The 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation at the Japanese American National Museum. Back row, from left: Bryce Suzuki, Kurt Osaki, Andrew Fujimoto, Mark Nakagawa, Kyle Nakamoto, Britt Yamamoto. Front row, from left: Consul Shigeru Kikuma (facilitator), Kelly Yamasaki, Vickie Sakurada Schaepler, Joy Goto, Mariko Silver, Irene Hirano Inouye (facilitator).
On Feb. 1 and 2, members of the 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) gathered in Los Angeles for an intensive, two-day orientation.
The meetings were held at the Japanese American National Museum and were facilitated by U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye, Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa and Consul Shigeru Kikuma of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles.
The annual orientation introduces delegates to the program, host organizations and each other; provides an overview of issues important to the U.S.-Japan relationship; and prepares them for their trip to Japan.
On Feb. 1, Mitch Maki (JALD ’02) led the group on an in-depth tour of JANM’s permanent exhibition, “Common Ground: The Heart of Community.”
Hideki Hara, director of the Japan Foundation Los Angeles, welcomed the delegates, and USJC board member Yuko Kaifu provided an overview of current social issues and Japanese business etiquette.
In the evening, Consul General Akira Chiba and his wife Yuko hosted the delegates, along with several local JALD alumni, for a welcome dinner at their residence. The dinner allowed current and former participants to meet, and for alumni to share stories and advice with the new class.
On Feb. 2, Chiba presented a briefing on U.S.-Japan relations. USJC board member and JALD alumnus David Boone followed with a presentation on security in the Asia Pacific region. Along with Boone, program alumni Sheri Bryant, David Ono, Stan Koyanagi and Debra Nakatomi shared their experiences and advice with the new class.
That evening, the Japanese Business Association of Southern California hosted a lively networking dinner at the Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo. The delegates enjoyed meeting JBA members at this event that concluded the orientation.
The 2019 delegation comprises 10 leaders in business, academia, government, nonprofit, and legal sectors who are active in their communities, engaged in U.S.-Japan relations and committed to furthering relationships between Japanese Americans and Japan.
From March 1 to 9, the group will travel to Tokyo and Kumamoto, where they will meet with top business and government officials and participate in a symposium co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
The JALD program provides the opportunity for a select group of Japanese American leaders from across the U.S. to travel to Japan to engage with Japanese leaders in the business, government, academic, nonprofit and cultural sectors. The trip also allows Japanese leaders to gain a greater understanding of multicultural America through the experiences of a diverse group of Japanese Americans.
Upon their return, delegates collaborate with program alumni, the local consulates, the USJC and local and national community organizations to continue strengthening ties between the U.S. and Japan.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), represented in the U.S. by the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C. and 17 consulate general offices, sponsors the program. The USJC provides administration and support for the program. JALD began in 2000 and 207 delegates have participated to date.
Following are profiles of this year’s delegates:
• Andrew Fujimoto, Meridian, Idaho
As the principal owner and CEO of AmeriBen, Fujimoto has been instrumental in growing AmeriBen Group into a widely respected group benefits third-party administrator and human resource consulting firm. He has extensive experience as a business executive and human resource consultant. He joined the organization when there were 15 employees, but that has now expanded to over 850 employees and offices in four states.
Fujimoto graduated magna cum laude from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He currently serves as chair of the board for Mutual of Enumclaw and is the Governance Committee chair for the Grant 4D Farms Board of Directors.
His community leadership includes Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the Ore-Idaho Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Society of Professional Benefit Administrators in Washington, D.C.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: maternal side from Hiroshima, paternal side from Kumamoto.
• Joy J. Goto, Fresno
Dr. Goto is chair and professor of chemistry at the CSU Fresno. She is governor of the Central California District Council of the Japanese American Citizens League and president of the Fresno Chapter of the JACL. She is committed to connecting with the local San Joaquin Valley community through her involvement in the Asian American and Pacific Islander campus community and her service with the JACL.
Her research program at Fresno State has been supported by university and college grants, including grants from the NIH, NSF, USDA and private foundations totaling approximately $3.5 million. She earned a B.S. in chemistry from UC Davis and a Ph.D. in chemistry from UCLA. Goto uses her training in bioinorganic chemistry and neuroscience to contribute to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Hiroshima.
• Mark T. Nakagawa, Springfield, Va.
Nakagawa serves as a program manager supporting the U.S. Department of Defense, where he provides commercial imagery services to the U.S. government. Prior to this, he served the U.S. Army in various leadership and staff positions throughout the world, including Europe, Korea and Iraq. His military career culminated with positions serving the White House Military Office and the Department of Army staff, and he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
He currently serves as the vice president of the Japanese American Veterans Association, and was its past treasurer. He was born in Okinawa, grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Iolani School, and obtained a business administration degree from USC. He has three master’s degrees, having graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey (national security), the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (military arts and science), and George Mason University in Arlington, Va. (MBA).
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: paternal side from Yamaguchi, maternal side from Okinawa.
• Kyle T. Nakamoto, Dearborn, Mich.
Dr. Nakamoto leads a team of data scientists within the Global Data Insight & Analytics Skill group at Ford Motor Company. His team develops and integrates advanced analytics (e.g. network analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence) into the redesign of Ford’s global vehicle ordering and delivery systems. His previous responsibilities at Ford included developing advanced analytics to support enterprise risk, human resources, manufacturing and product development.
His work includes collaborations with Ohio State University, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. Previously, Nakamoto was a professor of neuroscience at Northeast Ohio Medical University, where he was supported by grants from the National Institute of Health. He was also a fellow at the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research in the U.K. He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Cognitive Sciences at UC Irvine.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Hiroshima and Okinawa.
• Kurt Yoshio Osaki, Honolulu
Osaki was born and raised in Kapaa, Kauai and attended Kapaa High School. His years growing up on Kauai were spent around his grandparents’ restaurants: Tony’s Charcoal Broiler and Tony’s Delicatessen, both located on Rice Street. He graduated from the University of Hawaii with a BFA in graphic design, and later attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, majoring in design and packaging, with a focus on environmental design.
Osaki established Osaki Design Inc. in 1995, specializing in corporate and sports branding. Currently, the company has offices in Berkeley and Honolulu. Clients include professional sports teams, sports leagues, universities and corporations throughout the U.S. and Japan. One of Osaki’s proudest moments came when Osaki Design was given the honor of designing the University of Hawaii’s Athletics logo, an identity that represents and touches the entire state of Hawaii.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Hiroshima.
• Vickie Sakurada Schaepler, Gering, Neb.
Schaepler is coordinator of the Japanese Hall and History Project at the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering, Neb. There, she leads an effort to preserve the history of the Japanese on the High Plains and Nebraska, and has presented on and organized a successful event celebrating this history.
Schaepler has also spent her career working with individuals with disabilities and medical conditions. She has served as a director, manager and counselor at Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Railroad and the State of Nebraska’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. She learned sign language and had the opportunity to provide services to people who were deaf and hard of hearing.
She has served on many boards, and most recently serves as a trustee on the History Nebraska Board of Trustees. Schaepler completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Nebraska, Kearney. She is married and has raised three children.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Kumamoto and Shizuoka.
• Mariko Silver, Bennington, Vt.
Dr. Silver is president of Bennington College. During the Obama Administration, she served for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary for international policy, developing and leading the department’s first strategic plan for international engagement. Silver also served as Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s policy advisor for economic development, innovation, and higher education.
Prior to her government service, Silver was instrumental in the transformation and expansion of Arizona State University, leading teams in economic development policy and metrics, science, technology and innovation policy, state K-12 and higher education policy, sustainability science, and global health.
Silver is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Her education includes Yale University (B.A., history); University of Sussex, U.K. (MSc, science and technology policy); and UCLA (Ph.D., economic geography).
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Ehime and Osaka.
• Bryce Suzuki, Phoenix
Suzuki is the managing partner of the Phoenix office of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, an international law firm with more than 1,400 lawyers in 32 offices and 11 countries around the world. In his legal practice, he represents companies and lenders on financial restructuring and distressed business deals across the U.S. He serves as pro bono legal counsel for the Arizona Chapter of the JACL and provides pro bono legal services to indigent persons through the Arizona Volunteer Lawyer’s Program.
He serves on the Executive Board of TMA Global, a preeminent worldwide organization for corporate turnaround professionals, and previously served as the chair of the Restructuring Committee of the National Asian Pacific Bar Association. Suzuki earned his B.A. and M.A. from Brigham Young University and his J.D. from the University of Iowa Law School.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Yamagata.
• Britt Yamamoto, Seattle
Dr. Yamamoto is the founder and executive director of iLEAP, an education-focused, international social enterprise based in Seattle. The mission of iLEAP is to develop a new generation of globally minded leaders in Japan, providing them with inner and outer resources to pursue lives of purpose and to advance social good. He is also the CEO and co-founder of Perennial, which provides leadership development for community-based leaders in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.
For over two decades, Yamamoto has been working in the fields of education and community development. He holds faculty appointments at the University of Washington and the University of Vermont, where he teaches courses in leadership and management, and advises graduate students. He has been a Fulbright Scholar to Japan and worked for many years as an organic farmer, including in Kumamoto Prefecture at Kikuchi Youjouen with Dr. Takekuma Yoshitaka. He is also active as a council leader with the USJC. Dr. Yamamoto holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan, an M.S. from UC Davis, and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: maternal side from Kumamoto, paternal side from Hiroshima.
• Kelly Yamasaki, Denver
Yamasaki is an architect and a native of Chicago. After earning a business degree at the University of Pennsylvania, she studied architecture at the University of Illinois. She moved to Denver in 1990, and began her career at OZ Architecture, where she helped grow the firm from 15 to 165 employees. Yamasaki has been a principal of the firm since 1997, and has been on its Board of Directors for the past few years. She specializes in educational design.
She has been on the board of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) local chapter for seven years, and is currently completing her tenure as chapter president. Once her sons became teenagers, Yamasaki became more involved in the Japanese American community, joining the Sakura Foundation Board in 2014 and the Sakura Square LLC Board in 2016.
Prefecture in Japan of ancestral origins: Fukuoka, Aichi and Kumamoto.