To “personify Japan” remains the goal of the program "Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan," according to Professor Tomohiko Taniguchi of the Keio University Graduate School of System Design and Management.

In a small room in Jones Hall on Thursday, a four-person panel gathered to discuss this program, as well as the overall political and cultural bond between the United States and Japan. Taniguchi, who attended the University on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1991 and 1992, moderated the panel. Taniguchi currently works as a Special Adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

Founded in 2014 by Abe, the program “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” tours the United States with a diverse panel of Japanese citizens. The organization’s mission is to encourage Americans to examine their connection with Japan.

Of the four members of the panel discussion, Paul Kazuo Okura spoke first. The president of CMIT Solutions of Southern Westchester, N.Y., Okura worked in international banking with the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ and the Bank of New York Mellon for more than 30 years.

Okura discussed his desire to combat negative misconceptions about Japan’s economy and business.

"Japan is a very attractive and extremely profitable market for many foreign companies, due to a large population base and ample disposable income,” said Okura.

Following Okura, Jun Uchigami, a translator and writer of international news scripts for Kyodo News in Tokyo, spoke about the evolution of women’s status in Japan. Originally a TV anchor, director, and reporter for several TV stations, Uchigami acknowledged that male culture in Japan has dominated business and politics for decades.

However, Uchigami also asserted that the young women of the world are “very active and powerful,” adding that she’s confident women will soon break the glass ceiling. 

Finally, Koji Uenoyama, who hosts sake learning events for non-Japanese people, presented on his experience as a sake sommelier. To the laughter of the audience, he began his speech in Spanish and ended his presentation with the line that “Koji came to here to talk about koji,” an essential element in sake.

When an audience member asked the panelists about the current political climate’s effect on their respective industries, Okura asserted that the Japanese love Americans and that relations between nations are not solely about leadership.

Taniguchi spoke, too, of how the alliance between Japan and the United States runs much deeper than recent politics.

“In Japan, you may find an accumulated memory’s knowledge, wider and deeper, of the United States than you could find in any other country,” said Taniguchi.

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian,Taniguchi expressed the difficulties that have defined his career as a foreign policy speechwriter. Having to cater to many different governmental departments and heads of state, he noted, has often proved trying.

Taniguchi also emphasized once more the significance of the United States-Japan friendship and the hardship that has been needed to achieve that bond.

“Without the interventions made by the Americans those days, Japan’s prosperity, Korea’s prosperity, Chinese prosperity, the prosperity of Asia we now see couldn’t have materialized and those are the things you could easily forget ironically,” said Taniguchi. “If you could try to remember why and how your parents’ generations intervened into those conflicts and shed blood, sweat, and tears, then you could perhaps easily imagine how important the alliance relationship is between Japan and the United States.”

The talk took place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Jones Hall on Oct. 5.

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