors Annual Meetings and some of our receptions on Capitol Hill. Wheelchair-bound, it would have been easy for the Ambassador to “beg off,” but he joined us to show his support for the Council and U.S.-Japan relations. Shortly before his passing, his wife Heather had sent a note saying she hoped to join us for this year’s Opening Reception of the Annual Conference on Capitol Hill, despite the Ambassador’s declining health. Ambassador Foley’s commitment to the U.S.-Japan Council and his many years as a true public servant and diplomat serves a reminder to all of us that one person can truly make a difference. 

Last evening, I had the honor of accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award given to Senator Daniel K. Inouye by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in New York. Over the past ten months since the Senator’s passing, I have been humbled by the many organizations that have graciously honored the Senator’s contributions. It was very special to pause and remember his commitment to building the U.S.-Japan relationship and to reflect on how important both Ambassador Foley and the Senator have been to both countries.  But it is equally inspiring to know that their commitment has continued on through individuals like Ambassador John Roos, who was also given an award at the JCCI dinner, along with baseball great Hideki Matsui.Ambassador Roos was saluted for his extraordinary four years as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and for his contribution to the relief efforts following Japan’s disasters of March 11, 2011, as well as his efforts with the TOMODACHI Initiative.

While celebrating the lives of Ambassador Foley and Senator Inouye and saluting the contributions of Ambassador Roos, I was equally inspired that the future strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship will come from current and future Japanese American leaders. This week, the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Screening Committee reviewed the many outstanding applications for the 2014 JALD Program. Each year, the selection is a difficult task, as there are many successful Japanese Americans who are recommended for the Delegation. These leaders are stepping forward to become part of our growing community at the U.S.-Japan Council.

Finally, we continue to receive very positive feedback about this year’s Annual Conference in Washington, DC. The Conference will be remembered for the high level of energy and enthusiasm that was inspired by the outstanding keynote speeches and engaging breakout sessions. The Conference also marked an outstanding group of twelve young Japanese Americans who were selected as this year’s participants in the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). Like the Japanese American Leadership Delegation, the Emerging Leaders Program is bringing together bright and talented individuals who will ensure that the legacy of Ambassador Tom Foley and Senator Daniel Inouye will remain alive and vibrant, and keep on giving.


The 2013 class of USJC’s TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program continues to build on their experiences during the Annual Conference, and we look forward to bringing you updates on our Emerging Leaders in the future. Below are reflections from two of this year’s alumni.

Participating in the Emerging Leaders Program demonstrated not only the vitality of the Japanese American community, but the essential linkages continually growing between the United States and Japan.  Inspired by the deep knowledge and experience of USJC community leaders, as well as through the passion and dedication of my ELP cohort, I am keen to maintain these new connections, to seek out fulfilling community involvement and to carry out the work we have just begun.
– Courtney Sato, New Haven, Connecticut

During my Monday morning walk into work following the Conference, I found myself thinking, “What can I do to become a stronger leader in my community, while bringing out the best in those around me?” The Emerging Leaders Program connected me to inspirational people with a common purpose of doing more to improve the U.S.-Japan relationship—and they didn’t just preach it, they breathed it. As a result, I felt a personal urgency to make the most of my background, skills, and network to  elevate myself and those within my immediate community. Amidst the chaotic and, at times, nonsensical world we live in, I left my ELP family and the USJC Conference with a renewed sense of motivation and hope for my generation of Japanese Americans. We really can change the world. But we must support each other to do even more.
– Yuki Lin, San Francisco, California


Click here to see our “Models of Excellence” speakers discuss the first time they felt Japanese American. The speakers were Ms. Kristi Yamaguchi, Mr. Daniel Tani, Mr. Darren Kimura, Mr. Ryu Goto and Admiral Harry Harris.

See videos of the Conference on our YouTube channel, now featuring more clips from “Models of Excellence: Lessons from Japanese American Stars.”

See photos on our Flickr site.

As the U.S.-Japan Council strives to improve its events every year, we always appreciate feedback from our attendees. Conference participants are encouraged to fill out a brief survey. All answers will be anonymous.

Take the survey


This is a new feature of the newsletter that we want to use to keep you current on news of the TOMODACHI generation. Here you will find articles on notable activities of TOMODACHI participants and alumni as well as announcements for upcoming opportunities to engage with and support TOMODACHI programs. 


On October 23, two participants of this summer’s TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange program testified about their experiences before the DC State Board of Education. The TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange program brought together six Japanese high school students from Tokyo with six students from Washington, DC for a three week program this summer focusing on social entrepreneurship and creative solutions to social problems.

The State Board of Education is considering changing standards that would permit students to receive academic credit for study abroad or international exchange programs such as this one.  As public high school students, they wanted to share with the board the impact participating in the program had on them. 

“This summer has been an eye-opening, life-changing, and unforgettable one for me,” shared Atiya Artis, a student at Coolidge High School. “I had the pleasure of not only meeting, but also forming personal bonds with eleven teenagers. I saw my own city in a way that I had never seen before. My mind expanded to great measures as I learned to question everything. Overall, the TOMODACHI program opened the door for me to become the inquiring, open minded, daring, alert person I am today.”

For these students, the summer was only the beginning. They are continuing to learn about Japan and Japanese culture and finding ways to tell others under the direction of Globalize DC.

U.S.-Japan Council Program Manager Mya Fisher represented USJC with a statement about the Council, the TOMODACHI Initiative and its relationship to the program.

The American students will make a reciprocal visit to Tokyo in November.  While in Japan, they will meet with a number of Japanese organizations that support communities facing issues such as homelessness. They will also travel to Tohoku to learn about the various people and organizations supporting rebuilding efforts in the region.  All six students will be visiting Japan for the first time and are looking forward to inspiring others to visit Japan by sharing their experiences when they return.

For more info about these TOMODACHI programs and others, visit the TOMODACHI website and be sure to subscribe to the monthly TOMODACHI newsletter.



Japan’s rapid and efficient transportation system has won international admiration for decades. There is much that the United States can learn from Japan’s experience, especially since quicker and more reliable connections between major hubs can make the entire economy dramatically more efficient. On October 31, in an event in New York City titled “Transportation in the Northeast Corridor,” USJC brought together prominent Japanese and American leaders from the public and private sectors for an exciting panel discussion, exploring opportunities for U.S.-Japan cooperation in the field of transportation.
This past September, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan visited New York and said that adopting the magnetic levitation technology used by Japan’s fastest high-speed trains “would connect New York and Washington, DC in less than an hour.” The event discussed such a possibility, searching for innovative ways to connect major cities in the Northeast Corridor. It attempted to build an even stronger path between the Big Apple and the Nation’s Capital: cities that embody the best of the public and private sectors of the United States.
Senator Tom Daschle, (D-SD) Former Senate Majority Leader, Senior Policy Advisor, DLA Piper (US) LLP, served as moderator and emcee. “Japan’s commitment to this initiative is a strong affirmation of the deep friendship and strategic ties between our two countries,” Senator Daschle said.
The panelists were: Wayne Rogers, Chairman, The Northeast MAGLEV;  Secretary Rodney Slater, Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Partner, Patton Boggs; Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Former Governor of New Jersey, President, Whitman Strategy Group; and Minister Kanji Yamanouchi, Minister for Economic Affairs, Embassy of Japan in the United States of America.
“The GDP of the DC to New York region is about 15% of the entire U.S. GDP,” Secretary Slater said, illustrating how important the Northeast Corridor is to the national economy.  

“As Prime Minister Abe noted to President Obama in their February 2013 meeting, Japan wants to cooperate with the U.S. to bring this revolutionary technology to the Northeast Corridor,” Minister Yamanouchi said. He added that such an initiative is symbolic of the strategic relationship between Japan and the U.S.
Mr. Rogers and Governor Whitman also spoke about the benefits of high-speed trains, drawing on their professional experience and background. All panelists emphasized the need for a new transportation solution in the Northeast Corridor.
The event was attended by approximately 80 people, including Ambassador Sumio Kusaka, Consul-General of Japan in New York, as well as USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and other Board Members and Council Members. The event was sponsored by The Northeast MAGLEV, the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Hitachi, Ltd. and Mitsubishi Corporation.

View photos from the event here.


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