U.S.-Japan Grassroots Summit:

Building on 179 Years of Friendship

John Manjiro-Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange (U.S.)

Connecting Americans and Japanese Through Grassroots Exchange

CIE-US is built on the bedrock of personal friendships. Now more than ever, such friendships are critical. To enable us to continue to foster friendships between Americans and Japanese we need your support. Any amount is appreciated and helpful. You can donate today via the link below. If you prefer to support us in other ways, please reach out to us at
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Dear Friends of CIE-US:

I hope this note finds you safe, healthy and happy, as 2020 draws to a close, and our big holidays and the New Year are on the horizon!  The goal here as in our past newsletters, is to continue to keep you informed on "what's up" with CIE-US!  That includes expanding our address book for those friends, acquaintances and partners whom our board members feel might be interested in joining our efforts to build upon the past between ALL who hold Japan-USA personal relationships dear, and set the scene for our future Grassroots Summits!

So, especially in the USA, we're absolutely impacted by the COVID-19 protective measures that have and will limit any gatherings in person for quite some time - whether "stay-at-home" policies, businesses closed, limits on personal gatherings, travel restrictions between countries and closed borders, quarantines etc. - have made ALL events held in "virtual" settings for months to come.  We are no different and have enjoyed and been truly impressed by the events we've held on our own or partnered with other like-minded organizations to put on some quality webinars to date, and many more to follow I promise!  Up front please join me in thanking the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP) who sponsored some of our events this fall - that includes my honor to join Dr Sheila.A. Smith (author of Japan Rearmed) in a "Conversation" that you'll have a link to listen and watch, following in this newsletter.  THANKS CGP - and always thanks to our corporate sponsors for helping us to grow person-to-person "grassroots" relationships through your funding: Toyota (TMNA), Orix, Ito En, and Distant Lands Coffee!!  

Knowing that getting together is for now off the list of options, I respectfully ask for your help and consideration for our future events - among our Board we have many ideas that we think are terrific......But - I ask for your help in taking the survey (via link) that is included in this newsletter - our goal will be to offer a great event every 2-3 months, and bring in as many of you as possible via our webinars.  Please help me here - we want your ideas!!  And just because we cannot get together physically, doesn't mean we shut down - to the contrary, we use this time to expand - help us broaden the ties between people of Japan and the USA - THANKS!

Future events of interest besides our CIE-US events, might include those of the Japan USA Military Program (JUMP) sponsored by NAJAS and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in DC - Yes, I have that USN-to-JMSDF relationship that is longstanding and very personal.  These are meant to recognize and honor our military and civilians who have served our Alliance in Japan:  Dec 17th hosted by the JAS New Orleans (register at; and Jan 23rd hosted by the JAS State of Washington and Nisei Veterans (register at or us and learn!! 

Meantime, a tough decision has been made between CIE and CIE-US for this upcoming year due to COVID-19.  Important to let you know that the Wakayama Summit in 2021 is postponed to dates in 2022.  We hope to bring a small contingent of students (20)/chaperones (5) who participated in Grassroots Summit 2019, from Hyogo/Himeji to the USA in the fall of '21 - clearly our goal is to do something to bring people together in the New Year - but we will not do anything if medical safety measures are not solid - so my personal request is that you remain flexible, and meantime help us engage and grow over the internet/webinar capabilities that we have.  Again my thanks!

So let's all continue to strengthen our institutional outreach to building our people-to-people relationships towards future Grassroots Summits!! Alumni and other "affinity groups" (JET, JUMP et al), like-minded organisations, and other potential future participants are key - while exploring subjects for online exchange through "Zoom", "Google webinar", "Microsoft Teams" tools....And please keep the faith - stay safe and healthy - Best wishes for Happy Hanukkah (started 10 Dec), Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and of course Happy New Year on Jan 1st!!  May 2020, the Year of the Ox, be great!!  

Most Sincerely and ALL the best,
Jamie Kelly
President CIE-US
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Click above to watch the webinar.
Family Ties:  U.S.-Japan Relations and the Legacy of Manjiro Nakahama & William Whitfield

On Thursday, November 5, 2020 CIE-US, held a dynamic webinar with members of the 5th, 6th, and 7th generations of the Whitfield family as well as CIE-US Board Member Dr. Matthew C. Perry, great great grandnephew of Commodore Matthew C. Perry; Manjiro Scholar and CIE Trustee Kiyoshi Hirata; and Judy Guston, Curator and Director of Collections at the Rosenbach Museum. Moderated by CIE-US Trustee David Janes, the webinar focused on how the Nakahama and Whitfield families have maintained close ties over 179 years. The webinar also highlighted how these families meet regularly to celebrate the friendship of their ancestors who played such a key role in the origins of the U.S.-Japan Relationship.

This webinar was funded by the
Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and held in cooperation with the John Manjiro-Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange, EngageAsia, and the American Friends of the International House of Japan
Watch the Webinar
Click above to watch the webinar.
A Conversation about The US-Japan Alliance:  From Geopolitics to Grassroots - Featuring RADM Ret. James Kelly and Dr. Sheila A. Smith

On October 22, 2020, CIE-US held a virtual conversation about the U.S.-Japan alliance featuring CIE-US President Jamie Kelly and Dr. Sheila Smith. The alliance between Japan and the U.S. continues to shape global policies and local communities. Listen in to this conversation between RADM Ret. James Kelly, who served as Commander, Naval Forces Japan, from 2005-2009, and Dr. Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Both have voices of experience regarding the geopolitical implications of the U.S.-Japan alliance and a deep respect for the relationships and grassroots energies that undergird the alliance. 

This webinar was funded by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and held in cooperation with the John Manjiro-Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange, CULCON, and the U.S.-Japan Council.
Watch the Webinar
We share your enthusiasm for friendships between the U.S. and Japan! As we anticipate the future day when we can travel to Japan again, we want to continue to enjoy great Japan experiences. We have ideas for some virtual events to bring us together, and room for more ideas from you. We would appreciate your opinions and hope you will enjoy participating! 
Take the Virtual Event Survey
Hot Baths: A Great Grassroots Summit Experience

by Matthew C. Perry
In July 2009, I traveled to Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, as part of the John Manjiro-Whitfield Center International Exchange program and had my first experience with Japanese public baths.  The major difference with public baths in Japan, compared to the western world and places like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, is that in Japan public baths are conducted in the nude.  Although mixed gender bath houses exist in Japan, the major hotels have separate bath areas for males and females.

When I arrived at our first hotel in Matsushima, I learned that there was a bath in the hotel, and I was eager to experiment.  My roommate, Bhaird Campbell, was from Boston and was special assistant to the President of the Japan Society of Boston.  He spoke fluent Japanese and was extremely well-versed in Japanese customs.  He told me everything I needed to know about public baths in Japan, but then told me the most bone-chilling fact - that he was tired, was going to take a nap, and didn’t want to join me.  Whoa, I had to go on my own????!!!!

Well, I donned my yukata (informal summer kimono) and slippers, provided by the hotel, and with a small towel over my shoulder I headed to the bath area.  The towel is more like a washcloth, but 2-3 times as long as ours and used more for cleaning, not drying.  Drying towels are provided in the bath area.

I had investigated the location of the male bath area earlier and was pleased to see that signs in Japanese characters were color-coded blue for males and pink for females.  I also knew there was no way to get the bath area without walking through the lobby.  Taking the elevator to the first floor I stepped into the lobby and feeling totally nude held my head high, while walking among numerous Americans and Japanese who were totally dressed.  It was mid-afternoon, and many travelers were just arriving and registering at the hotel for the reception and the beginning of the international exchange.

Matt Perry in yukata (informal summer kimono)
I made it to the bath area without incident, stored my slippers and yukata, and stepped into another room for an extensive scrub down, while sitting on a small stool.  After feeling cleaner than ever in my life, I gently slipped into the bath (no splashing allowed) and realized I was the only American there.  Later I noticed some of my traveling partners, so I felt relieved that I had not violated some rule and was in the wrong area.  The bath area was the size of most hotel pools, but was only about 18 inches deep, so when sitting on the bottom just your neck and head are above water.  I soaked for about 30 minutes in several areas of the pool and then reversed the above process to head back to my hotel room.

The welcoming program was to begin at 4 PM and I was running short on time.  I did not realize that my body temperature was quite elevated and as I was walking through the lobby I was perspiring profusely and had a rosy-red complexion.  Ms. Hiroko Todoroki, who was making arrangements for the opening ceremony, spotted me and insisted I had to go talk to the projectionist about my presentation, which was part of the opening program.  Fortunately, after I protested, she gave me 15 minutes, so I could cool down, get out of my yukata, and get properly dressed.

Bhaird Campbell, Merlin Niehaus in yukata, and Matt Perry at breakfast

I was to learn much more later about the hot bath custom from my roommate, Bhaird, and also from the books written by CIE-US board member, Peter Grilli.  For example, the yukata, like other forms of the kimono, is considered appropriate dress and several persons actually wore them to breakfast after coming from the public bath in the morning.

The hotel bath ended my first experience in a Japanese public bath.  I had several others while in Japan, but none had the excitement of the first.  A Japanese public bath is an experience that I highly recommend, but be aware that the water is very hot and it is definitely not an experience for overly modest persons!!!
An Urban's Rural View
The Things Farm Families Everywhere Have in Common

by Urban C. Lehner

When he's not farming, he repairs roads. She has a part-time job in town. The adult son who lives with them is a wallpaper hanger. They help their daughter care for the grandchildren, they know everyone for miles around, they volunteer to help when the community needs help.

I could be describing a lot of farmers you know, right?

This, however, is not a farm family you have met. They grow rice on a small paddy in their backyard -- in Japan. My encounter with them reminded me that farmers everywhere share many things in common.
Backyard rice fields

It was a pleasant encounter, without question. I met them by coincidence. I had signed up to do a three-night home stay in Japan and asked for a non-English speaking family. I got one. In the 25 years since I last lived in the country, this was the most intensively I'd used my Japanese. They were patient with me when my vocabulary wasn't quite up to the task.

I won't reveal their names; they volunteered to host a foreigner, not become the focus of an article. I will say they live in Nara prefecture, which is toward the western end of the main Japanese island Honshu. I will also say that within a few minutes of meeting these folks, I felt I knew them. Though Japanese, they reminded me of nothing so much as the farm families I've met in my 14 short years of ag journalism in the U.S.: Honest, hard-working people.

Like so many farm families in so many places, farming is not their principal source of income. They're not exactly hobby farmers, however. Subsistence farmers is more like it. The 600-plus pounds of rice they harvest each October suffices to feed them for a year. Rice being their staple food, eaten at nearly every meal, rice self-sufficiency makes a meaningful contribution to their standard of living. 

They're proud of their very local rice and they have reason to be. It owes its flavor, they say, to the pure water flowing down to them from the nearby mountains. They talk about this water the way French winemakers talk about the soil in which they grow their grapes.

Making Japanese scarecrows and other handicrafts with the other Americans doing home stays in the village

For everything other than rice and the few vegetables they grow in season, they need cash. He's 75, she's 69 and they're both still working. The 41-year-old son left the house every day at 6:30 a.m. and returned late at night, even on Sunday. Any day there's wallpaper to hang, he works. 

"Taihen," I said -- that's tough. 

"Don't worry about him," his mother responded. "He's young. He can do it."

They're careful with money, but when they need something they buy it. Their house is spacious by Japanese standards. Her husband was born in the original house, which today sprawls with additions, including a new western-style dining room they built a few months ago. To get to the bathroom you have to walk outside and cross a small courtyard on a walkway, then re-enter another wing of the house. 

There are three vehicles in the carport -- a van, a small pickup and a sedan. Next to their daughter's house a few hundred feet down the hill, built on what had been a family rice field, they keep a couple of pieces of construction equipment he uses in his work. 

Technically, they live within the borders of a village that claims 5,000 inhabitants. The population feels smaller, though, perhaps because the village occupies a vast area, with clusters of houses scattered here and there. Their house, with the rice paddy in the back yard, is on a paved road at the edge of one of these clusters. There's plenty of space between the houses; many of the neighbors have rice paddies, as well.

From the highest hills nearby you can see Osaka, 30 miles to the west. From their house stretch miles of soft green hills dotted with flooded rice fields, many of them terraced. Neighbors a few hundred feet up the road have a strawberry greenhouse; down the road are greenhouses growing eggplant, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables. 

Though the rice paddies are small, the rice production is mechanized. Rice-planting machines are available to rent; the family once planted by hand, but no longer. There's also a small public milling machine they can use to remove the husk from the brown rice. Pour in 60 pounds of rice, insert 300 yen (about $2.80) and white rice comes out one spout, bran the other. 

Observing how they live and listening to them talk took me back to a question I have mulled many times over the years: What's more important -- the cultural differences between Japanese and Americans, or their common humanity? 

In my eight years living in Japan, my answer to that question sometimes varied from one day to the next. Ultimately, though, I have come to realize it's a false choice. The answer is they're equally important. A farm family in Nara and a farm family in Nebraska speak very different languages and have very different customs, but they also have many, many things in common.

One is a shared love of living in the country. At the end of my trip, she told me that as a young woman she had thought the country boring. She had dreamed of living in Osaka. In the end, though, she was so glad she had stayed. Her answer was so impassioned that in retrospect, I realize I should have asked her if there's a Japanese song to rival John Denver's, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."

Unlike her, I have always been an urbanite -- as well as an Urban. But having the opportunity to see how she and her family live, I can easily understand why she feels the way she does. I'm not a country boy, but in Japan as well as America, I can understand why people thank God they are.

Used with permission. Copyright 2020 DTN, LLC. 
Original article
MacArthur and Me

by Peter M. Grilli
Did I ever tell you about the time I met the General?  I had seen him before, from a distance,  when he was driving in and out of the gate of his big white house, or when he strode up the steps of the Dai-Ichi Building and disappeared inside those large heavy doors.  But this was the only time I met him face-to-face.
It was late one afternoon, about five o’clock, I think, and I had just arrived downtown at the Dai-Ichi Building, where I was going to meet my father.  He worked there.   On the fifth floor – one floor down from Gen. MacArthur’s office.  I had stayed late after school to go to a cub-scout meeting, and one of the scout leaders had driven me downtown to my father’s office building.  From there, my father would drive me home.  Most days I took a school bus home, but when I had to stay late for cub-scout meetings, my father would take me home.  Sometimes he drove over to my school at Pershing Heights and picked me up, but more often I got a ride with one of the teachers or scout leaders who would drive me down to the Dai-Ichi Building so I could meet my father.

Dai-Ichi Seimei Building

It was the fall of 1950 and I was eight at the time, in the 4th grade at school. I remember I was in 4th grade because Miss Lee was my teacher, and earlier that afternoon she had straightened my yellow cub-scout scarf at the end of the school day, just before the scout meeting started.  I liked Miss Lee a lot, and it felt especially good when she straightened my scarf and smoothed my hair with her hand at the same time.   
As I walked into the Dai-Ichi Building, wearing my cub scout uniform, I remember feeling very small.  The lobby of that building had a black marble floor and grey marble walls that seemed to rise up one hundred feet or more.  It was a huge lobby, and the ceiling was far, far above the floor.  Every time I walked into that building I felt like an ant.
Since I had already visited my father’s office several times before, I guess the guards or MPs must have recognized me that day.  Or maybe they just thought that a little kid like me was not going to bomb the place or kill anybody, because they just waved me in without stopping me the way they stopped everybody else.  They just looked down at me and waved me toward the elevators.  Every time I looked up at those MPs I remember wondering if they were really human beings or whether they were mechanical robots.  If I could have seen their faces, I would have known they were human.  But I couldn’t really see their faces because the visor of their military hats stuck out so far in front of their foreheads and cast a shadow over their faces.  All I could see was shining blue eyes staring down at me as though they were small flashlights.  Those MPs all looked the same.  They were perfect, all dressed alike in really sharp blue and white uniforms.  Their black boots were polished as shiny as mirrors, so shiny that I could see myself reflected in them.   They held rifles pointing upward in their left hands.  If there were two of them at the entrance, they both looked identical to each other.  Sometimes there were four of them, and they all looked identical too.  They were MPs, which stands for Military Police.  Later, I learned they were U.S. Marines.  People said that was why they all stood so straight and stiff and acted like machines.  Because they were Marines.
After passing the MPs at the entrance,  I walked slowly across that large marble room toward the five or six elevators that were lined up along one wall.  I remember hearing my sneakers squeaking on the marble floor.  I wondered if my squeaking sneakers were leaving marks on the shiny marble floor, imprints of the design on the rubber soles of sneakers.  But I didn’t look down and I didn’t look back.  I thought I’d get into trouble because the squeaking shoes were breaking the silence of that huge room, and if they were leaving rubber marks on the marble then I’d get into even worse trouble.  I just wanted to get out of that scary place fast!  I knew I shouldn’t run, so I walked as fast as I could toward the elevators that were far across the lobby. Even walking as fast as I could, it felt like it took forever for me to squeak my way across the room and step inside the one elevator that had its doors open waiting for me.
The moment I pushed the button for Floor 5,  I heard a shout:  “Hold that elevator!”  
“Hold that elevator!” the powerful voice rang out a second time, echoing through the huge marble lobby.  I was the only one in the elevator, and didn’t know what to do.  How was I supposed to hold the elevator after I had pushed the button for Floor 5?
“Yes, sir!” boomed another voice, echoing from much closer to where I stood inside the elevator.  I heard them, but didn’t know the source of either voice.  “I’ve got it sir,” came the second voice, and at that moment I saw a white-gloved hand and a blue-sleeved arm curl around the door of the elevator.  And then, moving so fast that I was almost not aware of it, a flash of tan khaki color filled the elevator and its doors slid silently but firmly closed.  I was no longer alone in that small mechanical box.  I crouched in a corner afraid to look up at the huge khaki monster that seemed to consume the entire space and all the air in that small elevator.  A moment ago, it had seemed empty, with only me pressing my back against the wall.  Now, suddenly it felt crowded.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large khaki-clad arm move forward and a gnarled finger point at the elevator button marked “6” and push it.  As the box began to move slowly upward, my stomach rose up into my throat.

General Douglas MacArthur 

My eyes stayed down, peeking fearfully away from my own sneakers to the right, where again I saw my face reflected in highly polished black shoes.  My face looked tiny and very far away.
“Well!” I heard a raspy, deep voice growl.  “Who are you?”  Who could that voice be talking to, I wondered in terror, and tried to look to see if a third body had boarded the elevator.  Maybe that’s why it suddenly felt so crowded.  I peeked fearfully around, my eyes still cast downward.  No, there were only two pairs of shoes:  my own scuffed sneakers and those shiny black ones with my terrified face looking back at me.  “Me, sir?” my high-pitched voice squeaked and cracked.  
“Yes, you.  Who are you? “ came the fearsome growl.
I forced my eyes to look upward, following the line of sharply pressed khaki trousers, up across a belt and further along a loose-fitting khaki shirt that was open at the collar.  My neck twisted to the right as I forced my eyes up even higher, absorbing a sharply jutting chin line, an odd yellow pipe and a sharply pointed nose above it.
“I’m Peter, sir” I squeaked, feeling at that moment that I was the doomed hero of a terrifying fairy tale, locked in a cave with a fire-breathing dragon or some such ogre.  When I looked up, I saw myself again, reflected for a moment in the shiny dark aviator sunglasses that were perched above that nose that looked like a falcon’s beak.  At the same moment, the creature’s arm swung up and pulled off those sunglasses, and my soul felt impaled on the sharp bolts of lightning that flashed from its pale piercing eyes.  “My name is Peter, sir” I repeated as if my words might shield me from those eyes.
“Well, Master Peter, what are you doing here?”  It sounded like an accusation, and across my consciousness flashed the thought that maybe I needed to get a permit from those MPs downstairs.
“I’ll go down again, if I shouldn’t be here, sir” I gasped.
“No, no, Master Peter.  No need for that.  But why are you here?” he growled again.
“To meet my father, sir,” I mumbled, trying to push my back right into the elevator’s wall, so that maybe I’d fall backwards into the elevator shaft and escape that way from the ogre’s gaze.
“Your father, eh?  And he’s on the fifth floor?”
“Yes, sir.”  I knew in that moment that I had implicated my father, too, and together we would be handcuffed by those MPs and hauled off to be court-martialed or tortured.  
“He’s a civilian, sir,” I blurted out that magic word “civilian” thinking that maybe that might rescue my poor father from execution by firing squad, since he wasn’t really in the Army.  Maybe “civilian” would save him… and me with him since I was a “junior civilian.”
“A civilian officer, is he?”  barked the ogre.  Then I knew that even “civilian” would not save us.
“Yes, sir” I mumbled trying to look up again into those piercing eyes, but feeling a sharp pain in my neck as I twisted it upward.  Those eyes raked up and down over me from my head down to my toes and then back up to my face.  I knew I couldn’t disguise the terror in my eyes or the trembling of my lips.
“Well, Master Peter, are you a good scout?”  This time I couldn’t be sure if the bark was a question or another accusation.
“Yes, sir.  I got another merit badge today.”
“That’s good.  Very good,” the growl began to soften slightly.  At that moment, we reached the fifth floor, and the elevator doors slid silently open.  What was I supposed to do now?
“May I go now, sir?” my little voice squeaked out in terror.
“Of course, Master Peter.  This is the fifth floor, and your father is waiting for you.  Dismissed!”  The first phrases were almost gentle, but that last “Dismissed!” was a curt, sharp bark.
“Thank you, sir” I squeaked and stumbled backward out the elevator doors.  Did I lamely try to salute?  I can’t remember, but I probably did.  I’m sure I thought that a proper salute from me was the only way to be released from the elevator onto the fifth floor.  I stood there, mesmerized, staring back up at that sharp, rugged face.  The elevator doors slid shut, and I remained standing with trembling knees, staring at a sheet of steel.
In that final split-second before the elevator doors closed, did I really detect a softening in those pale metallic eyes?  His gaze continued to burn through my consciousness like a laser.    But yes, there was a gentle softening in it.  A softening, and perhaps even a hint of admiration for the terrified little boy standing in front of him.
It must have been my scout uniform.  Instinctively, I knew he liked uniforms.
Little did I know on that fall evening in September or October of 1950 that Gen. MacArthur was locked in a unique battle with his own commander, President Truman, over his conduct of the Korean War.  MacArthur was arguing to extend the war into China, and President Truman, together with nearly all other American military leaders, was insisting that he stay within the boundaries of Korea, knowing that war with China might turn quickly into World War III and unleash unpredictable nuclear forces.  Truman and MacArthur were engaging in a tug-of-war with potentially terrifying global consequences.  Throughout that fall and winter arguments, accusations and counter-accusations flew back and forth between Tokyo and Washington, and finally -- on April 9, 1951 – Truman fired the General, relieved him of his command, and summoned him permanently back to the U.S.  It was a fateful period in world history.  But how could I – a boy of eight – have known anything of that?  What I did know, first-hand, was the charisma and overwhelming power of MacArthur’s personality, his dramatic use of language, and his extraordinary sense of timing. 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 Issue #280 of the Tokyo Journal magazine.

Friends of CIE-US can read the original article here:
Password: CIEUSTJ280

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