March 12, 2019
The purpose of the Chapter Grant Program is to provide support for JETAA chapters to expand their capacity to provide programming that furthers the U.S.-Japan relationship in their local communities. This program is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA. The projects targeted the needs of the members of the U.S.-Japan community, particularly JET alumni, and specific aspects of U.S.-Japan relations, including collaboration and art. This year USJETAA and Sasakawa USA also allocated personnel support to assist the JETAA chapters in developing successful events that align with Sasakawa USA’s nonprofit mission. Due to this involvement, the programs held by JETAA chapters in the 2018-2019 grant year addressed deeper and more nuanced themes in U.S.-Japan relations than in the past. Collaborating with USJETAA and Sasakawa USA on these events also taught best practices for future projects and modeled successful programs.
With funding from SPFUSA, USJETAA supported four proposals from four JETAA Chapters, two in the first round of the grant and two in the second round of the grant: JETAA Florida, JETAA New York, JETAA Minnesota, and JETAA New England. Two of the programs focused on Japanese culture and art, one program focused on career development, and one program focused on community organizations. JETAA Florida’s event supported the professional goals of JET alumni by providing career guidance, a speed networking opportunity and free headshots. It also included information on how JETs can stay engaged in U.S.-Japan relations regardless of their career field. JETAANY and NEJETAA combined the community, JET alumni, and Japanese culture with programs that included provoking discussions on the role of art in U.S.-Japan relations and the influence of the kimono in American art and culture. JETAA Minnesota brought together local Japanese organization to build relationships and foster future collaborations. Grant funding made it possible to reach a large number of JET alumni in a variety of professional fields and local Japanese organizations. All of these programs contributed to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations in their regions, though in different ways. Read on for a brief summary of each project.
JETAA Florida (JETAAFL) used this grant as an opportunity to expand programming for newly returned JETs and to provide career programming for both newly returned and mid-career JETs as well. The event was held in Orlando and drew 24 participants and speakers from multiple cities in Florida, including Miami, St. Augustine, Fort Myers, and Tampa. JETAAFL collaborated with the Consulate General of Japan in Miami to combine the career event with a usually poorly attended welcome back reception for JETs who have completed their contracts with the JET Program, resulting in an approximately 300% increase in participation of newly returned JET participants. By collaborating with the Consulate General of Japan in Miami, they were able to provide a unique opportunity for JET alumni to interact and network with representatives from some Japanese companies located in Florida, including Crystal Mover Services, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, and Mitsukoshi USA. The Consulate invited those company representatives. Previously, JETAA Florida did not have a relationship with them, but this event helped Florida JETAA develop a relationship with those Japanese businesses.
The event began with opening remarks by JETAAFL President Lauren Sorondo and welcome remarks by USJETAA Executive Director Bahia Simons-Lane on behalf of USJETAA and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA. Leslie Wier presented on the psychology of the hunt, a segment on the common psychological processes people experience during job hunting and skills to help alter the job seeking mindset. Professional career counselor Emily Kikue Frank spoke about how the job market has changed over the past few decades and trends specific to Florida. A panel of JET alumni in diverse careers went deeper in the Florida job market. Panelists were Matias Ramirez, Director of Content and Learning at Walters Kluwer, Leslie Wier, Health Coach at Noom, and Aiyana Mathews, Business Development and Global Travel Consultant. Next, Ramirez and Frank led interactive sessions on marketing yourself. Simons-Lane discussed contributing to U.S.-Japan relations from any career, followed by a group panel on the same topic. The program concluded with free headshots and the welcome back reception hosted by the Consulate General of Japan in Miami.
JETAA New York
JETAA New York (JETAANY) used this grant as opportunity to draw upon prestigious connections in the U.S.-Japan community of New York City. While NYC has a plethora of Japanese cultural institutions and experts, JETAANY events are not always formal enough to invite key individuals who hold positions such as head curator of a museum to speak. Hosting even a semi-formal event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) provided the appropriate opportunity for JETAANY to reach out to individuals of this caliber, maintaining and strengthening their relationships with important people in the U.S.-Japan relationship. The event also provided a chance for JETAANY to work with professionals in their network as mentors and guides, such as Professor Emeritus Henry Smith from Columbia University’s Weatherhead Institute, who connected them to various contacts and helped ensure they were designing an effective and appropriate program. Their community connections and the resources afforded to us through this grant, opened a space for JETAANY--and also Sasakawa USA and USJETAA--to participate in this cultural field and within the context of Japanese-American programming on the same level as an organization like Japan Society. The success of this program has led to several other Japanese-American organizations in NYC to plan similar events/tours of The Met and has led to personal relationships between members of the JETAANY executive board and Consul General Ambassador Yamanouchi.
The event was the first that JETAANY has held at The Met and on the subject of the role that art plays in the U.S.-Japan relationship. There were 72 Attendees at the event (not including those speaking), including 53 JETs representing 29 years of the JET Program (1990-2018), and 19 Friends of JET (including Japanese nationals, academics, CLAIR staff, and diplomatic staff). The formal program began with remarks from JETAA NY’s president, briefly welcoming everyone and recognizing contributions; welcome remark from the USJETAA Executive Director, Bahia Simons-Lane, and the Consul General of Japan in NYC, Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi. The Ambassador offered humorous opening that set the tone for the event, expressing his support for the JET Program, the 70,000 JET Program alumni internationally, the event sponsors, and the importance of U.S. - Japan relations. After the opening remarks, there was a moderated panel discussion on Japanese art and how art strengthens U.S.-Japan relations. The speakers for this portion of the event were: Dr. John Carpenter, the Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC; Mr. Brett Littman, Director of the The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in NYC; and, Ms. Yukie Kamiya, Director of the Japan Society Gallery in NYC. Dr. Miwako Tezuka, Co-Founder and Co- Director of PoNJA-GenKon, or the Post-1945 Japanese Art Discussion Group, and a former Director of the Japan Society Gallery moderated the session. This portion of the program lasted about one hour, after which the panel took questions from the audience. This discussion portion of the event offered intimate and nuanced views into both the role of art within the U.S.-Japan relationship. The event closed with concluding remarks by Joy Champaloux, Program Officer at Sasakawa USA.
JETAA Minnesota (JETAAMN) collaborated with the Japan American Society of Minnesota (JASM) to connected U.S.-Japan related groups currently operating in Minnesota. Many representatives within these organizations have not had an opportunity to formally share their activities with one another or find ways to collaborate with each other. Many of the organizations who attended this event were also not aware of the others and had never worked together before. They invited organizations including U.S.-Japan sister city organizations in Minnesota, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association of Minnesota (JETAAMN), the Japan-America Society of Minnesota (JASM), the Japan American Citizens League Minnesota chapter (JACL), Minnesota Council of Teachers of Japanese (MCTJ), the Nikkei Project, the Nihonjinkai, Minneapolis Japanese School, and the Minnesota Japanese School. This event brought together 28 representatives from across these organizations.
One of the goals of this event was to have these groups leave with a better idea on things that they can do with limited funding and ways that they can access funding through partnerships with other groups. The event gave these organizations the opportunity for guided brainstorming and a chance to network. By the end of the event, organizations were already talking about holding collaborative events, which will help to build stronger connections between these groups and have a greater impact on U.S.-Japan relations in the state of Minnesota. The organizers led by example by showcasing the relationship between JETAAMN and JASM and how by working together they were are able to accomplish more than they could have done alone.
The event opened with welcome remarks and introductions by Kate Thersleff, President, JETAAMN, Bahia Simons-Lane, Executive Director, USJETAA, and Joy Champaloux, Program Officer, Sasakawa USA. Next, Elizabeth Brailsford, COO, World Affairs Councils of America, gave a keynote speech, “Japan and Minnesota: How Grassroots Diplomacy Strengthens U.S.-Japan Relations.” Next, the organizations had a chance to go around their room and introduce their organizations, sharing their strengths and challenges. A panel presentation on Capacity-Building: Succeeding with Limited Resources addressed Creative Fundraising, Volunteer recruitment, 501c3 and Leadership Management and a case study of the successes of the St. Paul Nagasaki Sister City organization. A breakout session, “Identifying Areas of Collaboration,” was moderated by Simons-Lane and Champaloux, and gave the organizations a chance to identify resources and concrete actions they can take to work together, which was followed by a group brainstorming session where the organizations shared ideas they discussed in the breakout session. The event concluded with closing remarks by Rio Saito, Executive Director of JASM.
JETAA New England
The New England JET Alumni Association (NEJETAA) and the Japan Society of Boston (JSB) co-hosted this event “From Kyoto to Boston: Exploring the History and Cultural Significance of Japanese Kimono,” which was the first collaboration between these two organizations. The purpose of the event was to educate participants on the cultural significance of Japanese kimono and history of cross-cultural exchange in arts and fashion related to strengthening U.S.-Japan community ties. The event was the largest NEJETAA event ever with 51 participants made up of 16 JET alumni, 10 JSB members, 13- non-JSB members, 12 volunteers and organizers. They tied the event into the Boston-Kyoto 60th Sister City Anniversary Celebration.
The event started with opening remarks by Matt Krebs, Executive Director of JSB. Next, Consul General of Japan in New England, Rokuichiro Michii, gave a short introduction of Japan and the Boston-Kyoto sister city relationship, followed by USJETAA Executive Director, Bahia Simons-Lane, and Program Officer of Sasakawa USA, Joy Champaloux introducing their respective organizations and the purpose of the grant. Finally, Josephine Chong, President of NEJETAA gave a brief description of NEJETAA’s mission and their hopes to build stronger relationships with our local communities. This was a great opportunity for each organization to promote and educate the audience members on the goal of group, and more importantly, on the common goal of strengthening relationships between Japan and the local community.
The first guest speaker was Dr. Sarah Frederick., an Associate Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature at Boston University who has received a BFRI (Bunka Fashion Research Institute) and MEXT Collaborative Fellowship for research on representations of kimono in literary modernism and the modernist and cosmopolitan aspects of kimono wearing and representation. Prof. Frederick’s talk focused on the History and Influence of Kimono on Western Culture and Art, and the subsequent cross-cultural exchange between Japanese and Western Cultures. The second guest speaker was Ara Mahar, a JET Aluma (2016-2018), who spoke about her personal journey on becoming a kimono dresser, and how the JET Program gave her an opportunity to pursue her passion in Japan. The last guest speaker was Izumi Noguchi, a Kimono Independent Scholar and Lecturer at Harvard University. Ms. Noguchi explained the different types of kimono and their current uses in modern day Japan. After the event, participants had a chance to mingle and am opportunity to try on yukatas which had been gifted to JSB from the annual Kyoto Gion Matsuri 祇園祭 (festival).
Outcomes and Impact
USJETAA was pleased with the outcomes and impact of the programs held by the four JETAA chapters who received funding through this grant. These programs helped strengthen the U.S.-Japan community in the regions by improving relationships between the JETAA chapters and their local Japan consulates, increasing collaboration between U.S.-Japan related organizations, and introducing meaningful content to the U.S.-Japan conversation. These programs also achieved USJETAA’s goals to build chapter capacity and elevate the professionalism of the organizations in the eyes of U.S.-Japan stakeholders. Lastly, the increased involvement by Sasakawa USA and USJETAA providing an opportunity to promote the missions of our respective organizations and introduce them to the JET alumni community.
Strengthening the Local U.S.-Japan Community
These programs helped strengthen the U.S.-Japan community in the regions by improving relationships between the JETAA chapters and their local Japan consulates, increasing collaboration between U.S.-Japan related organizations, and introducing meaningful content to the U.S.-Japan conversation.
Improving Relationships with Consulates
The consular offices in the regions were involved in all of the chapter events funded by this grant. Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi welcomed everyone to the JETs at The Met event in New York and Consul General Rokuichiro Michii spoke on the sister city relationship between Kyoto and Boston at the NEJETAA kimono event. JETAAFL combined the Career Development Workshop with the welcome back reception for returning JETs held by the Consulate General of Japan in Miami. Lastly, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago was interested in attending the Japan-Minnesota Grassroots Forum. While they were unable to attend in person, they sent a letter of support for the event.
Involving the consular offices has led to better relationships and the potential for future collaboration. In the case of NEJETAA, they had not previously worked with the consulate, so they were very pleased that Consul General Michii was able to speak at the event. Following the JETAANY program, Consul General Ambassador Yamanouchi invited the president and vice-president of JETAANY to his home for a private dinner, cementing the personal relationship between him and key members of the organization. In Florida, the increased number of returnee JETs at the reception showed the consulate the benefits of working with JETAAFL on programs related to JET alumni, and the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago hopes to attend future Japan-Minnesota Grassroots Forums, with JETAAMN and JASM hope to hold annually.
Increased Collaboration between Organizations
These events also showed successful collaboration between JETAA chapters and U.S.-Japan organizations other than the consulates. The Japan America Society and the JETAA chapter cohosted two of the events. In Minnesota, JETAAMN and JASM worked closely together for the planning and execution of the Japan-Minnesota Grassroots Forum. They were able to share resources with each other, including personal connections to find the right presenters and attendees, as well as to secure an appropriate venue free. The forum itself brought together 28 representatives from 15 different organizations, many of whom left the event with new connections and plans to work together in the future.
NEJETAA worked with the Japan Boston Society to cohost the event on the cultural significance of the kimono. This was the first time they had collaborated and they hope to work together again in the future. By working together, they were able to bring in speakers who were both JET alumni and professionals. They also could reach a diverse audience made up of 51 participants made up of 16 JET alumni, 10 JSB members, 13- non-JSB members/non-alumni, and 12 volunteers and organizers, for the largest event ever held by NEJETAA.
For the other two chapters, JETAAFL and JETAANY, the event provided a chance for them to get connected to businesses and cultural institutions in their communities that they had not previously worked with. In Florida, the businesses who attended the reception were not aware of JETAAFL, but are now aware of the organization and JET alumni as potential employees. In New York, the event allowed them to collaborate with influential individuals working at prestigious organizations. These included John Carpenter, the Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC; Mr. Brett Littman, Director of the The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in NYC; and, Ms. Yukie Kamiya, Director of the Japan Society Gallery in NYC. Though JETAANY is a robust chapter with many events each year, this grant provided an opportunity to draw in experts in Japanese art and cultivate relationships with the institutions where they work.
Lastly, collaboration with USJETAA and SPFUSA provided a model for the chapters how they could collaborate with other organizations.
Producing Meaningful Content
The programs introduced meaningful content to the U.S.-Japan conversation and content unique to the JET alumni audiences. Many events held by JETAA chapters are social or cultural in nature. For example, some common events include happy hours, booths at Japanese culture festivals, and Japanese language study. The grant funding and the guidance provided by USJETAA and Sasakawa USA ensured that the programs supported addressed themes relevant to U.S.-Japan relations and in meaningful ways.
While the JETAAFL program was career focused, it included a component on US-Japan Relations and on the different ways that JET alumni have continued to contribute to the relationship between the two countries, as well as how JET alumni can contribute to U.S.-Japan relations even when their job is not in the field of U.S.-Japan relations. This segment was well received.
JETAANY hosts many event each year, but most do not dig deep into the nuanced relationship between the U.S. and Japan. In 2018, they hosted 55 events including professional kimono-dressing classes, talks with prestigious alumni about their fields, photography lessons with a Japanese photographer, and volunteer events with the Japanese Consulate. However, the JETs at The Met event was different in how it brought together experts to specifically discuss art in the U.S.-Japan relations and give attendees and in depth look into the Japanese art collection. They have received positive feedback about the event from the participants, and have also learned that other U.S.-Japan organizations felt the event was such a good contribution to program about the relationship between the two countries that they are planning similar events with docent led tours of the Japanese art collection at The Met.
JETAAMN saw a need to bring together Japan-related organizations in Minnesota and once they began planning the event they realized how important their grassroots forum was to hold. The feedback from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive. Many of the attendees expressed that they did not know about the other organizations before the event and the outcome of the event was connections between the organizations and plans to collaborate.
JETAANE has struggled with attracting JET alumni to their events. Not only did the event educate about the cultural significance of Japanese kimonos and what to learn from the history of cross-cultural exchange in arts and fashion to strengthen US-Japan ties in our communities, but it also brought a record number of JET alumni to the event. Additionally, the event was educational and addressed nuanced issues not addressed by previous kimono events in Boston, including the controversial “Kimono Wednesdays” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Building Chapter Capacity and Raising Visibility
This grant succeeded in achieving USJETAA’s goals of building the capacity of the chapters and raising visibility of them in their communities. Working directly with the chapters meant USJETAA and SPFUSA provided guidance on how to plan and execute events of this caliber. All of the programs supported by this grant were new programs never before attempted by these chapters. JETAAMN and JETAANE, in particular, relied on USJETAA and SPFUSA to provide advice, templates, and examples to support their planning. Throughout the process, the organizers gained know-how that they can apply to similar events or holding the same event in the future. In fact, all of these programs were so successful for the chapters that they are all planning to hold similar events again or the same one annually, with or without support from this grant. USJETAA had hoped for this exact outcome and consider it quit successful.
Additionally, these events raised visibility and professionalized the JETAA chapters. By holding larger events with more in-depth content, other organizations in the U.S.-Japan spaces are more aware of the JETAA chapters and view them as peer organizations and potential collaborators. Even a well-established chapter like JETAANY found that the perception of their organization by alumni has been raised due to holding an event of the caliber of JETs at The Met. They have also had more members of the community attend their events and ask to learn about their structure. Lastly, they are seeing other Japanese-American emulate their programming.
Promoting the Mission of Sasakawa USA and USJETAA to the JET Alumni Community
An added benefit to these programs this grant year was introducing USJETAA and SPFUSA to members of the JET alumni community. By having USJETAA and SPFUSA send representatives to speak at these events, the audience learned about the missions and programs of these organizations. Many of the attendees were not previously aware of the work of Sasakawa USA and USJETAA. Information about SPFUSA and USJETAA reached an estimated 173 participants at these events, plus everyone who learned about the events through online promotion on the websites of the JETAA chapters and collaborating organizations.
USJETAA was pleased with the outcomes of the projects. This support from SPFUSA enabled the JETAA chapters to take on projects they otherwise could not have funded. It also allowed many of the JETAA chapters to build stronger ties with their local Japanese community and support the United States-Japan relationship. The changes to the grant format, which allowed USJETAA and SPFUSA to provide personnel support was a positive change that helped elevate the caliber of the chapter programs and ensure that they provided effective content and nuanced views about the U.S.-Japan relationship. USJETAA will continue to work with the JETAA chapters to provide support and capacity of this kind in the future.
For more information about these events, please read:
- JET Alumni Association of Florida - Career Development Workshop
- JET Alumni Association of Minnesota - Japan-Minnesota Grassroots Forum
- JET Alumni Association of New York - JETs at The Met
- New England JET Alumni Association - The Cultural Significance and History of Kimono