On Oct. 7, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles held a conferment ceremony at the Official Residence of the Consul General for a 2020 recipient, the late Irene Hirano Inouye, former president of the U.S.-Japan Council and former president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum.
On behalf of Hirano Inouye, her daughter Jennifer Hirano received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, for meritorious service toward Japan.
Hirano Inouye worked tirelessly to strengthen and advance the relationship between Japanese Americans and Japan, and was instrumental in the founding and development of the U.S.-Japan Council. As president of the council, she strengthened the bonds of the Japanese American community and relations between the Japanese American and Japanese communities, and actively expanded exchanges between Japan and the U.S.
From before the founding of the USJC, Hirano Inouye played a central role in the Japanese American Leadership Delegation Program sponsored by the Government of Japan, which began in 2000, participating in every delegation (except for 2019) as a group leader.
Going beyond her role for close to 20 years as president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum with its mission to promote the teaching of Japanese American history as an important part of U.S. history, she co-founded the USJC in 2008 with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and other community leaders. The council was established with a focused mission on the further strengthening of Japan-U.S. relations through Japanese Americans, to strengthen bilateral people-to-people relations and to further activate the participation of Japanese Americans in the bilateral relationship. Hirano Inouye was appointed as the council’s founding president.
Because of the vast networks she built through two decades as leader of JANM, through establishment of the USJC she was able to rally together Japanese American leaders in various sectors to advance U.S.-Japan relations, and through these efforts, platforms for the exchange and collaborations of stakeholders working in various fields in the two countries were formed. Hirano Inouye used these platforms as a foundation, and through her strong leadership as president she worked closely with the governments of Japan and the U.S. to initiate and develop exchange programs.
Through her visionary leadership, the USJC responded to the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake by forming the Tomodachi Initiative, a public-private partnership in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Japan, supported by the Government of Japan. Tomodachi invests in the next generation of leaders through educational and cultural exchanges and leadership programs, and close to 39,000 young leaders from Japan and the U.S. have participated in the program to date
She realized the participation of numerous prominent individuals from Japan and the U.S. in the annual conferences sponsored by the USJC, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, former Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, and promoted the foundation for the strengthening of expanded multigenerational exchanges between the two countries.
Hirano Inouye also played prominent roles in advancing the role of women, serving as chair of the State of California’s Commission on the Status of Women and participating in the Government of Japan’s World Assembly for Women (WAW!) Conferences in 2014-16. She also served on numerous prominent nonprofit boards, including as chair and trustee of the Ford Foundation.