Hawai‘i and Hiroshima Host Youth Business Leader Program

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by Savannah Shih
The inaugural class of the Hawaii-Hiroshima Emerging Young Business Leaders Program. [Photo: the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce]

Built on the strong ties between Hawai‘i and Japan comes a new program to encourage a new generation of business leaders.  A total of 19 participants, aged 25-40, were selected for the inaugural year of the Emerging Youth Business Leaders Program. The program was born out of a partnership between the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Government. In the first stage of the program, the participants traveled to Hawai‘i in November for a four-day training program focused on leadership and team building. The participants also learned about the huge impact Japanese culture has had on Hawai‘i. In March, they will travel to Hiroshima to finish the program.

Wayne Ishihara, president and CEO of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, noted, “We are looking at the next generation of leaders in Hawai‘i and Japan. Our first group is committed to drive change in their organizations and communities, which will benefit Hawai‘i and Japan in the future.”

The program will not only train a new generation of business leaders, but will continue to bring Hawai‘i and Hiroshima closer together and strengthen business ties. The two states already boast a strong relationship, with a sister-state partnership which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. The partnership was initially inspired by the fact that many of Hawai‘i’s early Japanese settlers were from Hiroshima.

Meanwhile, business exchange continues to grow, with exports from Hawai‘i to Japan reaching $377 million in 2016. Also in 2017, Hawai‘i hosted the first Japan- Hawai‘i Economic Summit, which highlighted opportunities for cooperation in business, tourism, and energy between the two partners. By launching these ongoing programs, Hawai‘i and Japan are ensuring that ties will remain strong for years to come.

Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.