U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter (September 29th, 2016)

Inaugural Watanabe Scholars Announced

The inaugural cohort of the U.S.-Japan Council Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship has just been announced!

We are proud to present the first ten recipients of the Watanabe Scholarship for study abroad. These undergraduate students were awarded full-need scholarships to support a term or year of academic study in the United States. The students represent universities in Tokyo, Chiba and Miyagi prefectures. They will be attending public and private institutions in California, New York, Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania through exchange partnerships with their schools in Japan. There was a high level of interest for this unique scholarship this first year, making the selection competitive. The Council looks forward to supporting many more students in the future through this lasting gift from Mr. Watanabe.

Click here to learn more about the 2016-17 scholarship recipients and where they are studying.

2016 USJC Annual Conference

Spotlight On: Design Thinking, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

How might Japan renew and refresh its economic and creative leadership in the world? How can “Silicon Valley-style” innovation help entrepreneurs—both women and men—succeed on either side of the Pacific? This session will explore design thinking and other approaches to help individuals and organizations thrive and grow. Each of the panelists will share their knowledge and experience of how to overcome obstacles and achieve innovation success, with special emphasis on how the culture of American and Japanese companies can either inhibit or encourage innovation.

Moderator: Speakers:

Tom Kelley

Partner, IDEO

Mariko Yoshihara Yang

Co-Founder & Chief Education Officer, SKY Labo; Visiting Scholar, Japan Program Fellow, Stanford University

Ari Horie

CEO/Founder, Women’s Startup Lab

Hiro Saijou

CEO & Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley

For more information about speakers, topics and activities, check out the USJC Annual Conference webpage. We hope to see you in Santa Clara in November!

Japanese Prefectures Pitching Session (“Hidden Gems” Showcase) Featured on LinkedIn

USJC Council Leader and Founder & CEO of Global Vision Technology, Inc., Hal Amano, has published an article on LinkedIn Pulse highlighting select small to medium businesses (SMBs) in Japan. These “hidden gems” offer cutting-edge technology, making them the perfect partners for companies in Silicon Valley. The SMBs will pitch their services and products at the Annual Conference, during a session led by Mr. Amano. Read the full article here or by clicking on the image below.


Regular Registration Deadline Ending Tomorrow!

Imagine. Innovate. Inspire. – The Silicon Valley Experience

Register now before rates increase for the “Final Call” period beginning on October 1! Young Professionals (age 40 years & under) will receive a special discounted rate!

The 2016 Annual Conference will be held in Silicon Valley—the center of high-tech startups and development—from November 14 to 15, 2016 (in addition, USJC members will have the opportunity to participate in a special Members Day program prior to the Conference on November 13). With over 60 speakers across both days, the Conference will be attended by hundreds of distinguished American and Japanese leaders from all sectors, and will be an opportunity to advance an innovative agenda in U.S.-Japan relations, exchange views about challenges and opportunities, and identify ways that the U.S.-Japan relationship can be strengthened.

Want to win FREE REGISTRATION for the Conference? Check out our ongoing Social Media Contest!


TOMODACHI Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program Inspires Youth

Leonardo Ortiz Villacorta (center) of Microsoft Welcomes iLEAP Leaders

From August to September 2016, the TOMODACHI Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program hosted 25 Japanese scholars and young professionals who traveled to Seattle and spent a month in leadership training. Meetings with Seattle leaders, visits to businesses and organizations, and traditional classroom work comprised the very successful curriculum. One of the program’s highlights was a visit to the Redmond, Washington campus of Microsoft Corporation, a new TOMODACHI Strategic Partner. The full day of training was led by Leonardo Ortiz Villacorta, Director of Global Field Empowerment, Microsoft Philanthropies. iLEAP participants learned about Microsoft’s mission of global education and their goal to provide access to technology in underserved populations. The day culminated with a special Microsoft executive briefing, and the iLEAP participants were given a tour of Microsoft’s newest, not-yet-released innovations and products.

The success of the program is supplemented by the engagement of several USJC members, including Lynn Hashimoto, Harold Taniguchi, Dianne Adachi and Pat Oishi. These mentors met program participants throughout the month-long stay, and shared valuable advice and guidance as the participants considered career goals and lifestyle choices.

Council Leader Britt Yamamoto (center) and iLEAP Leaders

Under the leadership of Britt Yamamoto and Kei Erickson, Seattle’s iLEAP program continues to flourish and grow. This program is an example of USJC’s investment in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational, cultural exchanges and leadership programs.


The following is part of a year-long series of articles by the 2015 class of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.

Reflection from Sonya Kuki (ELP 2015)

The author (left) with Sanford (who happens to be the father of USJC Program Specialist Allison Murata)

Ichi go ichi e—a favorite Japanese adage of mine. Roughly translated, it means “one time, one meeting”—a cultural concept whose origins can be found in Zen Buddhism and Japanese tea ceremony—and was first introduced to me by a treasured mentor of mine, Sanford, one Sunday afternoon last year throwing clay at a potters’ studio in Honolulu.

I had just lamented to Sanford that my big decision to leave my beloved home Hawaii to move to the east coast, though self-driven, was the source of much emotional trepidation as I struggled to accept that it was time for me to leave. In particular, I knew I’d sorely miss the vibrant Japanese American community in the islands. Being among and regularly interacting with my fellow nikkei gave me a renewed sense of connection and belonging that had eluded me in the interceding years that I had lived on the mainland.

With the other women of the ELP Class of 2015 at the USJC Annual Conference

Ichi go ichi e, in this interpretation, means that each interaction with someone is completely unique and could never be replicated—this is to say that we must treasure every encounter, for just one exchange could impact your life. Sanford reminded me to keep this idea close to heart and that all my encounters in Hawaii would remain with me going forward, even in the absence of the comforts of my community.

It was at the 2015 USJC Annual Conference that I fully realized this concept. In a very short span of time, our cadre in the Emerging Leaders Program became extraordinarily close. The intensity of our camaraderie and the esprit de corps we formed in the process cannot be fully captured by mere words. The common thread was not simply that we were Japanese Americans, but that we immensely cherished the values that were instilled in us by virtue of our heritage, and that we felt driven to preserve and perpetuate these values in the interest of our community. It was this mission that we shared.

The author’s photo of a polaroid of ELPs at the 2015 TOMODACHI Summit

From this small group of accomplished, ambitious and passionate individuals I learned to draw my new source of strength, and redefined myself in terms of the opportunity to shape the future of our community. From this one encounter that brought us all together in one space, from different corners of the country for this one moment in time, I drew tremendous impact. I also no longer felt like I needed to physically be among my fellow nikkei to remember and appreciate my Japanese values, because our connection far supercedes the dimensions of space and time. And so with my ELP experience, and ichi go ichi e in mind, I moved to the east coast with a sense of peace that I was, still, part of a tribe.

ELP 2016 Bios Now Online

Congratulations again to the 2016 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders! Their biographies are now online here. Come to the 2016 Annual Conference to meet these accomplished young individuals in person!

Member News

Yumi Yamaguchi Featured in Nikkei Style

Friend of the Council Yumi Yamaguchi was recently featured in Nikkei Style, a website affiliated with Nikkei Shimbun. In this article, she talks about her career, meeting USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and becoming involved with the Council and the TOMODACHI Initiative. She is one of the few top women leaders in the Japanese government (she built her career at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and until recently was Vice Commissioner at the Japan Tourism Agency), and became President & CEO of the Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute earlier this year. Click here to read the article (in Japanese only).

War Brides

Written by the daughter of a Japanese war bride and an American GI, this heartfelt article in The Washington Post touches on the hardships and achievements of the many Japanese women who came to the United States after WWII. Many of their children were raised to identify as “real Americans” instead of Japanese Americans. The author, Kathryn Tolbert, also co-directed the documentary Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War BridesClick here or on the image below to read the Post article, which includes short videos recounting the stories of individual war brides.


Upcoming Events

JWLI – Women Leading Social Changes in Japan

When: October 18, 2016 at 9am – 6pm
Where: Tokyo American Club (Tokyo, Japan)

The Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (JWLI) is celebrating its 10th anniversary by hosting a Tokyo Summit titled “Women Leading Social Changes in Japan.” JWLI is led by USJC Board Member Atsuko Fish. Among the speakers at this summit are Irene Hirano Inouye and Council Leader Mari Kuraishi.

This summit will allow participants to:

  • Observe successful cases of social change in Japan achieved by women leaders
  • Learn from the U.S experience: “What is different from Japan? What is similar? What can be learned?”
  • Meet role models from Japan’s social sector leaders and social entrepreneurs
  • Explore obstacles for Japanese women leaders and how to overcome them

To learn more information, please visit the JWLI website or the summit’s website.