Sasakawa USA Blog

This blog features a look at news, events, commentary and media related to Sasakawa USA and the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Inkstick Media article examines Japan’s chance to lead on climate change

Darah Phillip, Research Assistant for Sasakawa USA, has published an article on Inkstick Media about Japan and climate change. “Japan’s Chance to Lead on Climate Change,” was published on October 16 and examines the steps Japan could take to establish a global lead in mitigating climate change. Specifically, Philip argues that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should reject burning coal as a source of energy in Japan and abroad, and work to develop and share Japanese technologies and best practices with other nations.

In addition to limiting coal usage, Philip encourages Japan to utilize and share its “best practices in fuel-efficient transportation, renewable energy technologies, and private sector climate change activism.” Japan also needs to highlight non-governmental initiatives such as the Japan Climate Initiative.

Read “Japan’s Chance to Lead on Climate Change,” on Inkstick Media.

True Stories from Japan: My Path to a Career in U.S.-Japan Relations

Juliane Doscher is Executive Assistant to the CEO and Alumni Program Coordinator at Sasakawa USA. Previously, she worked at the Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. as the Sakura Matsuri Assistant and then re-contracted as a Program Coordinator and Administrative Assistant. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in Japanese Studies and served as a Student Delegate to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) through the Kakehashi Friendship Ties Program.



My interest in Japan began with a deep and long-lasting love for Pokemon. Pokemon puts a lot of effort into localization for the American audience and when I was first exposed to the franchise at the age of 5, I didn’t even know it was Japanese. (That white ball definitely did not look like a jelly doughnut, but I would not have known what it was if they had rightfully called it onigiri.) If it hadn’t been for my uncle one day in Maine as we watched an episode in Japanese, it would have taken me much longer to find out. When I asked what language this was, and why it was showing yellow letters on the screen that I couldn’t read, he told me, “Because this is a Japanese show, and I like the way it sounds better in its original language. You know that Pokemon is Japanese, right?”

From there, my love for Japan spiraled. My mom helped me find more Japanese popular media: primarily manga and anime. When I was old enough to navigate the internet on my own, I learned about live action dramas and TV shows and devoted more time and money into my love for the music.

The music made me adore the language, and the shows encouraged me to start learning more about Japan’s history and pop and traditional culture. I could not get enough of it all. I self-studied until I took a private language course in high school.

At the University of Maryland, I invested even more into Japan and majored in Japanese Studies. I tested into the 200 level of Japanese and took focused history classes from the beginning; this one on the Meiji period, that one on the warring states period. The University of Maryland offered upper-level literature classes which paired well with my creative writing minor, as well as targeted courses that delved into Japan’s history through the lens of literature or film—Japan from the Margins or Japan and the Atomic Bomb.

These classes fortified my knowledge of the intricacies of Japan’s culture and history and solidified my ambition to work in a Japan-related field, but I didn’t know what to do specifically. Everyone assumed I would translate, interpret, or teach. But I was never confident with kanji and though my understanding was strong, I knew I’d be too shy to interpret on the spot. I also knew I did not want to teach English in Japan or live there outside of school. If I wasn’t translating, interpreting, or teaching, what was there to do?

I considered studying abroad. Perhaps I’d figure it out while I was actually in Japan, immersed in the language. Many people I knew studied abroad and encouraged me to do so as well. I was admitted to a program, but unfortunately did not have the money to go. Instead, I applied for internships. For my final summer of college, the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC (JASWDC) hired me as the intern for Japan-in-a-Suitcase. During my time there, I also created and administered a small program of my own. The internship helped me network and learn more about potential career opportunities in DC, but it didn’t mean I would immediately find a job post-graduation.

In my last college semester, I was accepted to join an 8-day Kakehashi trip to Japan. The “KAKEHASHI Project” is promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) and sends different groups and ages of students to Japan. The program aims to promote the nation’s strengths, attractiveness, and values as well as a deeper mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the United States. This was an amazing opportunity since I was not able to study abroad. The trip was scheduled for the January after I graduated. However, I had not lined up a job for when I returned. I had sent out applications, but I hadn’t heard back from any Japan-related organizations in DC or the surrounding Maryland area.

Just days before graduating, when I was feeling very down during one of my final exams, I received an e-mail from the JASWDC director offering me a job as the Sakura Matsuri Assistant because of my successful internship the previous summer. I said yes immediately (after consulting my mom, of course), and went on the Kakehashi trip knowing I would return to a job, albeit on contract.

I worked at JASWDC as the Sakura Matsuri Assistant, and then as a Program Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, for just under one year. I currently work as Executive Assistant to the CEO and Program Assistant at Sasakawa USA. I could never have dreamed this is where I would end up, but it is where my experiences and my drive led me. I now have a knowledge of Japanese security, economy, politics, and more, under my belt to reinforce my degree. Despite not following the many other routes that others with an interest in Japan take, I was able to find my place in the U.S.-Japan community in DC.

My path to a Japan-focused career was very different than most people. But, I pursued my interest in a way I knew was the right fit for me–showing how much I value Japan and the U.S.-Japan relationship by majoring in Japanese studies, interning, and working in the field. I could not be more satisfied with where I am at this point in my career.

About True Stories from Japan

True Stories from Japan is an occasional blog on the Sasakawa USA website that features reflective essays about travels to and from Japan. Click here for details on how to submit an article for consideration.

Admiral Blair quoted in The Economist about U.S.-Japan alliance

Admiral Dennis Blair, Chairman of Sasakawa USA, was quoted in The Economist on September 6. Blair’s comments were published in, “Japan is worried about its alliance with America,” which examines the current state of the U.S.-Japan alliance in terms of both trade and security agreements.

Blair, a former Director of National Intelligence and previous Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, discusses the closeness of the U.S.-Japan military relationship, as well how Japan’s non-exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs may influence the alliance.

Read “Japan is worried about its alliance with America” in The Economist.

Chairman’s Message: Military Confrontations in Peace and War

Source: Pixabay

On a recent trip to East Asia, the subject of steadily increasing Chinese maritime and air activity in the waters and airspace of Japan and Taiwan came up often. China’s Navy and Air Force are growing in number and sophistication of platforms, and China has been sending ships and aircraft in increasing numbers through international waters around both Taiwan and Japan, through their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), Air Defense Identification zones (ADIZ), contiguous zones, and even territorial waters and airspace. Both Japan and Taiwan interpret this Chinese activity as a threat, and intercept every Chinese airplane or ship as it approaches these zones, and escort them throughout their flight or voyage. Both Taiwan and Japan publish the number and location of these Chinese activities as they occur and in statistical accounts every year.

Although this intercept and escort policy seems a sensible way of protecting a country’s sovereignty, demonstrating that a country’s armed forces are on their guard and can defend their territory, it comes at a cost in military effectiveness. “Scrambles” of alert aircraft to intercept Chinese aircraft and rapid sorties of alert surface ships to intercept Chinese ships are simple tactical evolutions that provide little training value in wartime skills. The pattern of reactions provides intelligence insights to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) about Japanese and Taiwanese surveillance and reaction capabilities, insights that can be used to the PLA’s advantage in combat operations. The budget effects of these “intercept and escort everything” policies are more important. They use up flying and steaming hour budgets, leaving less money available for complex exercises to hone more difficult skills that will be needed in wartime. Within limited defense budgets, purchasing replacement or additional aircraft and ships for intercept and escort competes with the purchase of larger inventories of long range surface-to-air missiles, submarines, or other systems that are of greater utility in defeating Chinese attempts to take and hold islands.

In other words, Japan and Taiwan, with their “intercept everything” policies, are degrading their readiness to defend their territory in conflict, lowering deterrence of Chinese military aggression.

How can these policies be changed without appearing as a weakening of resolve and capability?  The military leaders of both Japan and Taiwan are under strong political pressure to intercept and escort every Chinese sortie near their territory. China should not be able to operate freely around Taiwanese or Japanese territory. Neither should China be able to dictate how Japan and Taiwan allocate their defense budgets.

A first step is for both Taiwan and Japan to decide how much of their Navy and Air Force operating budgets should be spent on intercept and escort operations, and how much should be spent on training for wartime missions. There is no correct proportion, but intercept and escort operations should consume only a small fraction of navy and air force training budgets, say ten per cent.

A second step is for both Taiwan and Japan to remove intercept and escort as a separate mission to justify force acquisition decisions. Ships and planes and sensors and weapons should be purchased for their wartime usefulness, not for peacetime activities. Both Japan and Taiwan need fighter aircraft and surface combatants for wartime missions, but it is a waste of scarce resources to purchase replacement or additional units for intercept and escort operations.

A third step is for Japan and Taiwan to make new policies for intercept and escort. Under these new concepts, Japan and Taiwan would not automatically intercept and escort all Chinese flights and voyages near their waters. They would be selective and unpredictable, not revealing their full capabilities but demonstrating that they are closely following Chinese activity and can intercept it if they choose to do so.

Additionally, Japanese and Taiwanese defense leaders need to educate the public in their respective countries about the new policy and about the difference between military operations in peacetime and in conflict. The public needs to know, for example, that all countries, including China, under international law can operate their ships and aircraft in international waters in peacetime. They need to know that Japanese and Taiwanese ships and vessels also have the right to operate freely in waters and airspace close to China, and that no country owns international waters and air space beyond 12 miles from its shores.

To emphasize this point, Japan and Taiwan should send some of their own ships and aircraft on occasion into international waters closer to China. China will react with its own intercept and escort operations, as they do with American air and surface ship operations near China. China will respond publicly with denunciations of the Japanese and Taiwanese operations as “hostile and threatening,” while insisting that their own similar operations are peaceful and pose no threat. The contradiction will not be lost on Taiwanese and Japanese citizens.

Taiwanese and Japanese citizens also need to know that countries can operate their ships and aircraft in peacetime in locations that would not be possible in wartime. To drive this point home, Japanese and Taiwanese forces can use Chinese operations around their waters to exercise wartime skills. Several months ago, the refurbished Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning made a cruise around Taiwan, a subject of major political concern in the Taiwanese press. If the Liaoning makes a similar voyage in future, Taiwanese forces should take advantage of its presence to conduct simulated attacks against the Liaoning, raising their own readiness, and demonstrating the reality that the Liaoning is vulnerable under wartime conditions.

Finally, the public in Taiwan and Japan needs to know that it is wartime military capability, not peacetime operations, that deters a potential aggressor like China from taking action to enforce the claims it makes on Taiwanese and Japanese territory. Chinese operations in peacetime near Taiwan and Japan are gunboat diplomacy, intended to intimidate and to cause concessions without conflict. Taiwanese and Japanese citizens need to understand that it is the capability of their defense forces to defeat Chinese aggression in wartime that provides the ultimate protection for their sovereignty and independence.


Perspectives on Japan’s National Police Agency’s public-private partnerships

From December 9-16, 2017, Sasakawa USA partnered with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) to take a cohort of eight rising U.S. cybersecurity experts and technology entrepreneurs for a week-long study trip to Japan. Dani Charles, CEO, Charles Bernard Ventures, and Ash Rajaram, Consultant, Boston Consulting Group, were two of the participating experts. Here, they reflect on a meeting with Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA).

This past December we had the distinct honor of participating in Sasakawa USA’s Emerging Experts Delegation (SEED) on cybersecurity, which was sponsored by Sasakawa USA and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). The delegation traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, and met with cybersecurity practitioners, innovators, and entrepreneurs in both the public and private sector. One such meeting was with the National Police Agency (NPA), which focused on the important role public-private partnerships can play in ensuring that government agencies are able to keep pace with the evolution of technology and its impact on critical government priorities such as enhancing cybersecurity and combatting cyber-crime.

We have written this piece as a reflection on that meeting and the trip more broadly. The first part focuses on a unique approach detailed in that meeting, while the second details the value such an approach can bring by facilitating different perspectives.

–Dani Charles and Ash Rajaram

A Unique Approach: The National Police Agency’s Exchange Program

By Dani Charles

When we traveled to Japan last December, we had a number of interesting and informative meetings, during which we learned about the Japanese public and private sector approaches to cybersecurity and innovation. Having never been to Japan (or even East Asia for that matter), I came away from the trip with a deep appreciation of some of the complex challenges Japan faces in the 21st century. Some of these challenges are unique to Japan, others I have seen first-hand in the United States through my work with the U.S. government in the national security space.

One meeting that stood out to me was our meeting with the National Police Agency’s (NPA) Director for Cybersecurity. Having worked with U.S. law enforcement in the past, I was excited and interested to learn how NPA was approaching the challenges that cyber and technology bring to the law enforcement domain.

The meeting, which lasted roughly 90 minutes, focused on NPA’s approach to cybersecurity. While the entirety of the meeting was interesting, I found one part in particular to be exceptionally thought-provoking: NPA presented on its effort to partner with the private sector and detailed an exchange program designed to enhance this partnership. The program detailed four paths/mechanisms for exchange: the first was the opportunity for a public-sector employee to temporarily transfer to a private company and then return to his public-sector career; the second was the opportunity for the public-sector to hire mid-career engineers from the private-sector; the third was the opportunity for a private-sector employee to temporarily work in the public-sector before returning to the private sector; and the forth was a joint organization where public and private sector practitioners could be collocated to more effectively collaborate on cybersecurity issues.

As NPA presented this approach, I immediately saw its utility, not only to NPA and the Japanese government but also to U.S. law enforcement and the U.S. government more broadly. To be fair, the U.S. government has and is trying some of these approaches. The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA), for example, in many ways mirrors the collaborative approach detailed by NPA, and efforts such as the Secretary of Navy Tours with Industry are designed to give public-sector personnel an opportunity to temporarily embed with private-sector companies. But these initiatives are few and far between, and also don’t address all the paths NPA outlined in its exchange program. For example, there are limited mechanisms to hire mid-career professionals into the U.S. government, and – with the exception of the Navy Tours with Industry – no mechanisms that I am aware of for U.S. government personnel to temporarily work in the private-sector and then return to government, or vice-versa. Such exchanges would be transformative, not only for the U.S. government but also for the private-sector partners, who would each gain valuable perspectives that would boost innovation and collaboration while simultaneously enhancing U.S. cybersecurity.

Unfortunately, because our meeting only lasted 90 minutes we were unable to do a deeper dive into the program. As a result, I don’t know how successful the NPA’s exchange program has been thus-far – what I do know is that the model is one that has immense potential to impact both the Japanese and U.S. governments’ abilities to address the challenges that technology pose to national security. As such, I’m keen to see how the exchange progresses, and if there are any lessons-learned that can be applied to U.S. law enforcement and the U.S. government more broadly.

An Outside View: The Value of Different Perspectives

By Ash Rajaram

Technology, which has provided people across the world with unparalleled opportunity, has also introduced increasingly complex challenges.  These challenges, information security included, are not unique to the government or the private sector, but span across all industries and functional areas.  Enhancing information security and data protection requires outside the box thinking and creative solutions to keep pace with the continuously evolving threat landscape.

To remain at pace with threats, a major question is how do we drive outside the box thinking and creative problem solving? Is this something we can expect to happen or must we create the environment or structure for it?

I personally think one of the most important factors for creative problem solving is a different perspective. As a career consultant, I’ve seen the real value a different perspective brings to both simple and complex problems. A different perspective challenges underlying assumptions and energizes a potentially stagnant problem.  One of the things I found most impressive about the Boston Consulting Group, was the diverse background and different perspective each team member brought to brain storming sessions. Team members studied various majors, lived in different states and countries, had different professional backgrounds from the military to medicine; however, these different perspectives enhanced the discussion richness and ultimately the solution.  Early in my career, I admittedly was skeptical about the value consultants could add in a business situation where they hadn’t spent an entire career. My thinking couldn’t have been more incorrect- many times, individuals without preconceived notions and limited situation specific background, brought the best and most creative ideas.  Everyone brought a unique perspective, and asked different questions based on their background and experience, which ultimately fueled the conversation. Their outside the box perspective ultimately led to the best solutions and the diversity of thought drove the most impactful recommendations and solutions to complex problems.

This is one of the main reasons I found the partnership between the National Police Agency and private industry, where a private sector employee was embedded as a team member, so impressive. Rarely, had I seen a private sector employee so closely tied in with their government counterparts, to enhance cyber and information security. The problem-solving approaches between the private and public-sector individuals were likely different, however, is precisely what is needed to combat such a complex issue.

Additionally, the dialogue and differing perspectives will lead to greater innovation and quicker cycles. Today, whether in industry or government, it is nearly impossible to escape the innovation conversation. Whoever can innovate the quickest to develop leading cutting-edge tech, in an ever-evolving environment, will ultimately be the leaders. I would argue that innovation is most successful when diversity of thought and people with different perspectives approach a similar problem, which is what NPA’s partnership is driving.

About the Authors

Daniel (Dani) Charles is the CEO and Co-Founder of Charles Bernard Ventures. Charles has extensive experience advising the U.S. government on the procurement and deployment of critical technology, as well as providing cyber-related training to groups across the Intelligence, Defense, Diplomatic and Federal Law Enforcement communities. Charles has directly supported U.S. government cyber programs, led teams specializing in cyber investigations, research and analysis, and, on numerous occasions, drafted white papers and memos for senior government audiences focused on how to bring new and innovative technology into the national security fold.

Charles is a 2017-2018 Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America, and was a 2016 National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. He co-teaches a graduate-level Cyber 101 workshop at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, and has spoken publicly on cyber issues in a number of capacities, to include as a guest speaker at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Veterans Cyber Initiative, and as a panelist at the American Society of Travel Agent’s Premium Business Summit as well as its Global Convention.

Charles received his M.A. from Georgetown University, where he wrote his graduate thesis on the lessons U.S. Cyber Command can learn from U.S. Special Operations Command. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Emory University.

Ashwin Rajaram is an experienced leader at the nexus of the private sector, technology, and national security. He is currently a Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and has experience in business strategy, digital transformation, and buy side due diligence. Additionally, Rajaram is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Before joining BCG, Rajaram was a strategy and cyber consultant at Promontory Financial Group (PFG), where he advised both private sector senior executives and public sector leaders in cyber strategy, threat and risk identification, risk mitigation, and response. Prior to PFG, Rajaram’s experience included management and strategy consulting including extensive expertise in information sharing and threat intelligence.

Rajaram received an M.S., with distinction, from Carnegie Mellon University in Information Security, Policy, and Management and holds a B.A. in International Business and Finance from the George Washington University.