As part of the 2012 exchange, six-member delegation of local legislators and political leaders from around the United States traveled to Japan for a two-week study program. The group made a visit to Rikuzentakata, Ofunato, and Kamaishi, three of the cities hit hardest by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The delegates heard from local leaders and NGO representatives who are trying to chart the recovery of their communities, including representatives from the Kamaishi Social Welfare Council, Fuji Welfare Foundation, and the Kamaishi Platform. The group also met with Mayor Takenori Noda of Kamaishi City and Ofunato City Council Member Kenetsu Suzuki.
Next, the delegation traveled to Tokyo for a series of meetings and roundtables with journalists, policy experts, and Diet members, including former Minister for Foreign Affairs Seiji Maehara, and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki. The delegates also spoke at a large public symposium on domestic politics and the US presidential election, and met with a number of officials at the United States Embassy, including Ambassador John V. Roos.
Afterwards, they visited Kumamoto, where Governor Ikuo Kabashima hosted a dinner for them, and they exchanged views with Liberal Democratic Party Youth Division members of the Kumamoto Prefectural Assembly. In Nara, the delegates were guests at a local school and met with members of the Nara City Board of Education. Since Nara is known for its cultural legacy, the group also heard from those preserving its regional heritage, including a local architect, tea ceremony master, and a museum director.
LING-LING CHANG, Mayor, Diamond Bar, California (Republican)
MEGAN ENGLAND, Member, Roeland Park City Council (KS) (Democrat)
THAD INGE, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, US Small Business Administration (DC) (Democrat)
JOHN KING, Member, South Carolina House of Representatives (Democrat)
JILLIAN MATUNDAN, AFSCME Eastern Region Field Coordinator, AFSCME New York (Democrat)
LAURIE SMALLING, Delegation Escort; Senior Director Political Programs, Walmart (Independent)