Sasakawa USA Journalism Fellowship


The Sasakawa USA Journalism Fellowship offers an opportunity for U.S.-based journalists to travel to Japan and conduct field reporting that delves deep into the economic, social, cultural, environmental, and energy-policy challenges facing the country.

Although the world is interconnected as never before, international news coverage is likely at an all-time low. As important as Japan is in the constellation of U.S. relationships abroad, Japan’s appearances in the news reflect neither its global importance nor that of the Japan-U.S. relationship. This program will help to make independent coverage of neglected issues possible. As a result of this program, American audiences will receive fresh, innovative coverage of topics that highlight Japan.

In its second year, Sasakawa USA again is partnering with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) to administer the fellowship as part of ICFJ’s “Illuminating Today’s Japan for American Audiences” program. The program will select one U.S.-based journalist to participate in a 19-day reporting trip in Japan throughout fall 2017, fully sponsored by Sasakawa USA. The participating journalist will work with an experienced Japanese interpreter and fixer, and is expected to dig into the economic, social, cultural, environmental and energy-policy challenges facing the country.

Applications have closed for the “Illuminating Today’s Japan for American Audiences” program for 2017.


2017 Journalism Fellow: Mr. Seth Berkman

Mr. Seth Berkman has been a contributing reporter at the New York Times since 2012. His work often focuses on sports, with a particular interest in examining the perception of Asian athletes in the United States; profile subjects include Japanese basketball players Ramu Tokashiki and Yuta Watanabe, and Japanese hockey goalie Nana Fujimoto.

Prior to working for the Times, Berkman worked at the Jewish Daily Forward and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He has been awarded various fellowships that have led to reporting work abroad in Japan, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Canada. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in New Jersey, and currently lives in New York City.

Berkman was the second recipient of Sasakawa USA’s Journalism Fellowship and traveled to Japan to complete his reporting in late 2017. Berkman wrote three articles based on his reporting, beginning with a piece about Japanese baseball player Shohei Ohtani for the New York Times on December 1.

• February 6, 2018: Japan’s Women’s Hockey Team Wants to be Known for Wins, Not Smiles

• Sasakawa USA Blog: The Story Behind “Japan’s Women’s Hockey Team Wants to be Known for Wins, Not Smiles
• December 29, 2017: Would You Play Ball at Fukushima?

• Sasakawa USA Blog: The Story Behind “Would you Play Ball at Fukushima?”
• December 1, 2017: In Japan, Ohtani is a Special Player but Definitely Not Babe Ruth

• Sasakawa USA Blog: The Story Behind “In Japan, Ohtani is a Special Player but Definitely Not Babe Ruth”


Previous Fellows and their work

2016 Journalism Fellow: Mr. Umair Irfan

Mr. Umair Irfan covers the Department of Energy, technology, research and health for ClimateWire. He has written about the rise and fall of tech companies, infectious disease outbreaks and grid-level energy storage. He completed his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2008 and his master’s degree in journalism in 2011.

Irfan was the first recipient of Sasakawa USA’s Journalism Fellowship. On his trip to Japan in December 2016, he reported on the country’s role in the global energy market, looking at how Japan is dealing with nuclear power, how manufacturers like Toyota and Mitsubishi are bringing clean technology to market, and the lessons the United States can learn. To achieve this, he held multiple interviews in Tokyo, Fukushima, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Nagoya with professors, government officials, researchers, and industry. His first article about the Mitsubishi regional jet was published in March 2017, and he is also running a series of articles throughout 2017, which will be updated below as they are published:

• January 2, 2018: Architects tackle emissions in a culture that discards homes
• October 3, 2017: Japan is king of efficiency. But it’s losing climate passion
• June 29, 2017: “In Japan, ‘soul searching’ years after disaster”
• June 6, 2017: “Japan ramps up clean energy as U.S. recedes”
• May 19, 2017: “Japan thinks hydrogen will rule. Does anyone else?”
• March 31, 2017: “Japan is building planes. Think less fuel, like its cars”

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