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W&L Professor Meets with Japanese Prime Minister

Janet Ikeda, associate professor of Japanese at Washington and Lee University, participated in a rare meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, of Japan, in Tokyo, on March 7. She belongs to a delegation of Japanese-Americans visiting Japan this month.

The prime minister expressed his appreciation for the delegates’ contributions to U.S.-Japan relations, including their assistance in various ways with the restoration and reconstruction of areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Prior to meeting with Noda, Ikeda and the other nine members of the delegation visited the Tohoku region and received a tour of the area by representatives of JEN, a Japanese NGO involved in the recovery. During the tour, the delegates delivered hand-written messages of hope called Genki Notes from American children to Japanese citizens still living in temporary housing. They also participated in a symposium in Sendai, Empowering Civil Society for the Future of Japan, sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC).

The Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD), now in its 12th year, provides an opportunity for Japanese-American leaders to deepen their understanding of Japan by participating in intimate discussions with Japanese governmental, business and civil-society leaders. Ikeda and the other delegates also met with Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, members of the Japanese parliament and business entities.

Before leaving on the trip, Ikeda had noted that she expected it to be especially meaningful to her on a personal level because of her family’s ties to Fukushima, the site of the nuclear crisis that resulted from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The tour, she said, “creates a meaningful intersection where, for the first time in my life, the personal and professional can converge in a way that allows me to contribute most effectively.”

The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and organized by the U.S.-Japan Council, a national non-profit that acts as a catalyst by energizing Japanese-American leaders to strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations.

Ikeda has been a member of the W&L faculty since 1999 and previously served as associate dean of the College. She is the only representative from Virginia on the trip. Other delegates hail from Hawaii, San Francisco, Seattle, Colorado, Chicago, Miami, Virginia, New York, Boston and Washington.