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Japanese, U.S. leaders hopeful about future led by next generation

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Top business executives, government officials and non-profit leaders convened this week at the U.S.-Japan Council Japan Symposium focused on investing in the next generation of leaders from Japan and the United States.

The symposium organizer, the U.S.-Japan Council, defines the next generation as students, entry-level business employees, young politicians, mid-career professionals, entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders who will strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations in the future.

Fast Retailing Chairman, President & CEO Tadashi Yanai described his optimism about Japan’s ability to become more global in the future and the resulting need for Japan’s next leaders to be global citizens. Fast Retailing’s UNIQLO brand is well recognized throughout Asia and is rapidly expanding across the United States and other regions around the world. In his keynote remarks, Yanai provided the following advice for emerging Japanese leaders.

“The future of Japan relies on the young people of today. Fast Retailing intends to empower young people to look forward, develop an international mindset, absorb foreign cultures, and face the challenge to take on the world. At the same time, it is essential that the United States and Japan continue to cooperate and build on the lessons we have learned from each other, to contribute to prosperity and peace in the very important Asia-Pacific region.”

Fast Retailing is a strong supporter of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. TOMODACHI was born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as entrepreneurship and leadership programs. The TOMODACHI-UNIQLO Fellowship Program, first announced in October last year, supports the education of Japan’s next generation of business and fashion leaders.

Salesforce.com Chairman & CEO Marc Benioff joined Yanai as a keynote speaker. Salesforce.com is a leader in enterprise cloud computing and has been recognized twice by Forbes as the “Most Innovative Company in the World.”

Benioff emphasized the role of entrepreneurship in ensuring a strong future for Japan and the United States. “Japan – like many advanced economies – is in the midst of a trust revolution. Young entrepreneurs, as well as many established firms and public institutions, are embracing open communication, connecting with their stakeholders, and building a new Japan based on transparency and trust. Salesforce.com is committed to upholding this spirit of openness and trust, and further deepening ties between Japan and the United States.”

The symposium also featured a special tribute to the late Senator Daniel K Inouye, who helped envision the U.S.-Japan Council. Mitsubishi Corporation Chairman Yorihiko Kojima and U.S. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) spoke about his remarkable life and commitment to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.

A panel discussion featuring Masaakira James Kondo, Managing Director - East Asia, Twitter Inc; Tomoko Namba, Founder and Director, DeNA Co and Brian Salsberg, Partner, McKinsey & Company, Japan Inc, examined the roles diversity and risk-taking play in shaping the next generation as well as how young people in Japan are utilizing new media to gain access to opportunities.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Inc Deputy President Masaaki Tanaka also spoke at the event, held at Roppongi Academy Hills in Tokyo.

About 500 people attended the symposium, which was sponsored by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Fast Retailing, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, American Airlines, Hitachi, Ltd., Mitsubishi Corporation and other corporate and individual sponsors.

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Is it possible for Japan and the U.S. to have a strong, respectful political/economic relationship without the so-called "security pact" and without a U.S. military presence in Japan and Okinawa?

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