The “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” program came to Southern California on Oct. 24-25 as part of a speaking tour that also took delegation members to Texas and Northern California. Launched in June 2014, the program is a project of the Prime Minister’s Office that aims to engage new audiences in the Japan-U.S. friendship through panel discussions, presentations, roundtables and other exchanges on a grassroots level.
The program has taken place in various regions across the U.S., featuring Japanese delegations that represent a wide variety of backgrounds. The latest delegation, headed by Japanese Ambassador Shotaro Oshima, included Ms. Soushin Ikeda, a teacher of Urasenke style tea ceremony; Mr. Akio Ogasawara, a business veteran with 30+ years of experience working for IBM Japan and other companies; and Mr. Hokuto Suzuki, a student at the Waseda University Graduate School of Sports Sciences studying sports marketing.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the delegation visited the University of Southern California for a discussion and reception organized by the Asia Society. Ambassador Oshima and Dr. Richard Drobnick, Asia Society Leadership Committee member as well as Director, Center for Global Business Excellence and Research Professor of Management and Organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, tackled such issues as Japan-U.S. economic relations and their role in the global economy, and the current state of the Japanese economy in front of an audience that featured both undergraduates and graduate students. The ambassador also engaged in a question-and-answer session with students, who asked a wide range of questions about the political and economic climate in Japan.
The following day, the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” delegation headed to the city of Irvine to meet with Mayor Donald Wagner, who talked about the city and its growth. Ambassador Oshima presented a “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” medal to Mayor Wagner as a gift of appreciation and symbol of friendship. Next, delegation members headed to the University of California, Irvine to conduct a presentation at an event organized by the Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures. Before a capacity audience, Ambassador Oshima talked about the importance of grassroots exchange between Japan and the U.S. to enhance communication, while Ms. Ikeda presented on tea ceremony. Mr. Ogasawara examined increasing life expectancy in Japan and the implications for individuals and communities, using himself and his wife as examples. Mr. Suzuki talked about regional tourism in Japan, urging travelers to look beyond major cities in Japan and to explore destinations off the beaten path that offer pleasant surprises. UC Irvine students were brimming with questions about Japanese society, the economy and other topics, resulting in an extensive Q&A session. The presentations were followed by a lunch reception, with students enjoying Japanese food and conversation about Japan.
The delegation next headed to the GetGlobal international business conference, where Ambassador Oshima participated in a Japan Super-Session moderated by Glen Fukushima of the Center for American Progress to discuss Japan’s priorities towards the U.S. and Asia in a post-Trans Pacific Partnership world.
The last and final stop of the day was the Official Residence of the Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles, where the “Walk on U.S., Talk on Japan” delegation presented to an audience featuring elected officials and members of Japan-related sister city organizations.