In an important visit designed to strengthen global relations, cultural understanding, and prepare for potential policy and business opportunities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan hosted a delegation of Asian-Americans to travel to Japan. Among the 10 leaders selected from across the United States was Henry Tanaka, Academic Dean of Art, Design and Humanities at Oakland Community College.
The program is a result of a 2014 meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Its purpose is to promote and enhance the strong relationship between the U.S. and Japan through direct, people-to-people exchanges.
Each delegate represented varied U.S. geographies, backgrounds and vocations. Tanaka was the only Japanese-American in the delegation and only one of two from the Midwest. There was particular interest from MOFA on Tanaka’s view of Detroit’s revival from his vantage as a collaborative leader in the region’s Asian-American community. There are 400 Japanese owned companies in southeastern Michigan.
The visit included meetings with representatives of government, business, academia; briefings by each ministry; exchange of opinions; and, state dinners. The group traveled to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto also visiting temples, memorials, shrines, and other historic and cultural sites.
“The delegation was deeply immersed, learning from Japanese leaders about the geopolitical environment and international dynamics from the Japanese perspective,” said Tanaka. “We also gained a deeper understanding about post-war recovery changes, NAFTA restrictions, recurring boundary issues and recent recovery struggles from the earthquakes where help is still needed – we are told it will be 30 years till they can return to that part of the country.”
“It is important to understand there is great interconnection among all countries about political issues, of course, but also social and trade issues,” Tanaka explained. “I was brought up in post-WWII. Growing up, my Japanese heritage was an important factor and this first visit to Japan was an amazing personal experience. Simply understanding the size of Japan, by the number of people, is hard to imagine. They are highly dependent on imports of nearly all fruits and vegetables as they cannot grow enough there to sustain the population.”
In addition to Tanaka, the delegation included Pramila Jayapal, State Senator, Seattle; Daniel Arrigg Koh, Chief of Staff, City of Boston; Rosemary Abriam, Center for Asian Pacific American Women, San Francisco; Allan A. Alvarez, KPHI Filipino Radio, Hawaii; Christine Chen, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, Washington D.C.; Tuyet-Anh M. Le, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chicago; Clarence Low, Asian Chamber of Commerce, Denver; Patricia Shin Rockenwagner, Condé Nast, Los Angeles; and, Bonnie Wong, Asian Women in Business, New York.
The Delegation visit marked the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in 1945.
About Henry Tanaka
Appointed by the Governor in 2012, Oakland Community College (OCC) Dean Henry Tanaka served as State Commissioner, Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, working extensively with the Japanese consulate. He has also served as an advisory board member of the Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
A 23-year veteran of OCC, Tanaka has served in various roles including Professor of Art and Department Chair of Humanities. He is a board member of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Oakland and Paint Creek Center for the Arts. He was awarded “Leader of Leaders Award” for personal leadership from Leadership Oakland and honored as “Outstanding Faculty Award” from OCC.
With five campuses throughout Oakland County, Oakland Community College is committed to providing academic and developmental experiences that allows each student to reach their full potential and enhance the diverse communities they serve. It offers degrees and certificates in approximately 100 career fields and university transfer degrees in business, science and the liberal arts. More than a million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. To learn more about OCC, visit oaklandcc.edu.