Seven US political leaders active on the state and local levels visited Tokyo, Ibaraki Prefecture, Aichi Prefecture, and Kyoto, Japan on April 14–27 for an intense series of meetings and roundtables with experts from various sectors including policymakers, business leaders, and top journalists. Their two-week visit coincided with the April 22 nationwide local elections allowing the delegation to gain insights into the relationship between local and national-level governance and politics by witnessing the campaigns and speaking with candidates.
In Tokyo, the delegation met with representatives from each of the three major parties to learn about their platforms going into the local elections and the summer’s upper house elections. These included visits with groups of Diet members headed, respectively, by Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Hidenao Nakagawa, Tetsundo Iwakuni of the Democratic Party Japan, and Hiroshi Takano of the New Komeito Party. The discussions with party leaders were complemented with meetings by ministry officials on foreign policy and economics at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, as well as with Tsuyoshi Takagi, chairman of Japan’s largest labor union, the Japan Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-Rengo). Also, they met with Vice Governor Yokichi Yokoyama, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials to discuss the relationship and areas of cooperation between the Tokyo municipal government and the national government.
Next, the delegation traveled to Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture where they met with Mayor Kenichi Ichihara and city council members and observed local campaign efforts. The group also participated in a homestay program with Tsukuba families, gaining firsthand experience of Japanese life. Later, in Aichi Prefecture, the US political leaders met with Makoto Nishimura (Vice-Governor of the Aichi Prefecture) and Mr. Yasuhiro Uchida (Speaker of the Aichi Prefectural Assembly) as well as a wide range of other prefectural, local and business leaders, including Inuyama City Council Member Anthony Bianchi, Japan’s first American born elected official. Prior to departing Japan, the delegation paid a site visit to Toyota’s headquarters and a Toyota plant as well as historic Kyoto.
DAVID A. ADAMS, Treasurer, County of Richland, SC (Democrat)
JENNIFER ALVAREZ, Director of Legislative & Political Affairs, National Association of Letter Carriers, Washington DC (Democrat)
JOSEPH BARTLETT, Member, Maryland House of Delegates (Republican)
JOSH BROWN, Senior Director, Business Development, Corrections Corporation of America, Tennessee (Republican)
MELINDA KATZ, Delegation Escort, Member, New York City Council (Democrat)
JUSTIN RHEE, Special Assistant to the Director, Office of Adjudication and Compliance, USDA, Washington DC (Republican)
Hon. Jennifer M. Seelig, Member, Utah House of Representatives (Democrat)