Essay by Ms. Elisa Dozono
(Participant of the 2014 Japanese American
Leadership Delegation to Japan)
The Japanese-American Leadership Delegation allows Japanese leaders to gain a greater
understanding of multi-cultural America through the experiences of a diverse group of
Japanese Americans. Upon their return, delegates collaborate with program alumni, the local
consulates, the U.S.-Japan Council and local and national community organizations to
continue strengthening ties between the U.S. and Japan.
JALD 2014 Personal reflection
As my first political boss, Gov. John Kitzhaber, proved in Oregon, political comebacks can come with renewed energy, inspiration and clarity. So too apparently does Prime Minister Abe’s second administration, whose “Abenomics” focus appears to have brought renewed optimism about the country’s future.
As an outspoken, independent American feminist, I never had much interest in living or working in Japan because I thought the culture was too patronizing toward women. I cast a skeptical eye at the idea of a Minister on Empowerment of Women and Childrearing, assuming that it proved that the Japanese patriarchy still expected women to do it all.
So, I honestly didn’t expect that much more than lip service would be paid to women’s issues at meetings with tradition business leader groups such as Keidanren, or with government leaders. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised, and gained a better understanding of the real challenges that a country that has always relied on stay-at-home moms faces in transitioning to a dual-income “equal” family culture.
Whether it was Prime Minister Abe’s efforts on “womenomics” or the fact that the JALD delegation was for the first time comprised of a majority of women, I was inspired by the number of women leaders who attended several key meetings. About 10 women legislators joined us at the Diet for a roundtable, acknowledging that a culture shift needed to occur to fully allow “womenomics” to succeed.
Although there is no shortage of talent with women continuing to score higher than men on education exams and the Prime Minister openly encouraging promotion of women into senior leadership positions, the country faces a dearth of childcare options. And I couldn't help but wonder whether a woman’s perspective might have helped avoid the controversies that erupted over the “reinvestigation” of the basis for former Minister of Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono’s apology to “comfort women” who were essentially forced into sex slavery during Japan’s military rise.
My second key takeaway was that for the Japanese, there appears to be some truth in the saying that we are our own worst enemies. With humility in our nature, Japanese prefer to be recognized for our skills and accomplishments without boasting. But our delegation noted that may have resulted in Japan being overshadowed by its more bold Asian neighbors. For instance, rather than expressing indignation at the United States’ failure to quash efforts by Asian neighbors to gain control over the Senkaku islands or rename the Sea of Japan, would it be more effective to remind the U.S. not only of the history of the region, but of Japan's importance as a true economic partner?
In the U.S., it has taken three or four generations of Japanese Americans to finally come out of our shells. The fact that Japan is focused on bold moves, however, may mean that the sun is finally rising there again. With renewed optimism and faith in my ancestral homeland, I look forward to watching what happens in this new dawn.
Copyright © 2013 Consular Office of Japan in Portland