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2015 Japanese American Leadership Delegation

Richard Morimoto enjoys cool beer and okonomiyaki in Hiroshima
Richard Morimoto Speaks about His Experience in Japan
Through 2015 Japanese American Leadership Delegation

• Richard Morimoto, who had participated in the 2015 Japanese American Leadership Delegation program to Japan, spoke about his experience at the official residence of Consul General of Japan on May 22, and about two dozens of Chicago’s Japanese American (JA) leaders attended.
• Morimoto is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biology and Director of Rice Institute for Biomedical Research at Northwestern University. The JA Leadership Delegation program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and organized by the U.S.-Japan Council. The program marked its 15th anniversary this year.

• Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado welcomed the JA leaders and said, “Let’s plan together for further promotion of the relation between this region of the U.S. and Japan. One way we are coming together is through the JA Leadership Delegation Program.” He also said, “After they return, their Japan experience will benefit their organizations.”

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• Morimoto said that the delegation members met with Japanese and American government policymakers and advisers, who looked back at seven decades of peace and prosperity and ahead to a future of enduring friendship and security. Those people included Prime Minister Shizo Abe, former Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, about two dozen members of the Parliament, and the members of the U.S. Embassy. The delegation members also met Princess Takamado.

• They were divided into several groups, and Morimoto’s group, whose ancestors emigrated from Hiroshima to the U.S., traveled to Hiroshima by Shinkansen bullet train.
• They visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the rain and then met Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki. The Governor spoke about the future of Hiroshima to become a global center for peace. At the same time, he wanted to attract and encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and international investment to become a world class city with talent, skills in technology and manufacturing, and well developed air and sea transportation systems.
• The group visited Hiroshima castle, sake brewery, and enjoyed eating okonomiyaki with cool beer.

• In Hiroshima, the group participated in a symposium “Aging and Dementia: Cooperation between US and Japan from research and practical perspectives”, and Morimoto, as a panelist, suggested the study of Japan’s centenarians that included comparison with JAs to understand how health and risk for disease could be linked to gene-environment interactions. He also encouraged Japan to take a worldwide leadership position in the biology of aging, detection of age-associated changes in health, and prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, he suggested to Japan that it introduce its leading technologies such as smart home and robotics to support the elderly’s daily lives to the world.

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• In Tokyo, the delegation members were invited to Prime Minister’s official residence and met with P.M. Abe. They spoke about the role of JAs in securing the 70 years of friendship between the two countries and maintaining it for the future.

• At the meeting with Keidanren, the main subject was the efforts to achieve gender diversity in Japan. The delegation gave examples of women’s roles in American big companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, and suggested having communications with them. They also spoke of the importance of the role of mentors and childcare support for Japanese women.

• The delegation had a meeting with former Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, and he spoke about the efforts to resolve the Korean comfort women issues, U.S. military bases in Japan, TPP, and others.

• The delegation went through 20 events in five days in Tokyo, but they still had times to enjoy eating ramen noodle, visiting Tsukiji fish market, and singing karaoke with Kono.

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• After spending busy days in Tokyo, Morimoto’s group moved to Kyoto and participated in two main discussions.

• One was a meeting with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, which is a similar discussion to the one in Hiroshima.
• According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s data, Japan’s predicted population pyramid in 2050 is:
• 65 and over 39.6 %
• 15 – 64, 51.8 %
• 0 – 14, 8.6 %
• Japan is facing the serious issue of an aging society.
• Some of the discussion accomplishments were:
• Establishing a multi-national institute to discover the underlying the biological mechanisms for healthy brain/muscle aging of elderly people.
• Studying combination factors of “genes and environment”, as they relate to more than 60,000 centenarians in Japan.
• Looking at comparisons of Japanese to Jas as to whether they provide key insights on gene-environment relationship and altered risk for disease. Morimoto is interested in the comparisons and is going to be a volunteer as a third generation of JA.

• Morimoto’s group also had a meeting with members of Kyoto Sango University and talked about exposing Japanese students to life overseas. Morimoto said that many of them thought that studying abroad didn’t help their careers; however, international experiences and obtaining functional English skill were very important for the future of Japan.
• The group suggested developing new accelerated programs that included school-to-school exchanges, mentoring and internship opportunities supported by U.S. Keidanren, former Delegation members, consulates, and regional JA organizations.

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• At the end of his presentation, Morimoto gave the Chicago JA leaders a home assignment to hold a workshop in fall about the US-Japan relationship and seventy years of friendship.
• Possible topics were:
• The Japan-Japan American relationship: from animosity, to ambivalence, and to embracing and lasting partnership for the future. Another was the U.S. experience of the civil rights and liberty movement, along with many programs the U.S. has tried to implement, that Japan and other countries would try to understand and use.
• The workshop will be held and sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, along with JACL, the U.S.-Japan Council, the Chicago Nikkei Forum, and Northwestern University.

Richard Morimoto