Japan 101 Course: US Japan Relations During the Biden-Suga Era | 2021 Session

March 2–26, 2021

In March 2021 JCIE will be running a “Japan 101” interactive online course, focusing this time on the theme of “US-Japan Relations During the Biden-Suga Era.” This course, designed specifically for Congressional staff, will provide an opportunity to learn about key issues in the crucial US-Japan relationship as both countries adapt to new leadership.

The 8-session course will provide Congressional staff who cover Asia policy issues the opportunity to speak with some of the world’s top experts from Japan and the United States on security, trade, and other shared challenges. Those who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate and will be given priority for our Congressional Staff Exchange Program once travel to Japan becomes possible again.

Applications for this session of “Japan 101” are now closed. If you would like to be placed on a standby list in the event that any slots open up, or if you would like to be notified about future courses, please reach out to Stephen McHugh via email (smchugh@jcie.org)



 Introduction: Understanding US-Japan Relations
Tuesday, March 2, 12:00-1:30 pm
Guest speaker: DR. SHEILA SMITH, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Japanese Foreign Policy Priorities & the US-Japan Relationship
Thursday, March 4, 7:00-8:00 pm
Guest speaker: MR. HITOSHI TANAKA, Chairman, Institute for International Strategy; Senior Fellow, JCIE; former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs


US-Japan Trade Relations in the Biden Era
Tuesday, March 9, 12:00-1:00 pm
Guest speaker: DR. MIREYA SOLIS, Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies & Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies, The Brookings Institution

Managing China-Japan-US Trilateral Relations
Thursday, March 11, 7:00-8:00 pm
Guest speaker: DR. AKIO TAKAHARA, Dean, Graduate School of Public Policy and Professor of Contemporary Chinese Politics, Graduate School of Law and Politics, The University of Tokyo


Security Cooperation in the US-Japan Alliance
Tuesday, March 16 (TBC)
Guest speakers: TBC

A Japanese Legislator’s Perspective on US-Japan Relations
Thursday, March 18 (TBC)
Guest speaker: Senior Japanese Diet member (TBC)


 US-Japan Relations and Global ChallengesーClimate Change & Energy Security
Monday, March 22 8:00-9:00 pm
Guest speaker: DR. NAOKO ISHII, Director, Center for Global Commons, The University of Tokyo; former CEO & Chairperson, Global Environment Facility; former Deputy Vice Minister of Finance

Understanding Japanese Politics and Policymaking
Thursday, March 25, 12:00 – 1:15 pm
Guest speaker: DR. GERALD CURTIS, Burgess Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

This course has been made possible through the generous support of the Japan-US Friendship Commission, an independent federal agency dedicated to strengthening the US-Japan relationship through educational, cultural, and intellectual exchange.


 Week 1

Sheila SMITH, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Sheila A. Smith, an expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, is senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). She is the author of Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China (Columbia University Press, 2015) and Japan’s New Politics and the US-Japan Alliance (Council on Foreign Relations, June 2014) and most recently Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power (Council on Foreign Relations, 2019)

Smith is a regular contributor to the CFR blog Asia Unbound, and frequent contributor to major media outlets in the United States and Asia. She joined CFR from the East-West Center in 2007. She was a visiting scholar at Keio University in 2007-08, where she researched Japan’s foreign policy towards China, supported by the Abe Fellowship. Smith has been a visiting researcher at two leading Japanese foreign and security policy think tanks, the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Research Institute for Peace and Security, and at the University of Tokyo and the University of the Ryukyus.

Smith is chair of the Japan-US Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and the US advisors to the US-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Exchange (CULCON), a bi-national advisory panel of government officials and private sector members. She teaches as an adjunct professor at the Asian Studies Department of Georgetown University and serves on the board of its Journal of Asian Affairs. She earned her MA and PhD degrees from the department of political science at Columbia University.

Hitoshi TANAKA, Chairman Institute for International Strategy, Japan Research Institute, Ltd; Senior Fellow, Japan Center for International Exchange; former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs
Hitoshi Tanaka is Chairman of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute, Ltd., and a senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange. Prior to joining JCIE in September 2005, he served for three years as Japan’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs where he was a top advisor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on a broad range of issues, including relations with North Korea, China, Russia and the United States.

As one of the main intellectual architects of Japan’s foreign policy under former Prime Minister Koizumi, he has been a key actor in shaping Japan’s approach to East Asia. Before being named Deputy Minister, he held various posts at the Foreign Ministry including Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and Economic Affairs Bureau; Consul General in San Francisco; and Deputy Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau. In 2006-18, he was a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo. Mr. Tanaka holds a B.A. in law from Kyoto University and B.A./M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University.

He is the author of Mienai Sensou [ The Invisible War] (2019: Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc.), Nihon Gaiko No Chosen [The challenges for Japan’s diplomacy] (2015: Kadokawa Ltd.), Reimagining Japan (2011: McKinsey), Purofeshonaru no Kosho-ryoku [The logic of strategic negotiation] (2009: Kodansha Ltd.), and Gaiko no Chikara [The power of diplomacy] (2009: Nikkei Publishing Inc.), and also JCIE’s English newsletter, East Asia Insights ( www.jcie.or.jp/insights).

Week 2

Mireya SOLIS, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies & Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP), The Brookings Institution
Mireya Solís is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-director of the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies. An expert in Japan’s foreign economic policies, Solís earned a doctorate in government and a master’s in East Asian studies from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s in international relations from El Colegio de México. Her main research interests include Japanese politics, political economy, and foreign policy; international and comparative political economy; international relations; and government-business relations. She also has interests in broader issues in US-Japan relations and East Asian multilateralism.

She is the author of Banking on Multinationals: Public Credit and the Export of Japanese Sunset Industries (Stanford University Press, 2004) and co-editor of Cross-Regional Trade Agreements: Understanding Permeated Regionalism in East Asia (Springer, 2008) and Competitive Regionalism: FTA Diffusion in the Pacific Rim (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). She has also published numerous articles and book chapters on implications of and responses to the recent economic crisis, Japan’s domestic politics and foreign and economic policies and East Asian multilateralism. Her most recent book Dilemmas of a Trading Nation: Japan and the United States in the Evolving Asia-Pacific Order focuses on Japan’s trade policy

Akio TAKAHARA, Dean, Graduate School of Public Policy & Professor of Contemporary Chinese Politics, Graduate School of Law and Politics, The University of Tokyo
One of Japan’s most prominent China experts, Akio Takahara is Dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy and Professor of Contemporary Chinese Politics at the Graduate School of Law and Politics, The University of Tokyo. He received his DPhil in 1988 from the University of Sussex, and later spent several years as Visiting Scholar at the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong (1989–91), the Japanese Embassy in Beijing (1996–98), the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University (2005–06), the School of International Studies, Peking University (2014–15) and at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (2016).Before joining the University of Tokyo, he taught at J. F. Oberlin University (1991–95) and Rikkyo University (1995–2005). He also served as Programme Officer of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (1988–89), Member of the Governing Body of the Institute of Development Studies, UK (1999–2003), President of the Japan Association for Asian Studies (2009–11), and Secretary General of the New Japan-China Friendship 21st Century Committee (2009–14). He currently serves as senior fellow of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, senior adjunct fellow of the Japan Institute of International Affairs, and distinguished research fellow of the Japan Forum on International Relations.

Week 4

Gerald CURTIS, Burgess Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Columbia University
America’s most noted scholar of Japanese politics, Gerald Curtis is Burgess Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Columbia University and concurrently Distinguished Research Fellow at the Tokyo Foundation. He served as Director of Columbia’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute for a total of twelve years between 1974 and 1990. Professor Curtis is the author of The Logic of Japanese Politics, The Japanese Way of Politics, Election Campaigning Japanese Style, Seiji to Sanma – Nihon to Kurashite 45 nen (Politics and Saury: 45 Years Living with Japan) and numerous other books and articles written in both English and Japanese and translated into Chinese, Korean, Thai and other languages.

Professor Curtis has held appointments at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London; the College de France, Paris; the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore; and in Tokyo at Keio, Waseda, and Tokyo Universities, the Graduate Research Institute for Policy Studies, and the International Institute of Economic Studies. He chairs the Maureen & Mike Mansfield Foundation; is a member of the Board of Directors of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE/USA) and the Japan Society of New York; and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served as Special Advisor to Newsweek for its Japanese and Korean language editions, the International Advisory Board of the Asahi Shimbun, the Advisory Council for the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation, the Trilateral Commission, the Board of Directors of the US-Japan Foundation and as Director of the US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program. Professor Curtis’s commentaries are published frequently in newspapers and magazines in the United States, Japan, Britain, and other countries. Fluent in Japanese, he is a frequent commentator on international affairs on Japanese television news programs.

Professor Curtis is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors including the Chunichi Shimbun Special Achievement Award, the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize, the Japan Foundation Award presented in a ceremony held in the presence of the Crown Prince and Princess followed by an audience with the Emperor. He is the recipient of the Marshall Green Award of the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., the Eagle on the World Award of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New York, and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, by the Emperor of Japan, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Japanese government.