Next Generation Summit 2020


*More sessions will become available for online viewing soon. Please check back for updates.

The Next Generation Summit was held on December 11-12, 2020. Through the programs panels and discussions, the event gave spotlight to the young and emerging leaders in the U.S.-Japan Council community, including members and program alumni. Read more about the event below.

A full recording of Day 1 of the U.S.-Japan Council Next Generation Summit 2020 is available for online viewing. Click here or above to watch.

Above: The panel “Reflection of Study Abroad Experiences and Resilience in the New Normal” featured Yusuke Kido (TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program), De’Jia Long-Hillie (Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship Program) and Michael Turner (Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Tokyo.)


The USJC Next Generation Summit, held December 11-12, 2020, gave light to the voices of the young and emerging leaders in our community, including U40 members, TOMODACHI alumni and Watanabe scholars on the lessons learned from this year of change and the power of resilience. Themes focused on the ripple effect of social justice movements, mentorship through virtual connectedness, the value of cultural exchange in times of crisis, and perspectives of resilience from the next generation. Attendees heard from our rising stars and future leaders who took part in critical dialogues around building vision, hoping to empower each other to take action during these challenging and uncertain times. The Summit was organized into two days: the first day was open to the public on a range of topics mentioned above. 

Day 2 offered an opportunity for participants from Day 1 to take part in workshops and discussions focused on the three themes: Reflective, Resilient, and Revolutionary. One workshop helped participants reflect on their leadership styles in times of crisis through the distributed leadership model developed by MIT professors; another workshop focused on disaster resilience and the skills needed for preparedness and better communication; and the third workshop was the TOMODACHI Critical Conversations Part 3 that was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which created a safe space for honest peer-to-peer dialogue on these critical issues.  

Schedule of Events

Public Session (Day 1)
Dec. 11, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm ET // Dec. 12, 8:30 am – 10:30 am JT

  • Welcome & Opening Remarks
  • Panel: Reflection of Study Abroad Experiences and Resilience in the New Normal
  • TOMODACHI Alumni Speakers, Part 1
  • Special Remarks
  • TOMODACHI Critical Conversations Part 3: Voices Within ~ How is BLM Reshaping Conversations About Discrimination? ~
  • TOMODACHI Alumni Speakers, Part 2
  • Panel: Leadership Lessons Learned from 2020 (Year of Change) 

Workshop Session (Day 2)
Dec. 12, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm ET // Dec. 13, 8:30 am – 10:30 am JT
These workshops are open to those who register for Day 1. You will receive an invitation separately.

  • Welcome Remarks
  • Breakout Sessions (descriptions below)
    • Reflective (Leadership Style)
    • Resilient (Disaster Resilience)
    • Revolutionary (Critical Conversations
  • Networking
  • Closing Remarks

Breakout Sessions:

Facilitated by: Mio Yamamoto, U.S.-Japan Council Emerging Leaders Program

The year 2020 has been one of the seismic shifts for the whole world. Many of you have let go of old ways of doing things and practiced and/or witnessed new leadership under this crisis. In this participatory workshop, we will build on the TOMODACHI leaders’ stories, and introduce a leadership framework in the age of uncertainties developed by professors at MIT. Participants then will reflect on how this year has been for each one’s leadership practice. Hope this workshop will be an opportunity for the TOMODACHI community to reconnect and get energized by each other.

Facilitated by: Makoto Sasaki, TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program; TOMODACHI Disaster Resilience Training Program

Preparing for potential disasters is something you should always do. This workshop aims to help you think about disaster prevention as an everyday matter by using a method proposed by NPO Plus Arts. This is not by doing something special, but by preparing within the context of daily life. For example, by answering the question “What are some disaster prevention measures that we can start tomorrow?,” the participants will share the ideas that came up through group work and give feedback to each other. This workshop aims to improve the preparedness of the participants by sharing the various ideas and knowledge about disaster prevention.

Facilitated by: U.S.-Japan Council Outreach & Allyship Committee 

For Part 3, we will continue to address the issue of race as inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, but through the lens of the impact it has had and will continue to have on discrimination in Japan. We have invited a special speaker to share their experiences on discrimination in Japan and how they hope this BLM movement can and is changing views throughout Japan. 

We invite participants to think of the BLM movement not as an isolated incident that is happening halfway across the world, but as an opportunity to explore, share, learn and discuss these important concepts that are taking place in our communities.

Separate registration is required.

This workshop is organized and facilitated by the Outreach & Allyship Committee, which comprises a group of USJC members who came together to help strengthen U.S.-Japan ties and confront systemic inequities standing in the way of a just and equitable global community.


(See below for bios)

Day 1 (Public Session)

Welcome, Opening and Special Remarks

Suzanne Basalla is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC). Suzanne succeeds the late Irene Hirano Inouye as the leader of the Council.

Suzanne is also a member of the Japan Society of Northern California Board of Directors and Special Advisor to Career Girls. She joins USJC from her role as Chief of Staff at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a Silicon Valley-headquartered subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation that develops automated driving, robotics, and other human amplification technology for Toyota. She joined TRI in 2017.

Prior to TRI, Suzanne had served from 2012-2017 as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at USJC. She helped lead USJC through people-to-people connections, with a focus on investing in next-generation leaders through the public-private TOMODACHI Initiative, which was established in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Suzanne is a former officer of the U.S. Navy, resigning in 2004 at the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Over 13 years in the Navy, her assignments included duty in Japan, the Pentagon, and Diego Garcia. Following her naval career, she was Director for Japan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in Washington, DC. She subsequently was appointed Senior Advisor to John Roos, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, working at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo from 2010-2012. In that capacity, she supported Ambassador Roos on the full portfolio of security, economic, political and cultural issues in the U.S.-Japan relationship. Suzanne graduated from the University of Virginia and received a master’s degree in Asian Studies from George Washington University. In 2008, she received the inaugural Ryozo Kato Award for service to the U.S.-Japan Alliance.

Ambassador Kohno graduated from the Tokyo University Faculty of Law in 1973, and entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that year. He has held various important posts with MOFA since then, including Consul-General of Japan in Los Angeles (2001); Director-General for Sub-Saharan African Affairs (2003); Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Policy (2005); Deputy Minister (G8 Sherpa) (2007); Ambassador to Russia (2009); and Ambassador to Italy (2011). He assumed the posts of Special Representative of the Government of Japan and Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace in 2014. He is also an Executive Board Member of the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Chairman of the John Manjiro Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange. He also serves as Outside Director of the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Inc. and Senior Advisor to the TOMODACHI Initiative.

Joseph M. Young became Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy Tokyo, on July 20, 2019. Mr. Young, a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Tokyo from 2017 to 2019. From 2014 to 2017, he served as the Director for Japanese Affairs at the Department of State. From 2012 to 2014, Mr. Young was Deputy Foreign Policy Advisor for the U.S. Pacific Command. He also served as Political-Military Unit Chief at U.S. Embassy Tokyo from 2009 to 2012.

Mr. Young’s other assignments include: Political-Economic Section Chief, U.S. Embassy Dublin (2004-2007); Aviation Negotiations Officer in the State Department’s Economics Bureau (2002-2004); Economics Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Beijing (1999-2002); Economics Researcher at the Foreign Service Institute (1996-1997); Political Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Nairobi (1994-1996); and Consular Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Singapore (1991-1993).

Mr. Young holds a master’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in Classics from Borromeo College. He speaks Japanese and Chinese. Mr. Young is married and has three daughters.

Yoshiaki Hirayama joined Prudential and assumed his current role as head of Portfolio Management for Japan in November 2017, and also took on the role of managing CSR initiatives for Prudential Holdings of Japan in June 2019.

Prior to joining Prudential, he was the CEO of a consulting service and investment company that he established in April 2015. He previously worked for 29 years in the investment division at Nissay group, including Nissay Asset Management as Chief Investment Officer and Nippon Life Insurance over a range of assignments based in Tokyo and New York.

Yoshiaki earned a B.A. in Literature from Osaka University of Foreign Studies. He holds the Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA) designation and the Chartered Member of the Security Analysts Association of Japan (CMA) designation.

Panel: Reflection of Study Abroad Experiences and Resilience in the New Normal

Yusuke Kido is an alumnus of the TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program and studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as an exchange student. He currently studies at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, majoring in medical robotics.

Yusuke is looking forward to sharing his experiences in the United States, especially the unexpected impact of COVID-19 on his study abroad plans and what his takeaways have been since returning. He hopes this will be helpful for other participants of the Next Generation Summit.

De’Jia Long-Hillie is a 2020 graduate from the University of Maryland Baltimore County where she received a B.A. in Global Studies. De’Jia is grateful for the Watanabe scholarship because hard-working students deserve the opportunity to study abroad free of financial stress. She attended Nanzan University in Nagoya during the Fall 2019 semester. Her time in Japan has helped her feel more comfortable interacting with people from all walks of life both professionally and in her community. Since graduation, De’Jia has become more involved in community engagement. She joined North Ave Mission, a fellowship of unhoused and formerly unhoused people and their supporters in Baltimore. She has continued her virtual federal internship with EducationUSA. Her role is to encourage U.S. higher education stakeholders to expand the representation of Northeast Asia and the Pacific at U.S. colleges and universities. Originally, De’Jia was set to depart for the JET program in September but this has been postponed until January 2021 due to COVID-19. She is currently tutoring English online in preparation for the JET program.

Michael Turner is the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo.  He oversees educational exchange programs, cultural activities, and grassroots outreach. Michael’s previous assignments include Bangkok, Rangoon, Tbilisi, Nagoya, and Washington, DC. Michael was born in San Antonio, Texas and has a BFA from Texas Tech University, and a MA in TESOL from New York University. Michael is married with three children.

TOMODACHI Alumni Speakers

Shiori Hara was born in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, and is currently attending high school as a sophomore in Fukushima. When she was a senior in junior high school, she joined TOMODACHI by taking part in the 7th TOMODACHI MUFG International Exchange Program and visited Los Angeles. As an active alumna, she joined the 2019 TOMODACHI Generation Summit and the TOMODACHI Global Leadership Academy in 2020. Meeting many next generation leaders through the TOMODACHI program and alumni activities, she was inspired by her peers and their energy and desire to better themselves. Upon graduating from high school, she hopes to major in philosophy at university.

Shunsuke Watando is currently a Freshman at Keio University in Tokyo. He participated in the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program in the summer of 2018. Throughout the program, he learned the ability to deal flexibly with things from a comprehensive perspective, and learned about the greatness of the community regardless of size. He also learned that even if the age and gender are different, it is possible to develop a better society together by having common consciousness with one another. Shunsuke is the 2019 and 2020 TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Leader of the Kanto Region.

Naho Shigihara is originally from Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture, and currently works as a nurse in Tokyo. After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, she joined the TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program and learned that she has the ability to contribute to her community and create little ripples of change. Upon returning to Japan after the program, she began initiatives to support local farmers by helping to reduce their reputational harm through awareness. She also participated in the TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Training Program during her sophomore year. Through this program, she acquired the knowledge and skills to serve as medical personnel in emergency situations.

Haruka Kurosawa is originally from the Aizu region in Fukushima, and is an alumnus of the TOMODACHI Summer 2012 English Language Study Program as a member of the first cohort and studied in the United States. The experience of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake changed his point of view; he was 15 years old at the time. He is a graduate of Dokkyo University, having specialized in French and Ethnic Conflict. During his school days, he studied abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a year as a scholarship recipient of the Tobitate! Study Abroad Initiative. He worked at the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo to design and implement an educational program for children with Croatian, Servian and Muslim backgrounds while proceeding with his study on “memories of war.” In April 2020, he began working at a junior high school in Fukuoka as an English teacher, as well as a Teach For Japan fellow, designing an education program under the theme of “connecting the world with the classroom. Haruka is the 2020 and 2021 TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Leader of the Kyushu Region.

Panel: Leadership Lessons Learned from 2020 (Year of Change)

Jennifer Butler is the Manager of the Student Relations Team at the Tokyo headquarters of the Ashinaga Foundation, one of the largest nonprofits in Japan, which provides educational support to domestic and international students who have lost one or both parents.  She works primarily with university students from sub-Saharan African countries studying in Japan under the Ashinaga Africa Initiative. 

Prior to joining Ashinaga, Jennifer studied at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama.  She also worked previously managing the study abroad office for the International Programs Office at Jackson State University (MS); as the Cultural Programs Coordinator in the public diplomacy section of the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville, Tennessee; as an office administrator at Seigakuin Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia; and as a JET Program participant in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. Jennifer founded the Japan-America Society of Tennessee – Young Professionals group; was a delegate of the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co Leadership Program; was a US Country Representative for the JET Alumni Association; and served on the Board of Directors of the Japan-America Society of Mississippi. 

Jennifer earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Alabama in International Studies – Asia Concentration with a Japanese minor.  She received her master’s degree from The University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom in Japanese Studies with a research focus on International Education Policy in Japan.

Ellen Kamei is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic Silicon Valley native. Her mother is Chinese and Puerto Rican American from New York City and her father is sansei, born at Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming. Ellen has professional experience in local, state, and federal government as well as political campaigns and politics. Currently, she is an External and Legislative Affairs Manager for AT&T in Northern California and is the Vice Mayor of the City of Mountain View, CA. 

Ellen grew up participating in activities in San Jose Japantown, one of the three remaining Japantowns in the United States. She is an alumnus of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program and the 2015 U.S. – Japan Council Emerging Leaders Program. She served on the board of the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose where she oversaw the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) Program. She also was a board member of the New Generation Nikkei Fund, providing grants to community based organizations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose Japantowns.

Ellen completed her Master’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania and Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also a graduate of the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

Sakura Yagi is the Chief Operating Officer of TIC Restaurant Group based in New York City. Pre-COVID19, the restaurant group started by her father Bon Yagi served 12 different types of Japanese cuisine at 16 independent locations, ranging from takoyaki and omurice to upscale izakaya tapas, wagashi sweets, and hand-cut soba. The company’s motto “Enjoy Japan without Airfare” highlights the consistent goal of this 36-year-old family business to maintain the authenticity of the various Japanese foods served at each location. In March of this year, during the height of the first wave of COVID19 that devastated her hometown of New York City, Sakura isolated herself from her daughter and family for seven weeks in order to fundraise for and deliver 1,640 Japanese curries to first responders and other healthcare workers in various hospitals throughout the city. Simultaneously, she restructured the portfolio of the restaurants in the group mainly by strengthening the online presence of some restaurants while shuttering 6 others. In the same crazy year of 2020, Sakura was named one of Eater’s New Guards of NYC Dining as well as one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 under 40.

TOMODACHI Critical Conversations: Impact of BLM on Discrimination in Japan

Kota Kondo is a TOMODACHI alumnus studying aerospace engineering at Kyushu University. He participated in the TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program and studied at the University of Michigan in 2019. During his time in the States, he witnessed many racial issues and developed a strong interest in addressing racism and social inequality. Prior to his studies abroad, Kota was a TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Leader for the Kyushu Region and organized events to increase social awareness of LGBTQ issues and hopes to develop better understanding and discussions on diversity within Japan.

Ella McCann is an International Program Manager with Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI). Ella manages volunteer sister city committees; coordinates exchanges that focus on cultural arts and tourism, international business and economic development, global education and government relations between Chicago and its sister cities; facilitates international delegation visits; and produces CSCI program-wide events.

Ella is a native of Chicago, Illinois. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in “Language as a Tool to Breakdown Cultural Barriers” from the Johnston Center for Integrative studies at the University of Redlands in Southern California. Before joining Chicago Sister Cities International, Ella was the Outreach Coordinator at the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, managing school visits at Chicago Public Schools and introducing Japanese culture to Chicagoans. From 2012-2014, she lived in Japan and was an Assistant Language Teacher in Chiba Prefecture as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. Ella is fluent in Japanese and knowledgeable in Spanish.

In 2018, Ella was awarded “40 Game Changers Under 40 in Chicago” by the Urban Business Roundtable, presented by WVON and Ariel Investments.

Felix Garcia is a TOMODACHI alumnus pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Technology with a concentration in Business Intelligence and a minor in Japanese at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He participated in the TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference in Boston in 2017. He is President of the Japanese Language Club, where he organizes events to promote Japanese culture and foster a sense of community among students. He is also a member of the Latino Leadership Opportunity Program (LLOP) at UMass Boston and a Fellow of Hack.Diversity, a program designed to address the underrepresentation of Black and Latinx employees in the tech industry. He currently works at Rapid7 as an IT Project Management Intern. 

Master of Ceremonies 

Reika Mihara studies at Sophia University in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, where she is majoring in Comparative Culture including Art History, Religion, and Philosophy. Since May 2020, Reika has worked as a TOMODACHI Alumni Intern, where she has supported planning, promoting, and implementing events for the TOMODACHI alumni community. In early 2020, she first joined TOMODACHI by attending the Building the TOMODACHI Generation: Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program and learned about civil society and cross-sector partnerships. In 2019, she worked as an intern at the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, an editor of Red Cross Volunteer issued by the Japanese Red Cross, and a volunteer at the Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 and TICAD7 YOKOHAMA. Reika is passionate about further involvement in artistic activities for an inclusive and empowered society.

Iain Mason (also known as Ryo Yamakawa) was born to a Jamaican father and Japanese mother and raised in Oak Park, Michigan and attended The Japanese School of Detroit for over 13 years every Saturday to learn Japanese. After graduating from Colgate University in 2018 with a Sociology major, Iain decided to move to Tokyo to experience working in Japan. He currently works at as a Customer Support Partner Specialist, guiding and assisting client properties on how to use the company’s internal management system. Iain first joined TOMODACHI when he attended the 2017 Daiwa House Leadership Conference held in Boston, and has since participated in various events and opportunities as an alumni such as the 2017 USJC Annual Conference and the 2017 TOMODACHI Summit where he led a workshop on “Identity”.

Day 2 (Workshop Session)

Welcome Remarks

Sarah S. Keh is a vice president of Inclusive Solutions at Prudential Financial. In her current role, she leads strategic philanthropy and partnerships to help advance the company’s commitment to inclusive economic growth. She oversees program strategies to expand work and wealth opportunities, strengthen communities, improve services for veterans and military families, and support disaster response and recovery efforts through philanthropic grants, shared value partnerships, and skills-based volunteering programs. Sarah currently serves on the Partners Council of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, the board of JerseyCAN, and chairs the Council for Innovative Funding for Career Outcomes for Social Finance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wellesley College and a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Breakout Sessions

Mio leads WIT to nurture leaders who collaborate across boundaries to create a better society. In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, she co-founded WIT (World in Tohoku, formerly WiA) to support social entrepreneurs in the disaster-affected area. Mio has more than twelve years of experience in supporting high-impact social. Before starting WIT, Mio was a Partner of SVP Tokyo, and worked for Sumitomo Chemical and McKinsey & Co. Mio received an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, and a BA with a major in International Relations from the University of Tokyo. She lived in Boston with her son, husband, and a cat.

Makoto Sasaki is from Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture, known as the eastmost city of Japan. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake hit her hometown when she was in her second year of junior high school. Her grandparents’ home located in Taro, Iwate, known as the Great Wall of Japan, was washed away by the tsunami. Growing up in a city by the sea, she has thought about the importance and difficulties of living harmoniously with nature while recognizing its magnanimity. Right after the 2011 disaster, she was involved in the distribution of foods at her junior high school. She attended the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program and began initiatives to teach children about the importance of being prepared and mindful of dangers and potential disasters. When she became a junior in high school, she met with Kazuhiro Nagata, Chief Director at NPO Plus Arts and created the educational materials for disaster prevention. She created the picture-story show for children and has been telling the story all over Japan. These materials are now sold abroad such as in Thailand. Nowadays, she is in charge of spreading news and awareness towards disaster prevention through short movies.

This workshop is organized and facilitated by the Outreach & Allyship Committee, which comprises a group of USJC members who came together to help strengthen U.S.-Japan ties and confront systemic inequities standing in the way of a just and equitable global community.

Presenting Sponsor for the Next Generation Summit

2020 USJC Supporters

2021-2022 Sponsors






Advantage Partners

Anonymous Donor

Asahi Kasei America, Inc.

Shizuka Asakawa

Delsole Corporation

Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita, Quality Electrodynamics

Fujitsu Limited

Leona Hiraoka

Hitachi High-Tech Corporation

Tom Iino

Industrial Growth Platform, Inc. (IGPI)

Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

Japan Industrial Partners, Inc.

Stan Koyanagi

KPMG Japan

Lawson, Inc.

Mitsui Chemicals America, Inc.

Gary S. Moriwaki

Satoru & Hiroko Murase

Northrop Grumman

Palo Alto Networks K.K.


Sompo International


Lance Stuart

Steve Takeda

Takenaka Partners LLC

Tokio Marine America

Tokio Marine Holdings


Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.

ValueAct Capital