Symposium “U.S.-Japan Relations: 70 years and Beyond”
• A symposium, “U.S.-Japan Relations: 70 Years and Beyond” took place on November 21 at the Harris Hall on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University. A-day-long event consisted of four sections, and Japanese Americans (JAs) from a variety of backgrounds discussed about “Historical and cultural perspectives that shape the Japanese American Identity,” “Issues that affect and concern the Japanese American community,” “Japanese Americans in the Pan-Asian Movement,” and “The Role of Japanese Americans in U.S.-Japan Relations.”
• Richard Morimoto of Northwestern University
welcomed the participants.
• William Yoshino of JACL briefed the
development of the JA history in Chicago.
• “The Baseline: Who Are We? – The History
and Culture that Shaped the Chicago Japanese American Community”, was
one of the most interesting discussions.
• Jason Matusmoto is a yonsei and has led the Ho Etsu Taiko drumming group. His first ID was Asian American; then it was changed to a JA. During his college years, he joined the Sophia University in Tokyo for one year and stayed with his host family. While he was in Japan, he felt himself as more American than ever.
• Kenji Negi is a new nisei and a son
of Japanese mother and Chinese father. He has been involved in the JA
community since he was a child, but he feels that new issei and nisei
are different from JA sansei, yonsei, and gosei, because new issei and
nisei didn’t have internment camp experiences while JA sansei and yonsei
are easily united and sharing the camp experience of their parents or
• Ryan Masaaki Yokota’s case is more complex. He is a yonsei, and at the same time, he is a new nisei. He was raised in Southern California, and his first ID was Asian American. As he grew up, his ID moved to JA during his high school and college time. When he became 27 years old, he got a sense of “nikkei (Japan related)” as his ID. He studied the Japanese language and now is fluent in it. He said that he felt more Japanese with a nikkei ID and had more connections with the homeland. As a nikkei, he feels more connections with nikkei people in the world. Furthermore, he has gotten a sense of being a new issei although it would be strange for him. On the other hand, he has a sense of being a yonsei and respects his father’s American legacy. Yokota is a Ph.D. candidate in Japanese History at the University of Chicago.
• “The Role of Japanese Americans in
U.S.-Japan Relations” would be an important subject for both JAs and Japanese
• Dayne Kono, a Principal at the Masuda, Funai, Eifert & Mitchell law firm, participated in the Delegation in 2010. He said that the Japanese government has begun to recognize the contributions of JAs who can work professionally with Japanese companies.
• As an attorney, Kono started to work with Japanese companies at the time of the trade conflict between the U.S. and Japan. He has worked to interconnect the two countries, particularly in foreign direct investments. He said that he felt much more comfortable with his background as a JA and having been exposed to Japan growing up as a foundation of the relationship. He also said that JAs naturally have basically two homelands, the U.S. and Japan.
• He started to work with Japanese clients when Japanese companies didn’t make much investment in the U.S. It was just before Toyota invested in its joint venture with GM in California. He said that he was lucky because he was interested in Japan, and interested in meeting business people from a different corporate culture who knew little about age discrimination, gender discrimination and other important U.S. legal concepts. So these facts were advantages for him. He could relate to them and provide advice on doing business in the U.S.
• According to Kono, Japan is the largest foreign investor nation for the last two years in the U.S. “I think there are a lot of opportunities because JAs basically have two home countries.” Kono said that this can be an advantage in helping to build bridges.
• Irene Hirano Inouye said that there
are a growing number of American companies in Japan, and there would be
opportunities in the future. She also said that the Prime Minister indicated
greater opportunities in Japan, and that tendency didn’t happen in the
• Kono said that his Japanese clients have become globalized because in addition to North America they have established operations in China, Southeast Asia, South America, and Europe. He has seen Japanese companies begin to hire foreign director-level people who often meet in Japan and bring interpreters along to regular board meetings. These changes have made companies’ procedures more transparent. Kono also mentioned that in his experience, generally, there are few executive positions held by women in Japanese companies, but JAs have the opportunity to provide successful role models.
• The symposium was organized by
the Organizing Committee (Joyce Morimoto, Richard Morimoto, Sandra Yamate,
and William Yoshino), Northwestern University Asian American Studies Program,
Japanese American Citizens League Chicago Chapter, U.S.-Japan Council,
and Chicago Nikkei Forum with the support by the consulate General of
Japan in Chicago, Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, Japanese
Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago, Japan America Society of
Chicago, Chicago Japanese American Council, Japanese American National
Museum, UIC Asian American Studies Program, DePaul Global Asian Studies
Program, and others.