JA Leadership Delegation Selected


The 2011 Japanese American Leadership Delegation: (back row, from left) Mari Watanabe, Genevieve Shiroma, Val T. Iwashita, Gary Oda, Gary Moriwaki, William Tsutsui, and Erwin Furukawa; (middle row, from left) Bill Imada, Susan Muranishi, Kathryn C. Ibata-Arens, Kenneth A. Oye, Phyllis Campbell and Susan Morita; (front row) Consul Toshio Odagiri, Irene Hirano-Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council, and Tomoki Akazawa, Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

‘Education and green energy will be on the agenda for the 13 delegates selected for the 11th annual Japanese American Leadership Delegation, which will travel to Japan in March. The members will participate in an education symposium in Osaka, cosponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Council.

Last weekend, the delegates gathered at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo for two days of preparation ahead of the trip, which will take place from March 4 to 12. The 2011 delegation is composed of senior Japanese American leaders who are at the foremost level in their professions, have had moderate to extensive experience in U.S.-Japan relations, and will be committed to furthering the U.S.-Japan relationship upon their return.

“We will be focusing on education, looking at the fact that there has been a significant decline in the number of Japanese students studying in the United States,” explained Irene Hirano-Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council, who has led the delegations for the past 10 years and will be traveling with this year’s delegates.

Among the delegates are professors and school officials representing DePaul University in Chicago, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Iolani School, a private school in Hawaii.

Erwin Furukawa, a JALD delegate and vice president of the Customer Programs and Services department of Southern California Edison, speaks about the upcoming trip during a press conference on Jan. 22. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

William Tsutsui, dean and professor of history at the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at SMU, said that Japanese and American universities face similar challenges.

“The challenges faced by American higher education at a time of economic uncertainty, the desire to increase international connections and exchange in a time of reduced financial resources, these are things I’m looking forward to discussing with Japanese colleagues in higher education,” said Tsutsui.

Phyllis Campbell, chair of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Pacific Northwest, said she is interested in how the Japanese educational system prepares its workers to compete in the global economy. She also sits on the board of Seattle University.

“What is required for today and future workers for our global companies and how does the Japanese education system prepare or not prepare individuals for that global company environment? We’ll be exploring some of the trends of Japanese students not going to the U.S. as much, and American students not going to Japan as much,” said Campbell.

Since last year, the leadership delegation has opened up to include Nikkei who have more extensive experience in Japan, evolving from its original mission. The 123 delegates have formed a strong alumni group, which remains involved in U.S.-Japan relations.

“It is a program that began because there was concern that particularly Sansei and Yonsei were not as familiar with Japan or involved with U.S.-Japan relations,” explained Hirano-Inouye.
Erwin Furukawa, a vice president with Southern California Edison, who has only been to Japan once, said he is looking forward to the trip.

“My expertise is in energy and I’m more than anxious to find out how they are evolving in terms of energy efficiency and smart meter technology,” said Furukawa.

The trip will also be an opportunity to reconnect with the Japanese culture. Val Iwashita, headmaster at Iolani, said the trip would help him understand his own culture as a Japanese American from Hawaii.

“I’m looking forward to getting into the Japanese culture and understanding better that cultural context that I grew up in and that pervades the Japanese community,” said Iwashita.

Following are profiles of this year’s delegates.

• Phyllis Campbell, Seattle
Campbell is the chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Pacific Northwest. She also serves on the Executive Committee and is the firm’s senior executive in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho representing JPMorgan Chase & Co. at the most senior level. She previously served as CEO of the Seattle Foundation and the U.S. Bank of Washington. She sits on the Diversity Advisory Board of Toyota North America, and serves as a director on the boards of Nordstrom Inc. and Alaska Air Group. She is the immediate past chair and trustee of Seattle University.

• Erwin Furukawa, Los Angeles
Furukawa is the vice president of customer and programs and services at Southern California Edison, where he leads the company’s Energy Efficiency, Demand Response, Customer Solar, Business Strategy, Marketing and Regulatory organizations for one of the U.S.’ leading utilities.  Prior to his current position, Furukawa also held various vice president positions at Pacific Bell, SBC and AT&T. His involvement in the Japanese American community currently includes serving as a board member and marketing chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and as a board member for East-West Players.

• Kathryn Ibata-Arens, Chicago
Ibata-Arens is an associate professor of political science at DePaul University. She has done extensive research on topics pertaining to the U.S.-Japan relationship, and is currently conducting research as a Fulbright New Century Scholar and Mike and Maureen Mansfield/Center for Global Partnership Japan New Network Fellow. She is widely published on the topic of the U.S.-Japan alliance, writing on entrepreneurship, politics and new technology. Ibata-Arens has conducted lectures and presentations in English and Japanese at such locations as Kyoto University, Ritsumeikan University, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, National University of Singapore and Fulbright New Century Scholar Workshops in Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, and Washington, D.C.

• Bill Imada, Los Angeles
Imada is the chairman and CEO of IW Group Inc., a marketing, advertising, and public relations company. He provides strategic counsel for many governmental and corporate clients. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing, public relations, advertising and human resources development, Imada has played an instrumental role in helping clients develop their Asian and Pacific Islander American market strategies. He has extensive experience working with APIA community organizations in key leadership positions. More recently, Imada has worked closely with the Los Angeles Consulate to connect the consul general with various business and ethnic leaders in Los Angeles.

• Val Iwashita, Honolulu
Iwashita is the headmaster of the ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, overseeing the educational, public relations, and financial operations of the school. Prior to becoming headmaster, he was the vice president and principal of Mid-Pacific Institute until 1995. Serving for 11 years on the board, he was also the chairman for the National Association of Independent Schools, an organization which represents over 1,000 independent schools and associations all over the country and overseas.

• Susan Morita, Washington, D.C.
Morita is a partner at the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, D.C. She specializes in domestic and international mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, and frequently works with Japanese companies as clients. Her firm is a full-service law firm and has significant expertise in matters involving clean and green technology. Morita lived in Japan for six years and has studied at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies. She is an active leader of the Japanese American Network (JA-NET), serves on the Board of Governors for the Japanese American National Museum and is a member of the Japanese American Citizens League and the U.S.-Japan Council.

• Gary Moriwaki, New York
Moriwaki is a partner in the Tax and Estates Department at Fox Rothschild LLP. He is very active in the Japanese American community, currently serving as president of the Japanese American Association of New York, vice chair of the Asian American Federation, Inc., and as a member of the Board of Governors for the Japanese American National Museum. Moriwaki was also an Advisory Board member for the 2005 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, and is a member of the Japan Society and the U.S.-Japan Council.

• Susan Muranishi, San Francisco
Muranishi was appointed as county administrator for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1995. She is responsible for the management of a large, diverse, urban county with a population of 1.5 million, over 9,000 county employees and a $2.4 billion budget. She has participated in official trade missions to Asia with elected officials and various business and community leaders. Muranishi has worked on issues of clean and green technology as well as regional transportation.

• Gary Oda, Honolulu
Oda is the president of Allied Builders System, a Top 250 company and a Top 20 general contractor in the state of Hawaii. He is also president of HHA Inc., and a managing partner of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. Oda sits on the Board of Directors for the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, is the president of the Hawaii ESOP Association, a member of the board and the finance chairperson for the Japan-American Society of Hawaii, and a board member for the Oahu Country Club.

• Kenneth Oye, Boston
Oye is director of the Program on Emerging Technologies and associate professor of political science and engineering systems at MIT. He is also the scientific advisor for the International Risk Governance Council and a faculty investigator for NSF Synthetic Biology ERC. He has researched environmental technology transfer as well as examining risks and benefits in nuclear reprocessing, pharmaceuticals and bioengineering. In the community, Oye is co-President of the New England Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and also the vice governor of the Eastern District Council of JACL, focusing on national security and civil liberties.

• Genevieve Shiroma, San Francisco
Shiroma is a member of the Agricultural Relations Board for the State of California, a gubernatorial appointment confirmed by the California Senate.  Prior to her appointment to the ALRB, she was employed by the California Air Resources Board as an air quality engineer for over 20 years. There, she worked on regulations and programs that identified air contaminants and aimed to reduce air pollution from various industrial sources. She is also the immediate past president and a current elected director of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Ward 4, serving the electricity-related needs of Sacramento residents.

• William Tsutsui, Houston
Tsutsui is the dean of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and professor of history at Southern Methodist University. His academic work has focused on 20th century U.S.-Japan relations and he has authored several books exploring the postwar Japanese financial system, the American influence on Japanese factory management, and the globalization of Japanese pop culture (particularly the Godzilla film series).

• Mari Watanabe, Portland
Watanabe is the executive director of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment (ONE), a non-profit that preserves the history and culture of Japanese Americans in Oregon. She worked for 25 years in the apparel field, developing strong business partnerships with primarily Asian countries. In her work with ONE, she has expanded the educational focus to a more diverse audience, including educating Japanese students about the World War II internment experience.