Leaders discuss future of Japan’s recovery at U.S.-Japan Council’s annual conference

WASHINGTON — The 2011 U.S.-Japan Council’s (USJC) annual conference, entitled “Innovate, Educate, Collaborate: Moving Forward the U.S.-Japan Partnership,” addressed the evolving relationship between the United States and Japan as leaders from both sides of the Pacific came to discuss the next step toward recovery. The U.S. delegation pledged continued commitment to Japan.

The conference opened with speakers featuring Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawai‘i) and Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki of Japan.

Clinton, who had traveled to Japan weeks shortly after the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis, emphasized the ties between the two nations.

“Our strongest relationships have not lived only in the halls of power; they live in the hearts and minds of the American and Japanese people not just in some cold assessment of our common interests, but in the warmth of common experiences, family ties, friendships, and the common values that bind us together,” Clinton said in a statement.

“Ten years ago, as a senator from New York, I saw firsthand what our friendship meant,” she continued. “When Japan sent firefighters from 7,000 miles away to help with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I was moved, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s just the kind of friend that Japan is to America and to many countries around the world.”

The afternoon session, entitled “Moving Forward with Recovery,” featured community organizations and groups from across the U.S. that made large contributions to Japan’s relief and rebuilding efforts following March 11.

A delegation of Japanese leaders traveled to Washington to participate in the conference. Kensuke Onishi, CEO of Peace Winds Japan, chairperson of Civic Force and director of Japan Platform, spoke on a panel about sector building along with GlobalGiving Co-Founder and President Mari Kuraishi and InterAction President and CEO Samuel A. Worthington.

The USJC stated its hope to move forward with its new initiative known as “Tomodachi,” a partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo led by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos. The partnership brings together the best of public and private resources from the U.S. and Japan to ensure a sustained partnership that supports Japan’s long-term recovery and global competitiveness while strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.

The efforts of both large-scale and grassroots organizations showed the diversity of Americans that support Japan and believe in the importance of an enduring U.S.-Japan partnership, the USJC said in a statement.
USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, who was in Japan on March 11, said Japanese Americans were uniquely positioned to help.

“Japanese Americans played a catalytic role in their communities because of their shared heritage with the people of Japan,” said Hirano Inouye. “The Council’s national network of Japanese Americans led large-scale and even state-wide fundraising initiatives and inspired others to step up and provide assistance including financial contributions, volunteerism and advisory support.”

The organizations recognized included the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC), GlobalGiving and the Japan-America Societies, which have raised $3.6 million, $5.9 million and $21 million, thus far.

In addition to community organizations, the corporate sector also continues to support relief efforts. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business and Civic Leadership Center, American corporations have contributed more than $298 million to disaster relief in Japan.

The U.S.-Japan Council established the U.S.-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund. More than $2.6 million has been donated to the fund and disbursements have been made exclusively to Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits to support this growing sector in Japan.

The Council has since expanded its role to supporting partnerships between U.S. and Japanese nonprofits and NGOs by using its national network of Japanese American leaders. Aid for the organizations has come in the forms of financial contributions, volunteerism and advisory support.

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