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Japanese Delegation Visits Kent State

"Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan" Program offers insights from Japanese citizens of various backgrounds

On March 17, 2016, a panel of Japanese delegates led by former Japanese ambassador Shuji Shimokoji visited Kent State University to engage faculty, staff, students and members of the public in a dialogue on relations between the United States and Japan. The panel was visiting several campuses across the U.S. under the auspices of the “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan,” program, a cross-cultural initiative supported by the Japanese Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office.

Rather than official dignitaries, the panel consisted of a cross-section of the Japanese population. Besides Ambassador Shimokoji, the panel included Hirokichi Nadachi, a former executive for ITOCHU Corporation and Isuzu Motors who lived in the Detroit area for several years, Toshiyuki Miyawaki, Ph.D., a graduate of the University of California and former Major General of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), Saho Miyashita, a 22-year-old attending Shizuoka University, and Takaki Minamoto, an entrepreneur and CEO of a start-up travel agency.

Ambassador Shuji SHIMOKOJI Hirohichi Nadachi Toshiyuki Miyawaki, Ph.D Saho Miyashita TakakiMinamoto
Shuji Shimokoji Hirokichi Nadachi Toshiyuki Miyawaki, Ph.D. Saho Miyashita Takaki Minamoto

Each panelist provided a short presentation – in English – on a topic of personal interest. After the presentations were completed, the 150-plus attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions and engage the panel in conversation. The enthusiastic crowd responded with numerous questions covering a variety of topics ranging from the current U.S. presidential election, joint responses to terrorist threats and what are the chances of a recent graduate landing a job in Japan. The panelists responded to the questions with personal candor, perspective and insight, and often with delightful humor. The event was followed by a brief reception during which the panelists and attendees continued their conversations.

“The goal of “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” is to increase awareness about Japan in the United States on a variety of issues and further develop the US–Japan relationship through people-to-people diplomacy,” explains professor of Japanese translation Judy Wakabayashi, Ph.D., who was instrumental in bringing the program to Kent State. “We were greatly pleased that Kent State was one of the destinations selected this year. It’s an honor to be chosen. We are also pleased with the turnout and the level of interest among the attendees.”

The program consists of teams of Japanese citizens from various backgrounds, led by former, high-ranking Japanese diplomats, which each year travel to several pre-selected destinations in the U.S. to share their perspectives and encourage open discussions with local communities. The March program at the Kent Student Center was co-organized by Kent State University and the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit.

Panelists for the "Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan Forum

Senior associate provost Melody Tankersley (far right) introduces the panelists of the "Walk in the U.S., Talk on Japan" forum. (Left to right) Takaki Minamoto, Saho Miyashita, Toshiyuki Miyawaki, Ph.D. Hirokichi Nadachi and Shuji Shimokoji.