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USJC Confab Focuses on Japan-Silicon Valley Ties

From left: Silicon Valley Host Committee Co‐Chair Tasha Yorozu; Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the board, representative executive officer, Hitachi, Ltd.; Norman Mineta, former U.S. secretary of transportation and former U.S. secretary of commerce; USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye; USJC Chairman of the Board Dennis Teranishi. (Photos courtesy U.S.-Japan Council)

SANTA CLARA – The U.S.‐Japan Council (USJC), a nonprofit educational organization striving to strengthen U.S.‐Japan relations, held its seventh Annual Conference from Nov. 14 to 15 in Silicon Valley.

More than 700 leaders from Japan and the U.S. attended the conference, which was themed “Imagine. Innovate. Inspire. The Silicon Valley Experience.” Issues they discussed included technology collaboration in various areas from design to artificial intelligence to finance, women’s leadership, fostering young leaders and celebrating diversity.

The keynote speakers — Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the board, representative executive officer, Hitachi, Ltd.; Peter Schwartz, senior vice president, strategic planning, Salesforce; and Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, Microsoft Corporation — spoke about further opportunities for collaboration between the two countries, as well as how advancement in technology would change the future.

James Higa, executive director of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation and mentor-in-residence at Index Ventures, led a panel called “The Silicon Valley Experience,” where panelists from X (formerly known as Google X), Spotify and Blue Bottle Coffee shared their perspectives on what Japan may learn from Silicon Valley’s success.

Highlighting the importance of collaboration in the technology space is one of the key reasons that USJC held this year’s conference in Silicon Valley, the global hub of technology innovation and investment. At the invitation of USJC leaders in the region, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Silicon Valley last year to announce his initiative to bridge Japan and Silicon Valley. In addition to capturing how technology enhances a wide variety of fields, from disaster prevention to medicine, local U.S. companies and small to medium‐sized businesses from Japanese prefectures.

From left: Mr. Higa; Rochelle King, vice president of data, insights and design, Spotify; Hans Peter Brøndmo, general manager of robotics, X; Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee.

The conference also celebrated the diversity of U.S.‐Japan leaders in many ways. Norman Y. Mineta — who has served as mayor of San Jose, a member of Congress representing Silicon Valley, U.S. secretary of commerce and U.S. secretary of transportation — spoke about the importance of building a network of people who want to make the world a better place.

An annual, dynamic panel discussion led by Jan Yanehiro, president, Jan Yanehiro, Inc., looked at Japanese American leadership from a variety of industries and backgrounds, featuring Scott Fujita, a former NFL athlete who was adopted by a Japanese American family; Kathy Matsui, vice chair of Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd. who is a pioneer in the Womenomics movement; Tamlyn Tomita, an actress whose recent credits include the TV series “Berlin Station” and “Teen Wolf”; and Kenshiro Uki, the millennial vice president of operations at Sun Noodle North America.

Women and young leaders were also passionate advocates for diversity. Women’s leadership was the topic of two panel discussions: one discussing innovative ideas on advancing women’s impact in the workplace, led by Japanese journalist Hiroko Kuniya; and another focused on Japanese American women in politics, featuring local leaders that include Yoriko Kishimoto, former mayor of Palo Alto.

The workshop “Building Bridges—Not Barriers,” led by Japanese American millennials, examined how Japanese Americans, who faced discrimination during World War II, can help dissipate tensions among people of different backgrounds. Students who participated in exchange programs of the Tomodachi Initiative — a public‐private partnership led by USJC and the U.S. Embassy, with strong support by the government of Japan—shared their personal stories in overcoming obstacles.

From left: Jan Yanehiro, Tamlyn Tomita, Scott Fujita, Kathy Matsui and Kenshiro Uki.

Other panel discussions and workshops centered on topics such as the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, best practices in education, and how strong people‐to‐people connections between the U.S. and Japan—as in the documentary “Paper Lanterns,” about a Japanese man who sought the families of American POWs who were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima — would ultimately spread a global message of peace.

USJC is a Japanese American‐led organization fully dedicated to strengthening ties between the U.S. and Japan in a global context. By promoting people‐to‐people relationships through its innovative programs in networking and leadership, the council serves as a catalyst to inspire and engage Japanese and Americans of all generations. The council was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. with staff in California, Hawaii and Tokyo.

In 2012, the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) was created to support the administration of the Tomodachi Initiative, and in 2013, it became a public interest corporation (koeki zaidan hojin). It maintains an office in Tokyo.

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