A panel of experts on the US and Japan present at the launch of the Japan Matters for America / America Matters for Japan project

Japan Matters for America Project Launches in Tokyo


The Japan Matters for America / America Matters for Japan project was officially launched in Tokyo on November 4 at a public seminar co-hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the East-West Center. The seminar, entitled, “Cooperation or Interdependence: An Overview of US-Japan Relations,” presented a broad overview of the multifaceted US-Japan relationship.

The event was moderated by Dr. Yasushi Watanabe, professor at Keio University. Panelists included Dr. Satu Limaye, director of the East-West Center in Washington and the Asia Matters for America initiative, Mr. Toshihiro Menju, chief program officer at the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE), and Dr. Andrew Oros, associate professor at Washington College.

From left: Andrew Oros, Toshihiro Menju, and Satu Limaye

Japan is a very important partner for the United States, although the rise of China has caused some in both Japan and the US to forget this fact, said Dr. Limaye. There have been problems in the relationship but they should not overshadow the many other ongoing positive trends in the US-Japan relationship. “Japan is not just important to a few places in the United States, it is important to virtually all of the US,“ said Limaye, noting that 44 US states have Japan as a top ten export partner. He said the Japan Matters for America / America Matters for Japan project is the “first step to build an ongoing project to strengthen and sustain US-Japan relations.”

Mr. Menju emphasized the strong personal and institutional relationships between the US and Japan. Over half of the 5,000 annual JET participants are from the United States. Both Japan and the US are democratic countries with free capitalist economies. The two countries have over 400 sister city relationships. There are many Japanese Americans in the US and many Americans in living in Japan.

Dr. Oros called for a “reinvigoration” of the US-Japan relationship, because “it is a choice for our democracies: we believe we are better together than we are apart. It is a relationship we choose to cultivate.” Two methods to revitalize the relationship are increased person-to-person exchanges (such as the JET program) and coordination on agenda-setting in international cooperation in areas such as development and climate change.

This event examined the US-Japan relationship holistically, showing the broad range of interactions between the United States and Japan, based on data and conclusions from the Japan Matters for America project. By examining the mutual relationship in such fields as economics, exchanges, history, people, students, and security, the project has found that in some areas there is progress while in other areas there has been stagnation or even regression. On the whole, however, relations remain strong and are likely to continue into the future.

The seminar was widely attended by academics, journalists, government officials, business people and students. Special thanks to Yumiko Nozaki and Aya Murata, SPF, for arranging the event. It was the first of four such events across Japan in Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama and Nagoya.