The delegates, led by Ken Shimanouchi, a retired career diplomat and former Ambassador of Japan to Spain and Brazil, included Tokuro Miyake X, a 20th-generation performer and practitioner of kyogen (Japanese traditional comedic theater); Eriko Tawa, a compliance attorney at Global Bank in Tokyo; Misaki Tsuchiyama, a creative planner for a Tokyo-based advertising agency; and Yurika Kanai, a student at Waseda University in Tokyo.
As part of a tour that included Nebraska and New Mexico, the five delegates stopped in Des Moines for two days, during which they attended a number of events organized by JASI to discuss the arts, culture, economy and politics of Japan. A welcome dinner at Miyabi 9 kicked off their visit, which was followed by a full day at the Iowa State Capitol building and Drake University.
At the Capitol, the delegates met with Governor Branstad and many members of the state legislature. All senators and representatives were invited to meet the delegation and attend a sushi lunch, served by members of JASI and community volunteers—which proved very popular. In addition, visitors to the State House were treated to a short kyogen performance beneath the rotunda by Tokuro Miyake X, one of only two women kyogen performers in the history of the art form.
At Drake University the delegates received a warm welcome from students and instructors of the Japanese language programs at Drake and area high schools. The events culminated in a dinner reception at the Des Moines Embassy Club, whose 34th floor location offered a beautiful view of downtown. About 70 guests enjoyed a dinner thoughtfully prepared under the direction of Chef Michael LaValle. Members of the delegation gave brief presentations on the importance of friendship between Japan and the U.S., the influence of women in the changing Japanese workforce, features of Japanese advertising, and even the Japanese influence on the Star Wars movie franchise. It was a gracious end to a busy two days in which many personal connections were made through ‘handshake diplomacy’.
On April 13th and 14th, JASI welcomed a delegation of five citizen diplomats as part of a program called Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan (http://www.japan.go.jp/features/talks/). This program, sponsored by the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan, sends annual delegations of volunteers to cities across the U.S. to talk about Japan and strengthen ties between U.S. communities and Japan.