Six state elected officials from diverse Asian American backgrounds and regions recently traveled to Japan as part of the U.S.-Japan Council and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s 2019 Asian American Leadership Delegation (AALD) program.
From Dec. 7 to 14, the delegation traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Tottori. They forged connections with Japanese leaders representing a range of sectors, including politics and government, business, nonprofits and more, sharing ideas and building networks that deepen the U.S.-Japan relationship and enable an exchange of ideas across borders.
The AALD Program, which began in 2014, welcomed six state legislators as part of its 2019 delegation. As Asian Americans, the delegates’ roots included China, Japan, India, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, and four of them were visiting Japan for the first time. The delegates were:
State Representative Chris Chyung, Indiana House of Representatives
State Representative Nima Kulkarni, Kentucky House of Representatives
State Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen, Nevada State Assembly
State Representative My-Linh Thai, Washington House of Representatives
State Representative Kyle Yamashita, Hawaii House of Representatives
State Representative Mike Yin, Wyoming House of Representatives
Delegates held meetings with government, business and civil society leaders throughout Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, including Ministry of Foreign Affairs North American Director General Kazuhiro Suzuki, Chargé d’Affaires Joseph M. Young, and members of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly and the Japanese Diet.
They also met business representatives of Keidanren (Japanese Business Federation), Daikin and Kansai Keizai Doyukai, NHK journalist Aiko Doden, security and diplomacy expert Narushige Michishita, Sasakawa Peace Foundation Chairman Nobuo Tanaka and researchers with America Monitor, who specialize in American politics.
A unique aspect of this year’s program was a visit to Tottori, the least-populated prefecture in Japan at only 570,000 people. Delegates met with Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs to learn from local communities how they are tackling challenges rural and small-town areas of the country are facing, such as an aging population and weakening local industries.
The delegation also participated in a Q&A session with students at Seisho Kaichi Junior and Senior High School to discuss the Japanese perception of the U.S. and American perceptions of Japan.
As part of the program, the delegates spoke at a symposium titled “Diversity in Leadership: The Journey of Asian American State Legislators in 2019.” Moderated by Nobuko Sasae, president of Nobuko Forum Japan, the session invited the delegates to discuss their experiences as Asian Americans who followed non-traditional paths into the political realm and offered their perspectives on the importance of diverse representation within the government in the U.S. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye also shared remarks at the symposium.
The delegates also attended the Advanced Long-term Leadership Initiative (ALLI) Indo-Pacific Summit in Tokyo, and met with 43 youths from over 16 countries who gathered to discuss ways to collaborate on common issues and goals as well as explore the meaning of Indo-Pacific identity.
AALD is co-organized by the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to building people-to-people relations between the U.S. and Japan, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, in collaboration with the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators (NAPACSL).
For more information on the program and full biographies of the delegates, see: www.usjapancouncil.org/aald.