2018 Japanese American Leadership Delegation pictured during orientation at the Japanese American National Museum. Back row, from left: David Ono, June Taylor, Lisa Sakai, Chris Uehara. Front row, from left: USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, Sheri Bryant, Darcy Endo-Omoto, Denise Moriguchi, Monica Okada Guzman, David Inoue, Laurie Van Pelt, and Consul Shigeru Kikuma, who will accompany the group. (Courtesy U.S.-Japan Council)
By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The 10 members of the 2018 Japanese American Leadership Delegation gathered in Little Tokyo over the weekend of Feb. 3-4 for orientation and a kickoff dinner at the Miyako Hotel.
The California contingent: Sheri Bryant of San Francisco and David Ono of Los Angeles.
Each year since 2000, Japanese American leaders from across the U.S. have traveled to Japan to engage with leaders in the business, government, academic, nonprofit and cultural sectors. Japanese leaders gain a greater understanding of multicultural America while the delegates work to strengthen U.S.-Japan ties.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented in the U.S. by the embassy in Washington, D.C. and 17 consulate general offices, sponsors the program. The U.S.-Japan Council provides administration and support. To date, 197 delegates have participated. This year’s group will be in Japan from March 2 to 10.
The dinner was hosted by the Japan Business Association of Southern California. Yuko Kaifu, executive vice president of JBA and president of Japan House LA, recalled that JALD “used to be called the young Sansei leadership program, and we dropped that name because not everyone is young, not everyone is Sansei. [At first] we tried to focus on those who had never traveled to Japan, but we thought it’s a pity to exclude those people who have a lot of or some experience with work in Japan because they are movers and shakers in the U.S., so we changed the name … It’s been amazing how successful it has been.”
Yuko Kaifu of JBA with delegate Lisa Sakai of Chicago.
She added that she was pleased that out of 18 Japanese chambers of commerce in the U.S., “we are the only one who gets to host the delegates.”
Hitoshi Ishikawa, president of JBA and senior vice president/general manager of Los Angeles Branch for Mitsubishi Corp. (Americas), noted, “JALD program was originated in California and has started to cover the entire U.S. gradually.” In recent years, delegations have included only one delegate each from Southern and Northern California.
He urged the delegates to “look and listen what current Japan is” so that they can offer informed opinions on how to improve U.S.-Japan relations upon their return.
USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, who will accompany the delegation, discussed some of USJC’s other projects, including an annual conference in Washington, D.C.; a program on Israel-U.S.-Japan relations jointly hosted with the American Jewish Committee at the Japanese American National Museum; a Japan-Hawaii economic summit; an upcoming Japan-Texas economic summit; a conference in Tokyo in November; and a conference in Hollywood next year.
The Pacific Northwest contingent: Denise Moriguchi of Seattle and Chris Uehara of Portland.
Regarding the current state of U.S.-Japan ties, she said, “Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and President Trump have done a great deal to forge a strong relationship between the two countries … People ask me how are things in Washington. Things are kind of crazy, but thank goodness there is a strong relationship between our two countries, and certainly the work that the JBA and USJC does is a very important contributor to that.”
Consul General Akira Chiba said that Japanese Americans are still bound together by the wartime treatment of their community and families, even if they didn’t personally experience it. “It’s something very unique … Among Japanese Americans, the moment they meet each other they act like they’ve been brothers and sisters for a while … The legacy is still there.”
As the delegates carry on this legacy into the future, Chiba told them, “After you come back, [consider]what are you going to bring back, give back? … This is what we count on.”
Meet the Delegates
• Sheri Bryant of San Francisco, vice president of strategic business development and marketing, Linden Lab. Originally from Palo Alto, Bryant lived in Southern California for more than 20 years, then moved back to the Bay Area two years ago. “I had been in entertainment here, film, finance and then digital media,” she said. “When I sold my company to Legendary Studios, there was a clean break … I got very interested in virtual reality and digital media, kind of where tech meets entertainment.”
Bryant has been involved in technology from an early age. “Both my parents are computer scientists. My mom came from Japan she was 16 and she went to college and became a math major and then got into computer science, worked for IBM [and]the Stanford Research department. The only mentor I ever had was my mom.
Delegate June Taylor of Denver with George Tanaka of Union Bank.
“She kept us very close to Japan growing up. We’d go there in the summer. I got a Godzilla collection … watched ‘Ultraman.’ I feel very close to the culture, so it’s wonderful to be going there now on a delegation where it’s bringing together Japanese Americans with various histories … Everyone has really interesting stories and somehow Japan is close to their heart.”
As a parent, she is now trying to instill cultural awareness in her son.
• Darcy Endo-Omoto of Honolulu, vice president of government and community affairs for Hawaiian Electric Company, the state’s largest public utility, where she manages relationships between the company and key stakeholders. She has ties to Los Angeles, having lived there for seven years and earned her J.D. from Loyola Law School. Her origins in Japan are in Yamaguchi and Hiroshima on her mother’s side and Hiroshima and Yamanashi on her father’s side.