The US-Japan Leadership Program is a cross-cultural program for young leaders (defined as 28-42 years old) where 20 Japanese and 20 Americans spend a week together, alternating between Seattle and Japan, learning about each other’s culture. The hope is that the bonds of friendship forged over the 2 weeks (each delegate commits to both the Seattle and the Japan weeks) will come in handy in the event that official channels of communication ever break down. And, of course, the hope is that official channels never break down if there are leaders in both countries with experience and understanding of the other country’s culture and thinking. I have been co-chair of the USJLP executive committee and am currently co-chair of the capital campaign.
This has been an interesting program for me. As someone whose family on both sides fled the Japanese invasion of China and suffered considerable hardship as a result of that invasion, there are cultural and historical difficulties in a relationship with the Japanese. This is especially true when there are Japanese who deny the atrocities committed during their invasion and occupation of China. (There are actually Japanese in the program who fall in that group.) But, in the end, the Japanese in the program are overwhelmingly global in their approach and sophisticated in their thinking, and it has been a great opportunity for me to learn more about their mindset. In addition, Japanese women, in particular, have great admiration and envy of American women who can successfully (relatively speaking) juggle marriage, children, and a career. The vast majority of Japanese women give up their career upon marriage and certainly do so after having children. Whatever the obstacles American women encounter with our juggling act of family and career, it is nothing compared to the struggles of Japanese women, and their outlook upon their own culture is refreshingly candid. As I tell the Japanese women in the program, I look forward to their revolutionizing Japanese society in the coming years! You can find out more at www.usjlp.org.