The JALD group at the Tomodachi reception with Akie Abe, first lady of Japan. From left: Ken Russell, Gary Yamashita, Leslie A. Ito, Patrick Oishi, Jason Fujimoto, Mrs. Abe, Irene Hirano Inouye, Lynn Nakamoto, Michael Takada, Sawako Gardner, Roy Hirabayashi, David Boone, Wendy Takahisa.

TOKYO — The 2017 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on March 7 to discuss issues pertinent to the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship.

Abe welcomed the 11-member delegation with the following remarks:

“Whenever I visit countries around the world, including Central and South America, and of course the United States, wherever there is a community or society of people of Japanese descent, I make sure to always meet them and have a discussion with them,” Abe said.

“People of Japanese descent who have crossed the seas and moved to other regions around the world have played an enormous role in increasing trust in Japan and respect for Japanese people, through their diligence, sincerity, keeping of promises, and consideration for others, in their local communities. For this I would like to once again express my respect for all people of Japanese descent around the world, including yourselves.

USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The history of Japanese Americans in the United States included many difficulties. No doubt it is through the efforts of your parents, grandparents, and their predecessors in overcoming these various difficulties that the position of Japanese Americans in U.S. society is what it is today.

“Last year I went to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and made a speech there. Then-President Obama and I declared to the world that our two countries, which in the past fought fiercely against each other, have now become allies bonded in spirit; that we share many universal values; and that the Japan-U.S. alliance is ‘an alliance of hope,’ through which we tackle the many challenges facing the globe together.

“As an example, yesterday North Korea launched several missiles, and this morning I had a telephone call from President Trump, who gave me the powerful message that the United States is with Japan 100 percent. I am sure that the efforts of Japanese Americans are a major reason that this alliance has become as robust as it is now.

“Last year, on the evening before the day I made my speech at Pearl Harbor, I participated in a dinner banquet with approximately 1,000 Japanese Americans, including Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council. We enjoyed an amicable evening together, and I renewed my awareness of the strong ties between Japanese Americans and Japan. I would like to express my thanks to President Hirano Inouye for her immense contributions to furthering exchanges and strengthening ties between Japanese Americans and Japan.

“I understand that President Hirano Inouye visited Kanazawa on this trip, which has recently been connected to Tokyo via the Shinkansen. If the opportunity presents itself, I hope she will visit my own home region as well. I am from Yamaguchi Prefecture, an area that rivals Kanazawa and Ishikawa Prefecture in its history and tradition. Many people from my region, including some of my own relatives, have moved to Hawaii or California.

“I would now like to conclude my remarks by requesting that you all continue to serve as true bridges between Japan and the United States.”

The delegation thanked the prime minister for his support of U.S.-Japan relations and of Japanese Americans.

Delegates discussed “Culture and Community Engagement: A Japanese American Perspective” at the Kanazawa symposium.

The meeting was one of the highlights of the 2017 JALD program, which provides opportunities for Japanese Americans to establish a meaningful role in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations. Other leaders they met in Tokyo included executives in Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), two prominent business associations; ministry officials in the Abe Administration; and several Diet members.

The delegates also attended a reception, hosted by the Tomodachi Initiative (a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy, with support from the Japanese government), that commemorated the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Before attending meetings in Tokyo, the delegates visited Kanazawa, a UNESCO “Creative City.” They participated in a symposium titled “Culture and Community Engagement: A Japanese American Perspective,” co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Council, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ishikawa Prefectural Government. The event was well received and attended by over 150 people.

The delegates are active in their communities, engaged in U.S.-Japan relations and committed to deepening ties between Japanese Americans and Japan. JALD is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and organized by the U.S.-Japan Council, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to building people-to-people relations between the U.S. and Japan.

Chozaemon (Toshio) Ohi XI explains his family’s embrace of traditional and modern artistic forms of pottery at the Ohi Pottery Museum in Kanazawa.

2017 Delegates

David Boone (Alexandria, Va.), president, CB&I Federal Services

Jason Fujimoto (Hilo, Hawaii), president and COO, HPM Building Supply

Sawako Gardner (Portsmouth, N.H.), judge, 10th Circuit Court, Portsmouth District Court, State of New Hampshire

Roy Hirabayashi (San Jose), co-founder and past executive director, San Jose Taiko

Leslie A. Ito (Los Angeles), president and CEO, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center

Lynn Nakamoto (Portland), associate justice, Oregon Supreme Court

Patrick Oishi (Seattle), judge, King County Superior Court

Ken Russell (Miami), commissioner, City of Miami

Michael Takada (Chicago), chief executive officer, Japanese American Service Committee

Wendy Takahisa (New York City), executive director, Office of Community Relations, Morgan Stanley

Gary Yamashita (Denver), chief executive officer, Sakura Square

For more information about the program and the 2017 delegates, visit

Photos courtesy U.S.-Japan Council

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