Chicago Shimpo
Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan
Four Delegates Bring the Latest from Japan

• A delegation for the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” program visited Chicago and made a presentation on October 2 at the official residence of Consul General Naoki Ito in Evanston. The program, organized by the Government of Japan, provides American people with contemporary states of Japan through Japanese people in various fields.
• This year, the delegation was led by former Ambassador Shotaro Oshima, who had served as Japan’s Permanent Representative to the WTO; other members were Mitsuko Takahashi, who spoke about women’s struggle in the male-dominated society of Japan; Rick Liu, who narrated about the society of Japan through foreigner’s eyes; and Rie Sato, who told a story of kimono tradition.

Shotaro Oshima

• Shotaro Oshima, former Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea, diplomat in Thailand, the U.S., Israel, and Russia, spoke about a brief overview of Japan-US relations.

• For more than 70 years, the Japan-U.S. alliance has worked on cooperation regarding diplomacy, defense, business, and culture. The alliance has been a cornerstone of the stability and peace in the East Asia region.
• Most recently, Japan has cooperated closely with the U.S. on North Korea to reach peaceful resolution toward security situations through denuclearization. Oshima said, “Japan has strongly supported Trump, and his efforts were the same.”

• Regarding economics, Japan and the U.S. are both global leaders and together account for 30 % of global GDP.
• Japan is one of the largest investors in the U.S., and Japanese companies employ almost a million people across the U.S.
• In the Midwest, Japanese companies have established about 2,400 investment sites across the region, Ohio to Nebraska, and employ 268,000 Americans.

• With recent debates on the trade deficit in the U.S., Oshima pointed out that it was important to see the trade balance which did not reflect a whole picture.
• These years, manufacturers have established global supply chains and built value chains; thus, the U.S. imports many products from other countries. The highest parts of production are mostly done in the U.S.; on the other hand, lower parts of production are done elsewhere. With these advanced technologies, American companies have multiple imports from across the world.

• Oshima said that this is the reason why Japanese companies wished to invest in the U.S. and work with local companies to build supply chains. Japanese manufacturing companies based in the U.S. export $75.7 billion of goods to foreign countries.
• Osima emphasized not just seeing Japan’s exports to the U.S. “The Japanese companies invested here are also contributing to the U.S. exports abroad. So look at the whole picture,” he said.

• Oshima also mentioned about infringements of Japanese and American intellectual property in the East European markets and stressed the importance to build markets based on mutual beneficial relationship in order to have fair competition.

• Lastly, Oshima talked about the world trends toward free trade.
• Japan and EU concluded FTA last July, and TPP 11 (The Trans-Pacific Partnership 11), now called CPTPP (The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), which is coming into effect without U.S. presence. Japan still hopes for the U.S.’s participation in CPTPP.

• At the end of his speech, he said, “Of course the Japan-US relationship is not really about diplomacy and trade, more than anything else. Today’s event is an opportunity for people of Japan and the U.S. to engage in heart to heart dialogues and establish friendships.”

Mitsuko Takahashi

• Mitsuko Takahashi spoke about Japanese women’s struggles in the male dominated society and her own experiences.
• Takahashi entered UPS Japan, and when her American boss promoted her to a management position, a Japanese male objected to her promotion, saying to the American boss that she wouldn’t be happy with her promotion because she preferred to be given directions by men. It was about 30 years ago when female employees served tea to male employees without questions, were willing to take instruction from men, and had no desire to speak up. Such women’s attitude continued until recent years.
• Takahashi obtained an MBA degree in 2007 and spent more than 10 years living abroad including India, France, and Russia. She later worked in Boeing Japan as a communications manager and left the company in 2014 to participate in a national project to teach Japanese language and culture in Thailand. In 2015 she established her own company to help Japanese small and medium-size companies go abroad.
• Takahashi said that Japan was still the male dominated society, “But I clearly see changes in social institutions. The future is female.” She pointed out that Japanese women were educated, spoke two or multiple foreign languages, and were strong at IT literacy.
• She said, “I anticipate that within a decade or so, you may deal with many Japanese companies run by women.”

Rick Liu

• Rick Liu was born in Taiwan and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. In 2011 he attended the Graduate school of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo. After graduation from school, he has worked in a bank and continues to live in Tokyo.
• Liu said that Japan has been stereotyped as anti-foreigner and anti-multiculturalism; however, Japan has been slowly changing to a melting pot of culture, and its people have been supportive to foreigners in daily life.
• He said, “There are areas, which Japan needs to change, yet through my experiences, Japan is more accepting of foreigners than before. Many of you choose to visit Japan or even better, to come to Japan to live and work there like me.”

Rie Sato

• Rie Sato just graduated from Keio University. During her school days, she had an opportunity to join an exchange program, which enabled her one-year stay in Sydney, Australia. She was involved in numerous exchange events, so she wore a kimono and attended the events.
• At the podium, she was wearing a kimono. She said that the kimono was passed on from her grandmother to her mother, then to her. “The kimono is passed down from a generation to a generation. It’s a kind of a time capsule, which keeps family memories.”
• She invited the audience to Japan, saying, “What would happen when you come to Japan and try on kimono, you would feel connection with kimono’s rich history, get different persona of thousands of years ago and step into a different world.”


Former Ambassador Shotaro Oshima


Mitsuko Takahashi


Rie Sato


Rick Liu