Japanese Delegates Talk U.S.-Japan Relations

By Jane Hagen

The “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” delegation visited UC Irvine last Wednesday, Oct. 25, and held a panel event consisting of four participants from Japan who spoke on various topics such as U.S-Japan relationships, Japan’s aging population, traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and sports tourism.

Ambassador Shotaro Oshima, who was leading the delegation, along with tea ceremony teacher Soushin Ikeda, Nihon University instructor Akio Ogasawara and Waseda University grad student Hokuto Suzuki, representatives from the private sector of Japan, gave  perspectives on different areas of civilian life in Japan.

According to Ambassador Oshima, the objective of the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” program is to share culture from the Japanese side.

“This program takes us to local communities in the United States and reaches out to grassroots level students of various organizations, communities so that we will have person-to-person, face-to-face, people-to-people contact, which really is the most important element in strengthening the ties between the two peoples,” Ambassador Oshima said.

Since the start of the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” program in 2014, there have been a total of 17 delegations, making this the eighteenth delegation. The delegations have visited 63 cities in several states.

This delegation, the second this year, first went to Dallas,  Los Angeles, and then Irvine. Following their visit to UCI, the program also hosted events in San Francisco and Chico.

Ambassador Oshima began his career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1968. Before retiring in 2008, he served as the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea, and as Japan’s Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization. He is currently the Chairman of Institute for International Economic Studies and a Visiting Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

Soushin Ikeda is a teacher of “Chado,” a traditional Japanese tea ceremony which she presented at the panel event. Ikeda teaches the Urasenke style of tea ceremony at her own tea ceremony school, as well as at tea ceremony clubs at local high schools and middle schools. She learned tea ceremony during her college years and has also spent eight months in the UK studying English.

Hokuto Suzuki is a graduate student at School of Sport Sciences, Waseda University. In addition to his sports marketing & management major, he also studied marketing and management for a year at UCLA. In his presentation, Suzuki introduced “Sports Tourism” and discussed why Japan is a great place to travel for sports, as well as sightseeing.

Akio Ogasawara is currently pursuing his third career as a university instructor in Japan, teaching international business management. He worked for IBM Japan for 30 years, followed by four years at Lenovo. During his IBM years, Mr. Ogasawara spent 18 months in North Carolina, working closely with NASA. Ogasawara discussed the low birthrate and aging society in Japan, and how keeping elderly individuals involved in social activities helps them feel young and healthy.

As Ogasawara’s discussion indicated, Japan currently faces a question of an aging population. About one in four people in Japan are older than 65, and this percentage will grow over time.

“There are a number of ways to respond to this pressure,” Ambassador Oshima said. “One is to have senior people still continue working active seniors, so to speak, and also have women the join workforce. Another possibility is to have foreigners come to Japan and take part in the community.”

According to Oshima, the administration is trying to ease the situation by taking steps to make it easier to obtain a visa.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance remains the cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia and is fundamental to regional stability and prosperity. The United States consults with Japan and the Republic of Korea on policy regarding North Korea as well as its nuclear weapons program. In just the past few months, North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles over Japan.

“Obviously, and thankfully, Japan and the United States are cooperating very closely in the face of these North Korean threats. Japan and the United States share an awareness that North Korea and provocative actions constitute an unprecedented grave and imminent threat on Japan as well as the international community,” Ambassador Oshima said.