U.S.-Japan Council Newsletter
January 5th, 2012

A New Year, New Advisors

Happy New Year from the U.S.-Japan Council! In the New Year we are pleased to announce four additions to the U.S.-Japan Council Board of Councilors.

The U.S.-Japan Council’s distinguished Board of Councilors consists of leaders who are recognized for their life-long contribution and commitment to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations. Their expertise and guidance guides the Council’s mission and activities.

Gerald Curtis, Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

A member of the Columbia faculty since 1968, Gerald Curtis is the author of numerous books on Japanese culture and politics, written in both English and Japanese. He was director of Columbia’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute for a total of twelve years between 1974 and 1990. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by the Emperor of Japan, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Japanese government.  He is also a columnist for the Tokyo/Chunichi Shimbun, member of the Board of Directors of the US-Japan Foundation, member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations and has served as Special Advisor to Newsweek for its Japanese and Korean language editions, the International Advisory Board of the Asahi Shimbun, the Advisory Council for the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation, and as Director of the US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program.

Dr. Curtis visited the disaster zone on Japan’s northeast coast in May to prepare a documentary for Japanese television and returned there numerous times in the subsequent months.

Professor Curtis recently wrote about his visit to the Tohoku region. Click here to read the article in Columbia College Today.

Thomas W. Horton, President, AMR Corporation and American Airlines

Thomas W. Horton was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation and American Airlines, Inc. in November 2011. He was promoted to President — AMR Corporation and American Airlines in July 2010. In this expanded role, he oversaw finance, planning, sales and marketing, customer service, information technology and American's global alliance strategy, including its role in the oneworld alliance. Previously, Mr. Horton served as Executive Vice President — Finance and Planning and Chief Financial Officer of AMR and American. He was named to that position in March 2006 upon returning to American from AT&T Corp., where he had been Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Horton holds an MBA degree from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University and graduated with a BBA degree, magna cum laude, from Baylor University. Mr. Horton serves on the Board of Directors of Qualcomm, Inc., a leading developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies and data solutions. He also serves on the Executive Board of the Cox School of Business at SMU.

Takashi Kawamura, Chairman, Hitachi, Ltd.

Mr. Kawamura is Chairman of Hitachi, Ltd. and also serves as Vice Chairman of Nippon Keidanren. Mr. Kawamura joined Hitachi in 1962, where he has held many leadership positions. In the 1990s, Mr. Kawamura served as Board Director and General Manager of Hitachi Works and Board Director, Group Executive of the Electric Utility Sales Operations Group, Executive Managing Director and Group Executive of the Power Group and Executive Vice President and Director. In 2003, Mr. Kawamura was appointed Chairman of the Board and Representative Executive Officer of Hitachi Software Engineering Co., Ltd. In 2005, he served as Chairman of the Board of Hitachi Plant Technologies, Ltd. and in 2007, Chairman of the Board of Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. Mr. Kawamura became the Representative Officer, Chairman, President, CEO and Board Director of Hitachi, Ltd. in 2009 and served in many of these capacities in 2010 before being appointed Chairman of the Board in 2011. He is a graduate of Tokyo University, Faculty of Engineering.

Mr. Kawamura recently spoke at the 2011 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference as a part of the afternoon plenary on Moving Forward with Recovery and also made remarks at the Council's first official event in Japan, the Japan Leadership Symposium, this past May.

John Onoda, Senior Consultant, Fleishman-Hillard International Communications

John Onoda, who has held chief communications positions for The Charles Schwab Corp., Visa USA, General Motors, and Levi Strauss and Co., is regarded as one of the world’s foremost corporate communications professionals. During his more than 30 years in the business, Mr. Onoda has overseen all facets of communications, including reputation and crisis management, media relations, and employee and executive communications for some of the world’s leading corporate brands.  He has provided expert counsel to clients in the technology, energy, retail, biotech, communications, life sciences, financial services, healthcare and automotive industries, as well as professional associations, universities and the military.

Mr. Onoda holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the University of Michigan, a Juris Doctorate degree from Indiana University, and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He is a member of the International Advisory Board to Fleishman-Hillard, a leading global communications consultancy, and frequently consults with the agency’s major clients.  He has served as a board member of the Arthur W. Page Society, Business for Social Responsibility, the International Association of Business Communicators Foundation and the Bay Area United Way.

Mr. Onoda served as a panelist for the afternoon session on The Japan Brand at the 2011 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference.

Making a difference: Nikkei contributions to Japanese success in the United States

By Frederick H. Katayama, U.S.-Japan Council Board of Directors

Tokens of Koken

“It’s because of the Japanese American community that we (Japanese) succeeded (in the United States) in the 1980s.” – Taro Kono, House of Representatives member, Liberal Democratic Party, in a speech at the Japan Society, New York, December 2009


Isamu Noguchi is one of the century’s most acclaimed sculptors. He spent part of his youth in Japan. He popularized the concept of a Japanese lantern as a modern lamp with his Akari light sculptures.  He used a vast range of materials to create a wide variety of art, ranging from sculptures to furniture to gardens and set designs.  Noguchi worked with some of the greatest artists of the time, including stone carver Masatoshi Izumi, composer John Cage, and dancer/choreographers Martha Graham and George Balanchine. His famous public sculptures include Mu in Tokyo and Two Bridges for the Peace Park in Hiroshima.  The Japanese government awarded him the Order of Sacred Treasure in 1988.

Yoko Ono is a world renowned avant-garde artist. Known also as the widow of ex-Beatle John Lennon, she has released dozens of albums, produced films and videos and has exhibited her art at major museums and galleries around the world. She incorporated the Japanese vocal technique, hetai, in some of her works. A peace activist, she performed a solo concert in Hiroshima in 1995 and received the Hiroshima Art Prize for her contributions to peace.

Hikaru Utada has been compared to American pop-country sensation Taylor Swift for her talent and success at an early age. This twenty-something is a pop R&B singer, songwriter and producer.  Her debut album, First Love, was Japan’s biggest selling album of all time. She has sold more than 52 million albums. Twelve of her singles and five of her albums have rocketed to number one on the Japanese charts. Born and raised in New York, she has recorded albums in English and Japanese.


Japanese Americans helped the Bank of Tokyo start its operations in California after World War II.  The Bank was legally only allowed to own up to half of the shares. The Nikkei community helped buy the other half. Said Masa Tanaka, CEO for the Americas at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and a U.S-Japan Council Board of Councilors member: “It was the Nikkei community and its people who bought half of the shares of the bank so that the bank could legally operate in the U.S. In other words, our very presence today owes very much to the Nikkei community, which we should never forget.” Today, Union Bank boasts assets of $84 billion with 404 offices and more than 10,000 employees.

Click here to continue reading "Making a Difference."

A Journey to Tohoku

By Allen M. Okamoto, U.S.-Japan Council Board of Directors

In early November, my wife and I traveled to the Tohoku area on the northeast coast of Japan to witness the aftermath of the enormous earthquake and tsunami that devastated that area on March 11, 2011. Watching the tsunami destroy everything in its path on our televisions and the internet was frightening enough, but by visiting the areas, one can truly understand the fact that Japan suffered one of the greatest natural disasters in recorded history. 

We spent two days visiting Sendai, the capital of the region, and being driven through the Miyagi Prefecture where entire towns, villages, farms and fisheries were completely destroyed. Driving though these coastal areas, one can see huge areas where the houses and buildings are no longer habitable as well as mountains of debris that have been collected and piled high. We saw a four-story office building turned on its side from the force of the tsunami, and were told that the workers inside had rushed to the rooftop of that building for safety, only to be swept away. A hospital that was built half way up on the side of a cliff had water flood the entire first floor. Additionally, drivers who sought refuge from the tsunami in the hospital parking area also lost their lives. Around every corner, there is another tragic story.

The affected area stretches 350 miles along Japan’s northeast coast and in some cases, the water destroyed property and farms miles inland.  The physical damage to homes, buildings and infrastructure can be counted in hundreds of billions of dollars and will take decades to rebuild. The numbers of lives lost are in the tens of thousands and the lives of survivors have been forever changed. Children lost parents, parents lost children and thousands will be burdened with the loss of property and their livelihoods. The untold story, however, is the psychological damage inflicted upon so many.

Along with the incredible clean up and recovery efforts that have taken place in the eight months since March 11th, temporary housing has been constructed to house survivors who lost their homes. We saw communities of prefab cubicles but no structures large enough for groups of 20-30 people to meet.  Also, winter will bring cold weather and snow, slowing down cleanup efforts. But when we talked with the people of Sendai and Ishinomaki, we found an unbelievable spirit and belief that with hard work, they will rebound.  We learned that hundreds of thousands of volunteers from other parts of Japan have traveled to the devastated areas to assist with clean up and recovery efforts.  The NGOs and NPOs in Japan such as the Japan YMCA and Japan Platform have mobilized and made significant progress.  

We met with the Miyagi Prefectural Government and learned about their long-term plans to protect the area against future tsunamis. The instability of the coastal region must be researched.  Many of the fishermen and farmers have lived in the same towns and villages along the coast for generations and are reluctant to relocate. The recovery and rebuilding process will take years or decades and Japan will continue to need help.

Featured Photos

President Barack Obama drops by an Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. U.S.-Japan Council Member Stuart Ishimaru was in attendance and is pictured here, 7th to Obama's right.

TOMODACHI Event Update

Music, Innovation, and Friendship: Artists and Entrepreneurs Support Japan's Reconstruction-Recovery and TOMODACHI

Three-time Grammy Award winner will.i.am, founder of the Black Eyed Peas, joined musical legend Neil Young and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff at the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in Tokyo on December 14th to express their support for Japan and for the TOMODACHI initiative.

Charge d'Affaires Kurt Tong hosted the event and welcomed the guests, including university students who participated in relief efforts after the March 11 disasters.

One of America's largest hip-hop icons, will.i.am returned to Japan for the first time since his visit to the country just one week before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In his remarks to the assembled guests, will.i.am stated, "I'm blessed and proud to be here ... I wouldn't have missed it for the world to come to Japan to support my friends. To come here means a lot to the rest of the world, so they know that Japan is still the most inspirational, safest, kindest place on the planet."

Entrepreneur Marc Benioff - whose company, Salesforce.com, has been described by Forbes Magazine as "the most innovative company in the world" - announced during the event that his company was on a march to create a presence in Japan with "1,000 employees and $1 billion in revenue," and that Salesforce.com was investing in new Japanese companies to help spur the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Neil Young, the legendary writer of such songs as "Heart of Gold" and "Ohio," told the audience of his admiration for the Japanese people - particularly in the wake of the March 11 disasters - noting, "I'm amazed by the way the people act towards each other, the way they thank each other, the way they respect one another."

On Dec. 15, will.i.am participated in a TOMODACHI program in Sendai with university students who volunteered with relief efforts after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

In honor of the tsunami victims, will.i.am laid a bouquet of flowers on a memorial to the March 11 deceased during his tour of a heavily tsunami-damaged coastal town.

In the afternoon, 530 students gathered in Sendai for a lively Q&A session - on topics ranging from volunteerism to will.i.am's advice for overcoming personal challenges - and an impromptu musical performance. Lead singer Blaise Plant of Sendai-based pop band Monkey Majik, also joined will.i.am on stage for an acoustic performance.

One student commented: "I feel energized to keep volunteering thanks to seeing mega-stars themselves giving so much back to their communities."

George Takei Promotes Japanese Americans on Stage (and Reality Television!)

Actor and USJC Board of Councilors Member George Takei has announced the premiere of his next project. Allegiance - A New American Musical tells the original story of the Omura family, sent to an internment camp following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The musical also stars Tony Award-winnter Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon) and Telly Leung. Alliegiance debuts at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre on September 16, 2012. More information on the production is available at the Old Globe's website here.

Mr. Takei, best known for portraying Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek television series and movies, has called the project "the culmination of my life's work." He has devoted much of his career to enhancing the understanding of the Asian American experience, including participating in Allegiance readings and workshops since 2009. Mr. Takei, who lived in internment camps for over four years, brought the topic to the attention of Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, who would become the show's creative team.

The actor has also been announced as a contestant for the upcoming season of Celebrity Apprentice, where he will compete with other famous faces to win Donald Trump's favor. Each celebrity dedicates their winnings to a charity or organization, and Mr. Takei will be playing for the Japanese American National Museum. A full list of contestants and their charities can be found here. Celebrity Apprenticepremieres February 12 on NBC.

Mayor Villaraigosa Issues Statement After Visiting Earthquake-ravaged Sendai  

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued the following statement after visiting Sendai, Japan and the Japan Meteorological Agency with first responders:

"Yesterday I met with the Mayor and Fire Chief of Sendai, and the President and Professors of Tohoku University.  I listened to their first hand accounts of the catastrophic damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami this past March, and I was touched by the heroism of the first responders.

In Arahama, I visited an elementary school where, on March 11, children were learning and playing with one another when the tsunami crashed ashore. The children had to be evacuated via helicopter from the rooftop of the school--their lives were saved by the heroism of first responders.

The unified response and recovery in Japan is a model of excellence in emergency preparedness.

There is much Los Angeles can learn from the Japanese people about preparing for and responding to a disaster.  As the have done in Japan, investment in an early warning system in Los Angeles would help alert residents within seconds of an earthquake--enough to time to stop, drop, cover and hold on.

But beyond learning from each other, we are here in Japan because we stand together in solidarity with the Japanese people in times of need.

March 11th is a day that will forever be seared in the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. Seeing the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami and hearing the stories of survival, compassion and sacrifice speaks to the resilience of the Japanese people.”

APEC International Trade Reception Video

The U.S.-Japan Council and the APEC 2011 Hawaii Host Committee co-hosted an international trade reception at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu on Friday, November 11th to celebrate the continued strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Speakers included Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

Poohko Hawaii, a Hawaii-based Japanese blog, was in attendance and recorded some of the remarks. Links to these videos are posted below:

Prime Minister Noda 
Minister Gemba and Trade Representative Kirk
Senator Inouye and Secretary Bryson

Poohko Hawaii's blog can be found here (Japanese only).


The Japanese Commerce Association of Washington, DC (JCAW) will be holding a New Year's Festival on January 29th, 2011 at Washington Plaza Hotel. They are looking for volunteers who are happy to experience and enjoy the Japanese cultural presentations with the festival guests. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Seiko Watanabe of Interesse International at seiko@iiicareer.com to request a volunteer form.

U.S. & Japan in the News

Japanese Lawmakers Visit Island Also Claimed by China
Voice of America, 1/3/2012

Strong Earthquake Strikes Japan; No Damage Reported
Washington Post, 1/1/2012

Japan's Population Decreasing at Fastest Postwar Rate
Mainichi Daily News, 1/1/2012

Business Booms in Sendai on Quake Recovery
Yomiuri Shimbun, 1/1/2012

Tokyo to Help 10,000 Youths Study Abroad
Yomiuri Shimbun, 12/30/2011 

Picture Japan: The Story of 2011 Slideshow
Wall Street Journal, 12/28/2011

DPJ Members Bolt Party on Noda Tax Plan
Japan Times, 12/28/2011

Anti-U.S. Base Protesters Enraged by Delivery of Environmental Report in Dead of Night
Mainichi Daily News, 12/28/2011

Japan Relaxes Weapons Export Ban
Washington Post, 12/27/2011 

Nikkei Members of House Weigh in on Tax Cut Extension Debate
Rafu Shimpo, 12/26/2011 

Japan Gov't Declares "Cold Shutdown" of Crippled Fukushima Plant
Mainichi Daily News, 12/16/2011

Gov't Pressuring U.S. Over Iran Sanctions
Yomiuri Shimbun, 12/16/2011

U.S. Blocks Funding for Okinawa Base Relocation
Wall Street Journal, 12/14/2011