The 2016 Japanese American Leadership Delegation at the Japanese American National Museum. Front row, from left: Darren Nakata, Monte Del Mar (Noda) Mesa, Kiyo Matsumoto, Tasha Yorozu, Eric Nakajima, Stan Masamitsu. Back row, from left: Mark Yokoyama, Bruce Harrell, Eric Hiraga, Bruce Hollywood. (Courtesy U.S.-Japan Council)
The 2016 Japanese American Leadership Delegation at the Japanese American National Museum. Front row, from left: Darren Nakata, Monte Del Mar (Noda) Mesa, Kiyo Matsumoto, Tasha Yorozu, Eric Nakajima, Stan Masamitsu. Back row, from left: Mark Yokoyama, Bruce Harrell, Eric Hiraga, Bruce Hollywood. (Courtesy U.S.-Japan Council)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The 2016 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD), consisting of 10 Nikkei leaders from across the U.S., attended an orientation in Los Angeles on Jan. 29 and 30, and will visit Tokyo and Kobe from March 5 to 12.

The delegates are:

• Bruce Harrell of Seattle, president of the nine-member Seattle City Council. He was elected to a third term on the council in 2014.

• Eric Shintaro Hiraga of Denver, executive vice president/chief of staff at Denver International Airport and president of the Japan-America Society of Colorado.

• Bruce Hollywood of Washington, D.C., a fellow in the White House Leadership Development Program and former deputy division chief for the Joint Operational War Plans Division.

• Stan Masamitsu of Honolulu, president of Tony Group, a family-owned business of five automobile dealerships.

• Kiyo Matsumoto of Brooklyn, a federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York since 2008.

• Monte Del Mar (Noda) Mesa of Tamuning, Guam, general manager of Guam Premier Outlets, who has worked with the Japan Association of Travel Agents to promote Japanese tourism in Guam.

• Eric Nakajima of Amherst, Mass., director of the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

• Darren Nakata of Portland, Ore., attorney-at-law with Perkins Coie LLP and secretary of the Executive Committee of the Japan-America Society of Oregon.

• Mark Yokoyama of Alhambra, chief of the Alhambra Police Department and former police chief of Cypress.

• Tasha Yorozu of San Francisco, managing attorney at Yorozu Law Group and board member of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.

The purpose of the program, now in its 16th year, is to enable Japanese American leaders to engage with Japanese leaders in the business, government, academic, non-profit and cultural sectors, and to give Japanese leaders a greater understanding of multicultural America through the delegates’ stories.

Sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and administered by the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC), JALD began in 2000 and has sent 176 delegates to Japan. Upon their return, delegates work with their local consulates, community organizations and fellow JALD alumni to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.

A reception for the new delegates was held by the Japan Business Association of Southern California on Jan. 30 at the Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo. Yuko Kaifu, JBA executive vice president and Japan House Los Angeles president, served as emcee.

Hideo Miyake, JBA president and All Nippon Airways vice president and general manager, said, “JBA was established over half a century ago … Throughout our history, we’ve had good times and bad times. One thing we always remind ourselves of is that Japanese companies could not have prospered without the support of the Japanese American community.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and JBA Executive Vice President Yuko Kaifu. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)
USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and JBA Executive Vice President Yuko Kaifu.

“We highly treasure our relationship with the U.S.-Japan Council, which is one of the most important organizations for our two countries. It is privilege for us to host this gathering to get to know such distinguished leaders from all over the United States.”

Kaifu reported that community leader Dr. Paul Terasaki, a pioneer in the field of human organ transplant technology, had passed away on Jan. 20 at the age of 86. “He was such a great scientist, a great philanthropist and more than anything else he was a very nice human being,” she said, asking everyone to stand up and observe a moment of silence.

JBA President Hideo Miyake. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)
JBA President Hideo Miyake.

Consul General Harry Horinouchi, who was one of the orientation speakers, called on the delegates to “make harmonious friendships with Japanese people” during their trip.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, who has accompanied every delegation, explained the selection process: “There are 16 consulates in the U.S. There are 10 delegates, so … not every consulate gets to have a delegate. The various consuls general submit their recommendations. The USJC has a screening committee … We take into account experience as well as various professions, gender and who we think would make a great group of people, because it’s very much not only individuals but how we think the group as a whole will represent the various interests and backgrounds of the Japanese American community.

“So the 10 delegates who are here went through a very arduous screening process, and so they do represent a great part of the leadership of the Japanese American community in 10 parts of the United States.”

Thomas Iino, USJC founding chairman.
Thomas Iino, USJC founding chairman.

Hirano Inouye discussed other USJC projects: “It wasn’t that long ago that the relationship between the Japanese business community and the Japanese American community was not as strong as it is now, but over the years, with the great leadership and support of so many of the JBA leaders and members, we have really established such a great partnership, and last year we had a session … where many of the various chambers of commerce came to Washington, D.C. and we met with people in Congress.”

She added, “The USJC held our annual conference last year in Tokyo … We were very honored to have Prime Minister Abe, who led off the conference, and we had two days of very intensive (discussions with) the government sector and business sector. And this year the annual conference will be in Silicon Valley on Nov. 14 and 15. I hope that you will plan to join us.”

Consul General Harry Horinouchi
Consul General Harry Horinouchi

The toast was led by Thomas Iino, USJC founding chair and Pacific Commerce Bank chairman of the board. “Sen. Dan Inouye and Irene had a dream to build a bridge of Japanese Americans and Japanese to work together, and they have changed society and how we work with each other,” he said. “The JALD program is the cornerstone, the crown jewel of this particular dream. We’re very proud of this group.”

The USJC was also represented by Kaz Maniwa, senior vice president, and Allison Murata, program specialist.

Delegates’ Perspectives

Mark Yokoyama, the lone delegate from Southern California, will be visiting Japan for the first time. He describe the trip as “a great opportunity to interact, engage, network, develop relationships and friendships” with people in both countries who are interested in U.S.-Japan relations.

“Japan is a great ally, a great friend of the United States internationally, so what a great way … for me to participate in that relationship on a much bigger level,” he said.

Because he has relatives in Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima prefectures, Yokoyama plans to extend his stay by five or six days and “try to get to as many places as I can.”

Noting that Alhambra has informal sister-city ties with Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture, Yokoyama said he will work to strengthen that relationship as well. “The former mayor of Alhambra has established that relationship as a city councilmember. Gary Yamauchi … has been there several times and we’ve had delegations from Kirishima come to Alhambra.”

Having served as police chief for five years, he said of his job, “It’s been going great, especially during these challenging times of policing where we are right now … At least the City of Alhambra has been pretty supportive of its police. I think we’re very fortunate (in terms of) the type of policing that we have, and the relationships that we have with our communities.”

Calling Alhambra “a very safe community,” Yokoyama said, “We border the city of Los Angeles. We certainly have our issues in Alhambra … No community is really immune to crime. But we’ve been very fortunate in Alhambra. I just looked at our statistics for the ending year 2015 and we were down actually in just about all categories except for burglary. Violent crime was down as well, which is a little unusual compared to some of the surrounding areas.”

Regarding his future plans, he said, “I serve at the pleasure of our city manager, but I’ve been in the profession for 28 years already, so I’m kind of at the end stage of my career. That’s the other advantage of developing relationships because I know that my policing career will come to an end … I’m looking forward to establishing some networks and relationships to find out now what I can I do now that I have more time.”

Kiyo Matsumoto, the federal judge from New York, said, “I am interested in connecting with our ancestral homeland. My grandparents came here … I haven’t been (to Japan) since 1978. I feel like I’m going for the first time because it’s changed so much in the last few decades, so I’m very excited about that.

“My mom’s side is from the Nara-Tokyo area and my dad is Fukuoka-Kyushu. My dad took us there when I was in college … I met a lot of relatives. It was wonderful. I went again before I started law school. I bought a one-way ticket around the world … My sister was studying Japanese and teaching English in Osaka … I stayed there for five days and we saw relatives there.”

Over the years, Matsumoto got caught up in career and family, but through her involvement in the Japanese American Association of New York, she heard about JALD and applied. Since she was not selected last year, she said it was “thrilling” to finally be part of the program.

She noted that this trip will be unlike her previous visits. “It’s a completely different experience, being able to talk to people in the government who are in charge of policy and business people, really talking about broader issues. Before it was family, getting to know my roots, where I came from, meeting my grandmother’s brother and his children. It was just a wonderful experience … This is something very different but very special … I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of great things to report.”

For biographies of the delegates, click here.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo (except where indicated)

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