The Center For Professional Exchange

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James B

My name is James Bruniany, and I am a rising senior at George Mason University. I am currently studying Global Affairs with a concentration in East Asia alongside a minor in Japanese Language Studies. I am also the acting vice-president of George Mason’s Japanese Student Association and do my utmost to be active with individuals with an interest in Japan and with the Japanese students that come from abroad to study at my university. I had a marvelous experience studying abroad in Akita, Japan in 2015 and gained a substantial amount of both linguistic and cultural knowledge during my time there. The lifelong friends I made and the experiences that I had at the school and outside of it in Touhoku had a major effect on my life and have made me come to love Japan ever since. After coming back from that trip, I became extremely interested in learning as much as I can about Japanese as well as about US-Japan foreign and business relations. One of my greatest desires is to strengthen my knowledge of these relationships and of the Japanese language by the time I graduate.

I am extremely excited to be working for three weeks with Sojitz and hope that by working in a company that has such a global presence, I will be able to open my view of the world even more and gain a considerable amount of applicable knowledge of the ways Japanese business is conducted and more deeply comprehend the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

It is my aspiration to work in Japan after I receive my undergraduate degree and once I reach that point, I will be using the experiences that I will gain by working at Sojitz as a CEPEX intern to help me find a position in the public or private sector that will give me the opportunity to influence US-Japan relations in a positive way. I never thought that I would have a chance to see what working in a real company with a presence in the US and Japan is like, so I am extremely grateful that I am being given this opportunity by CEPEX. I plan to use it to fullest extent and give back to Sojitz in any way that I can in the future! Thank you!

Nicole James Andrea

JSA intern with CEPEX and Sojitz DC staff Nicole Uehara and Andrea Wert.

Azuma James Yoshida

JSA intern with Sojitz DC staff Koji Azuma and Masanori Yoshida.

The CEPEX Japan Studies Award is generously supported by Sojitz Foundation and ANA.

New Sojitz Foundation Logo 2

ANA Vertical

Yukio Tada, chairman of Keizai Doyukai’s Empowerment of Japan Hands committee, was the special guest speaker at a dinner with JET alumni in the DC area on March 16, 2016. This relatively new committee was created following initial action in the Americas-Japan Relations Committee in 2013, when Doyukai conducted a survey to gauge the awareness of the JET Program by the Japanese business community. The survey showed a tremendous lack of awareness about the cadre of young foreigners who have gained key insight into Japanese culture, lifestyles and language through living and working in communities throughout Japan on the JET Program. Keizai Doyukai recognized the need to create a team dedicated to empowering “Japan Hands”, including establishing an official committee, and organizing events to connect business executives with these potential “influencers” and “bridge-builders” between Japan and other countries.

Tada-san at Tono Sushi

This potential pool of next generation “Japan Hands” include participants and alumni of government-sponsored exchange programs such the JET Program; the scores of foreign students who study abroad in Japan; as well as the members of the U.S. military forces based in Japan and their families. By highlighting the importance of these Japan Hands to the U.S.-Japan relationship, Keizai Doyukai has been trying to develop cross-sectoral collaborations with the private sector, public sector, local governments, academia and foreign organizations in Japan.

Tada-san discussion at Tono Sushi

The JET Program includes over 30,000 alumni from the United States alone, who have experienced living and working in all corners of Japan. The DC-area JET Alumni attendees at the dinner lived in Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Niigata, Shimane, Mie, Wakayama, Kagawa, Ehime, Kyoto, Saga, Kumamoto and Okinawa. These alumni, who are unofficial cultural ambassadors for their locales in Japan, are now working in the State Department, Department of Justice, USDA, Embassy of Japan, NPOs involved in international exchange, Japanese businesses, as well as the JET Program office in the U.S. During the last year, a special interest group at the State Department was established by alumni of the JET Program and over 100 members have already joined.

Tada-san talk at Tono Sushi

As the JET Program prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2017, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) plans to revise its Guidelines for English education to include teaching English beginning in Grades 3 and 4 in elementary school through high school. In addition, there is growing support for expanding JET Program ALTs from only working in public schools to private schools; creating a JET Coordinator in small local communities; and conducting a new survey of JET Program participants. Mr. Tada shared news about Project “G” with Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, which is moving ahead to include teaching English from Grade 1 in elementary school beginning in 2017. Nagasaki Prefecture has also been on the forefront of adopting English education in elementary schools, and notably over 4,000 Junior High School G7 students (中学校1年生) attended a special English Camp.

Group Photo

Nagasaki University Faculty of Economics and its Alumni Association, in collaboration with the Keizai Doyukai Committee for Empowerment of Japan Hands, held the Nagasaki Global Forum on February 11-12, 2016. This was the third gathering of members of business, academia and government to discuss how to promote internationalization and English language proficiency in the region. Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) has helped facilitate this forum every year since 2014. Senior officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries; and Nagasaki Prefecture/City; as well as high school principals and local mayors participated in discussions with members of Doyukai and other private organizations. Eight ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) joined the reception and enjoyed the discussion with the forum participants. Special thanks to Professor Masayuki Susai, Vice Dean of Faculty of Economics, and CEPEX Nagasaki representative, who contributed to the success of this event. 3rd Forum meeting

Reception 2

Nagasaki Reception

For the 7th year, CEPEX is sponsoring a special Japan Studies Award internship opportunity in the U.S. and Japan. The program is open to students at American University, George Mason University and George Washington University. This internship will provide a unique, hands-on office experience in two locations of a Japanese trade and investment company.

  Desired Candidate Qualities Include

·         Interest in Japan

·         Open to learning new things

·         Positive attitude

·         Organized

·         Motivated

·         Self-starter and independent

·         Able to work with minimal supervision

·         Research skills a plus

·         Able to work in a professional environment

·         Willing to participate in speaking engagements about the award

·         Flexible


is available here: CEPEX 2016 Japan Studies Award Application Packet 

Application Timeline

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Friday, March 18, 2016, 5:00 pm (EST)

Application Review: March 21-31, 2016

Applications will be reviewed by CEPEX staff March 21-31, 2016.


Candidates will be selected for in-person interviews and announced via email on April 1, 2016.


Applicants who passed the initial screening will be interviewed by the CEPEX staff in Washington, DC. Interview dates and other details will be sent to interviewees by email.  All transportation costs and other expenses to and from the interview site are to be borne by the applicant. Note about interviews: If you make it to the interview stage and are unable to come to the DC office, alternative arrangements may be made on a case-by-case basis.

RESULTS ANNOUNCED: Monday, April 11, 2016

Interview results will be announced to successful and alternate candidates by April 11, 2016. Alternate candidate will be upgraded when deemed necessary.

In-Person Pre-Internship Meeting: April 18-29, 2016 (Meeting date TBD)

Award winner will be required to have one meeting with CEPEX staff at the Washington, DC office to discuss the interest areas, goals and objectives of the internship, and any mentorship-related requests.

 2-Week DC Internship: May 23-June 3, 2016 (tentative dates)

Award winner will intern for two weeks in the Washington, DC office of a Japanese trading company.

10-Day Japan Trip: June 7-17, 2016 (tentative dates)

Award winner will have an opportunity to travel to Tokyo for ten days. Activities will include research projects and first-hand look at the Japanese business world in the headquarters of a Japanese trading company.

header The 2016 CEPEX Japan Studies Award

CEPEX is proud to be sponsoring the 7th Annual Japan Studies Award in 2016. The goals of this program are to support young future American professionals interested in Japan and to strengthen the overall U.S.-Japan relationship.

The 2016 Japan Studies Award is open to undergraduate students in good standing currently enrolled in the degree programs at American University, George Mason University, and George Washington University. There is no restriction on the major or field of study that the student is pursuing. Nor is it required that the participating student be enrolled in a Japanese language course. Candidate must have an interest in Japan.

For consideration for the award, potential candidates will submit a completed application packet by March 18, 2016, which will include a variety of short answer questions and two essay questions. Select candidates will be asked to participate in a brief interview at CEPEX headquarters in Washington, D.C. The final winner will be chosen based on the quality of the submitted application packet and successful interview.

The winner of the 2016 Japan Studies Award will be granted a two-week internship at the Washington D.C. branch office of Sojitz Corporation of America, a company with strong ties to Japan, beginning late May. During the internship, the student will have the opportunity attend events at think-tanks, write event summaries and conduct targeted research. The winner will also be able to experience working with Japanese speakers, networking with professionals in their future field of interest, and gain first-hand understanding of working for a Japanese-related corporation located in the U.S. After completing the internship in Washington, the 2016 Japan Studies Award winner will travel to Japan. The student will be able to further their interest in Japanese language, culture and international business through a short internship in Tokyo.

For more information about CEPEX and last year’s award, please visit http://www.cepex.org/. The full application packet and a timeline for the 2016 Award will be available in December 2015 on the CEPEX website.

Best of luck,

Nicole Uehara, CEPEX President

Andrea Wert, CEPEX Director  

About CEPEX The Center for Professional Exchange (CEPEX) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the U.S.-Japan relationship and cultivating the next generation of Japan experts. Many thanks to the Sojitz Foundation and All Nippon Airways for their support of CEPEX and the Japan Studies Award.

http://www.sojitz.com/en/csr/contribute/nci/ and http://www.ana.co.jp/asw/wws/us/e/

New Sojitz Foundation Logo 2

ANA Vertical

Doyukai JETAA Meeting

Nine JET Alumni members in DC met with a visiting delegation of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) for a special discussion about Millennials at the Halcyon House in Georgetown on December 7. Keizai Doyukai’s Americas-Japan Relations Committee organized a mission trip to DC and New York to engage with think tank specialists, universities, corporations and JET alumni to gather information about the Millennial generation (ages 15 to 35) and their potential impact on consumer purchasing trends. The delegation was particularly interested in learning about Millennials’ view of corporate brands, product preferences, types of corporations they empathize with; and to test whether general generational assumptions are correct. Some of the key assumptions include a preference for sharing rather than ownership; a focus on environmental protection, sustainability and climate change; a preference for spending money on experiences rather than objects; and active use of smart phones and social networking.

Izumi Kobayashi welcomeThe Keizai Doyukai delegation was led by Izumi Kobayashi, chairman of the Americas-Japan Relations Committee and Vice Chairman of Keizai Doyukai. Other mission delegates included Minoru Fujita of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific; Eiji Hirano of MetLife Insurance K.K.; Hiroyuki Kamano of Kamano Sogo Law Offices; and Akira Okada of All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.; as well as Tom Oku and Ken Kuribayashi. The JET alumni members in attendance included JETAADC President Ryan Bedford, JETAADC Vice President Joy Champaloux, JETAADC Volunteer chair Jessica Burbach, JETAADC Social co-chair Aaron Freidus, JETAADC JET Ambassadors co-chairs Tricia Kubrin and Paul Champaloux, JET Program consultant Christopher Gray, and JETAADC members Shreena Patel and Rachel Reed.

Discussion2Keizai Doyukai delegates posed a number of questions to the JETAA members and learned that corporate transparency and coming of age during the Great Recession play a large role in shaping their consumer preferences and trends. Student loan debt, underemployment and wage stagnation have also delayed some lifecycle purchases such as cars or homes. The JET alumni noted a preference for spending money on experiences over objects, and DC urban life reduces the need for a car given the alternative services available. They do not always pay more for organic groceries, but knowing where the food comes from and how it was cultivated is an important factor to make healthy choices. There is also a geographic influence that informs some purchasing preferences. The increased awareness of discriminatory comments by CEOs as well as different corporate missions that include social good were other topics under discussion.

Halcyon TourJETAADC member and S&R Foundation Marketing and Communications Manager Shreena Patel gave a brief tour of the historic Halcyon House to JETAADC members. Dr. Sachiko Kuno and Dr. Ryuji Ueno purchased the Georgetown house in 2011, which underwent a significant renovation. Since 2013 Halcyon House has been granted a special permit for S&R Foundation’s nonprofit use for its Halcyon Incubator Program that supports social good entrepreneurs for a unique fellowship. 

JETAA Hitachi Iguchi

JETAADC members introduce themselves to JCAW member, Mr. Tetsuo Iguchi of Toshiba’s DC office.

CEPEX appreciates the wonderful hospitality by S&R Foundation and especially Dr. Kuno for making this special event possible.


拝啓 時下益々ご清栄のこととお慶び申し上げます。



The original charter was set for a period of ten years. As we look at the state of U.S. and Japan relations, we perceive the need for our mission to help cultivate the next generation of Japan hands, and provide an organizing partner for our Japanese counterparts, remains as strong as ever. With this in mind, CEPEX has extended the charter for another ten years, to December 31, 2025. We will continue to seek opportunities to help develop stronger relationships between the U.S. and Japan and encourage a new generation of thought leaders.


Chairman of the Board of Trustees: Yukio Tada 多田幸雄

Chairman: John Basalla ジョン・バサラ

President: Nicole Uehara ニコル上原

Director: Andrea Wert アンドレア·ワート

New York Representative: Justin Manger ジャスティン・メィンジャー

Nagasaki Representative: Masayuki Susai 須齋正幸

Special Advisor: Ken Kuribayashi 栗林 顕



CEPEXは「センター・フォー・プロフェッショナル・エクスチェンジ」の略字で、日米専門家の先細りの問題意識を共有する在ワシントン有識者の総意により2005年に設立された。日本語で内容を表すと「日米国際戦略高等教育交流専門家育成推進機関」。しかし、この名称を使わなかったのは設立準備に際して、半年かけて官民学の各界有識者を多数招いて行なった公開討論の結果である。次世代の米国の知日派育成を支援する新しい組織であれば、国際的(International)、戦略的(Strategic)、高等(Advanced)であることは、目標ではなく大前提。それらを使用したのは冷戦時代の発想で21世紀ではより進んだアプローチが必要と、最近話題のスマート・パワー的な発想で幾つか候補が出されたが、最後の決め手になったのは一番簡単なドメイン名。CEPEXはhttp://www.cepex.org/ が取得できたことから遡って作られた造語で、それをシーペックスとしたのは英語の韻が良いという助言から。




The Center for Professional Exchange (CEPEX) was originally established in 2005. In the past ten years, the organization has successfully upheld the mission of supporting young Americans interested in Japan and young Japanese professionals in Washington, DC. CEPEX has held numerous educational events and conferences at Vanderbilt University, Georgetown University, Florida International University, University of Colorado at Boulder, Emory University, and George Mason University.  CEPEX also created a flagship program called the Japan Studies Award, which provides a unique, hands-on internship opportunity in a Japanese trade and investment office in Washington, DC, plus a 10-day internship experience at the Tokyo headquarters. CEPEX has had the the privilege of hosting a number of special events and receptions for visiting Japanese leaders including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, delegations from Keizai Doyukai  (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and First Lady Akie Abe, connecting them with DC-area Japan hands and JET Program alumni.

The original charter was set for a period of ten years. As we look at the state of U.S. and Japan relations, we perceive the need for our mission to help cultivate the next generation of Japan hands, and provide an organizing partner for our Japanese counterparts, remains as strong as ever. With this in mind, CEPEX has extended the charter for another ten years, to December 31, 2025. We will continue to seek opportunities to help develop stronger relationships between the U.S. and Japan and encourage a new generation of thought leaders. 

JET Panel

CEPEX President Nicole Uehara participated on the JETAADC Career Panel held on October 2, 2015. The JET Program alumni organization in DC annually hosts a special career event with alumni guest speakers on a graduate school panel and career panel for recently returned JET Program participants. Panelists included JET alumni working at the State Department; in international education; at a Japanese trade and investment company; and for an education and healthcare consulting firm. Each shared their tips on how to build professional networks and prepare to leverage the experiences gained from living and working Japan on the JET Program to their future careers.

JET Panel Uehara

Ms. Uehara was an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET Program in Ehime-ken from 1999-2002. Since returning to the Washington, DC, area she has continued working for Japan-related organizations as a research analyst for MIPRO of Japan, and as a global business researcher and Manager of Global Business Research for Sojitz Corporation of America. In addition to her work at Sojitz, Ms. Uehara has held the positions of director and president of CEPEX, and is a senior research fellow for Sunrock Institute. 


My Tokyo Experience Trip

By Hana Springer 

Sojitz HQ: Office Antics

I have never been more intimidated in my entire life than I was on my first day at Sojitz HQ. I told myself time and again that there was no reason to be nervous, that both my ability to speak Japanese and my past experiences in the country ensured a smooth transition into Tokyo life. Instead, I found myself shaking as I was swallowed into the throng of Japanese professionals, a bumbling gaijin that had already managed to get in the way of multiple office-bound business people. My rusty Japanese skills made me all the more nervous as I was welcomed by the Soken staff, who were friendly but reserved in the typical Japanese manner. The office was beautiful, and I would look up from my work every so often and stare out the window, the Tokyo Tower in my direct line of sight. I could barely fathom that I was neither studying nor touring, but working in this megacity, a foreign metropolis so unlike any American city.

Hana TSE

(Visiting the Tokyo Stock Exchange with Sojitzers)

 My first day consisted of a session with the HR department that went over Sojitz history and Japanese corporate culture, the latter of which was extremely useful and also somewhat amusing: as a foreigner, I could only imagine how frustrating the Japanese concepts of honne (internal feelings) and tatemae (expected behavior) could sometimes prove for non-Japanese employees. On Friday, Tada-san gave me the rare opportunity to visit Prime Minister Abe’s office. I sat in in on a meeting between Tada-san, another employee at Sojitz, and Tomohiko Taniguchi, a special advisor to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. Walking through the wide, airy corridors of Abe-san’s office—the Japanese equivalent of the Oval Office—was a surreal experience, one that I never dreamed I would be lucky enough to have.

Hana Tada PM Abe's Office

(Visiting the Kantei, Prime Minister Abe’s office with Yukio Tada)

 The following week was when the workload began to pile up, as my coworkers and Tada-san arranged various meetings for my benefit and I began to compile research for my final presentation. Throughout the week, I visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange, spoke to two policy studies professionals at Keizai Doyukai, met and sat in on a class with a professor on International Relations in East Asia at Waseda University’s Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, and was introduced to the previous Japanese ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Each event proved to be an invaluable experience that broadened my knowledge on the subject at hand and sometimes even overlapped with my own research. In addition, I spent any spare time I had completing my research assignment from Tada-san.


(Lunch with Soken staff)

If you asked me about the latest developments in digital currency a week ago, I could tell you that things like Apple Pay and Venmo are miracles in the world of easy financial transactions from one’s smartphone. Tada-san’s assignment, however, covered something far more complex than a debit card linked to an app and one’s Facebook profile information. “I want you to find out about new developments in the field of cryptocurrency and tell me how it will target social issues, particularly in Japan,” he told me. I was baffled and entirely unsure as to where to even begin looking. But as an intern, you say no to absolutely nothing, and so for the next few days I switched screens between my own research and multiple articles on cryptocurrency technology. By the end of the week, I was much more well-versed on the latest developments in digital currency and, of course, my own research topic.

 My research topic of choice was based on my desire to combine my interest in China with my connections to Japan. As I thought back upon a think tank I had attended in D.C. on perceptions of China from various continents, I decided upon a research presentation that focused on perceptions between Japan and China and why the two have such a difficult bilateral relationship. But as I gathered information, I began to worry about the nature of my topic: was it too trite? Would people find it valuable? How would I effectively present it? My weekend exploring Tokyo and witnessing the swarms of Chinese tourists (the devalued yen was benefitting everyone, it seemed) proved to be a relevant part of my research as I dove into the tensions behind Sino-Japanese relations and the latest situation between the two countries. My fear of public speaking made my final day at Sojitz the most stressful of them all, and while the presentation portion of my topic was as nerve wracking of an experience as I had anticipated it to be, it was also one of the most valuable. I have had little practice with legitimate presenting in front of others, but the amount of both positive feedback on my research and advice—“slow down”—I received inspired me to perfect my presentation skills for the future.

Hana presentation

(Delivering my presentation of my research project)

Sojitz Group Photo

(Post-presentation with Global HR and Sojitz Research Institute employees)

The Tokyo Experience: Outside the Office

My interactions with my coworkers proved to be some of my favorite. My first day at Sojitz ended with a filling meal of real Japanese sushi (a far cry from the Westernized delicacy that is so sought after in the States) amidst my new colleagues and a fantastic view of Tokyo from the rooftop of Tada-san’s apartment. I was nervous to eat with my elders, who I so desired to make a good impression upon, but interacting with Tada-san and my other coworkers was nothing but fun and the perfect way for me to reconnect with my Japanese-speaking skills. Tada-san treated me and a few other colleagues the next evening to a delicious dinner of okonomiyaki, or as he called it, “Japanese pizza.” Eating lunch with my coworkers almost everyday and my outings with a few of them gave us a chance to connect on a personal level and made my experience in the office that much more enjoyable, for which I was extremely grateful. Saying goodbye to them was one of the hardest parts of my last day at Soken.

Sushi Party


 Life in Tokyo on my own was thrilling in just about every sense of the word. I have a few friends and a cousin in the city, and I was lucky enough to experience various districts in Tokyo with each of them. I experienced Shibuya on a Friday night, and seeing all kinds of people amidst the neon lights and crowded streets was a true “only in Tokyo” experience. The following day, I spent almost an hour getting lost amidst the various food vendors in Mitsukoshi before wandering the crowded, ancient streets of Asakusa. I spent my Sunday exploring Roppongi and witnessed the amazing view from the 54th floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills before meeting a friend in front of Takeshita-dori. We walked from the crowded streets of Harajuku to Omotesando (one of my personal favorites) to Shibuya, by the end of which my legs were exhausted. My time in Tokyo was more than just a chance for me to experience the various aspects of Tokyo life or try delicious foods; it was a taste of what my dream life would be like. I only hope that one day I will be so lucky as to work and live as a young person in this amazing city.

Walking around Akasaka

(Walking around Akasaka)

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(View from Mori Tower)

My Tokyo trip came to an end as quickly as it began, but not without exploring Tokyo a little more first. My dad arrived in Tokyo the morning I checked out of my hotel in Akasaka, so we were able to spend the day exploring areas I hadn’t seen yet before I left to go visit my grandparents in Kyushu, where I would lead a very different life from the one I had gotten used to in the past week.

Tokyo Imperial Palace with my dad

(Visiting Tokyo Imperial Palace with my dad)

 As I retreated into the quiet lifestyle that my grandparents lead down in rural southern Japan—sleeping on a tatami floor, bathing in a Japanese onsen, and eating my grandma’s mouthwatering food in a sprawling but old city where most people are over 60—I reflected on all that I had experienced in the past ten days. I could not have asked for a greater experience: I learned more than I ever thought I would, met brilliant people who I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to, and experienced what it was like to live on your own in a magnificent city. I am indescribably thankful to all of the people who made each moment of this trip possible, and I cannot express how inspiring and motivational this entire internship has been for me. In the simplest terms, I have been given a taste of a life I hope I will be so lucky as to one day have, and this experience has both opened a number of doors and set me in the direction I intend to pursue. It truly excites me to know just how much future CEPEX winners have ahead of them.

In Soken

(With Michiko Iwanami in the Soken office)

Japan Street Scene



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