History of the
Japan-America
Student Conference


Overview



Our history dates back to 1934, when the first Japan-America Student Conference (JASC) organized in response to deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Japan. Students from Japan invited their American counterparts to Tokyo for in-depth discussions about pressing issues, working together toward the goals of mutual understanding, friendship, and trust. In the following year, American delegates reciprocated the hospitality by hosting a second meeting in the United States.



JASC continued to take place every year until the Second World War. The Conference was subsequently revived in 1947 by American and Japanese students then living in Japan. After a second interruption in the mid-1950s, the 16th JASC was held in 1964 in the U.S. and has alternated between the U.S. and Japan every year since.



In 1979, JASC, Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., providing continuity and support to students and alumni of the Conference. In 2008, JASC, Inc. expanded to become International Student Conferences, Inc. (ISC) and, based on the model of a student-run Conference, launched the Korea-America Student Conference (KASC). Inspired by the success of KASC, in 2021, ISC launched the China-America Student Conference (ChASC).



In addition, every winter, the Executive Committee members of each of the three conferences convene in Washington, D.C. for the US-ROK-Japan Trilateral Forum, where they participate in workshops with each other, ISC staff and interns, regional experts, and government officials.



Detailed History

JASC is the oldest university exchange program of its kind between the United States and Japan. The structure of the Conference today remains largely inspired by and rooted in its rich and dynamic history.

1934 – Concerned by deteriorating relations between their governments, a small group of Japanese students initiate the first JASC in Tokyo to promote mutual understanding.

1935 – American students host the second JASC at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. This began the tradition of holding the Conference annually and alternating host countries.

1941 – The Conference is postponed by World War II.

1947 – JASC is revived by Japanese and American students living in Japan.

1955 – The Conference is postponed again because of limited financial resources.

1964 – American students hosted the 16th JASC. The Conference has continued annually and alternated host countries since then.

1978 – JASC alumni create a non-profit incorporation called the Japan-America Student Conference, Inc. (JASC, Inc.) to support student efforts.

1984 – JASC celebrates the 50th Anniversary of its founding. Conference sites included: College of William & Mary, the George Washington University, University of Pennsylvania, Barnard College, Princeton University.

1994 – JASC celebrates the 60th Anniversary of its founding. Conference sites included: Wake Forest, American University, Columbia University, and University of Washington.

2004 – JASC celebrates the 70th Anniversary of its founding. Conference sites included: East-West Center and University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, HI; Mills College, Oakland, CA; George Washington University, Washington, DC; and Princeton University, NJ.

2007 – JASC, Inc. expands programming and changes its name to International Student Conferences.

2014 – JASC celebrates the 80th Anniversary of its founding. Conference sites included: Des Moines, IA; San Francisco, CA; New York, NY; and Washington, D.C.

2019 – Entering the 85th year since its founding, the 71st JASC visits Kochi, Kyoto, Gifu, and Tokyo.

2022 – Returning to in-person after the COVID-19 Pandemic, JASC convenes in New York, Washington, DC, and Annapolis.

2023 – Returning to Japan in-person after the COVID-19 Pandemic, JASC convenes in Kyoto, Nagasaki, and Tokyo.

2024 – JASC celebrates the 90th Anniversary of its founding.



The Japan-America Student Conference: 
Celebrating Ninety Years


Chapter I: 1934 to 1940: The Early Conferences
Chapter II: 1947 to 1954: A Post-War Recovery
Chapter III: 1964 to 1993: The JASC Tradition Revived
Chapter IV: 1994 to 2003: Technology & Innovation
Chapter V: 2003 to present: The Millennium JASC

Forward

In 2004, the Japan-America Student Conference (JASC) celebrated its 70th Anniversary, marking it as the oldest university student exchange program between the U.S. and Japan. The past seven decades have seen the hopes of a small group of Japanese university students grow into an annual student conference, uniquely planned and managed by and for exceptional American and Japanese university students.

Despite vicissitudes in political and economic relations between the United States and Japan over the years, each successive JASC meeting has carried forward its tradition of excellence and maintained its dedication to the principle upon which it was founded in 1934: to promote mutual understanding, friendship and trust between our two important nations.

Out of this intense educational and cultural exchange experience have risen leaders in business, academia, public service and government, forming an ever-expanding chain of bilateral relationships across nationality and occupation.

Since its beginning, the Conference has been fortunate in attracting individuals and organizations who have played a critical role in supporting the American delegation to the Conferences. Without these corporations, universities, foundations and alumni, without the enthusiasm and commitment of the American Executive Committee, and without the collaboration of the JASC, Inc. staff, it would not have been possible to sustain these Conferences.

The research and main text of this history was originally compiled by G. Lewis Schmidt of the 4th and 5th JASCs, and by Mr. Cecil Uyehara of the 8th JASC as part of the 1984 Fiftieth Year Celebrations. Mr. Schmidt served as JASC’s President upon its incorporation in 1979 until 1984 and then as Treasurer of JASC, Inc.’s Board of Directors. Mr. Schmidt passed away in 2005. Mr. Uyehara served as JASC, Inc. President from 1984-1988. The second edition, revised and expanded, was prepared by Jennifer Deming of JASC, Inc. with the guidance of JASC alumni in recognition of JASC’s 60th Anniversary.

Certain historical notes were drawn from informal translations of two Japanese-language books written about the early Conferences, Bridge Over The Pacific Ocean by Katsumi Kimura and Strength Through Friendship by Saburo Shinoyama.

We hope sincerely that you will find this tribute to JASC’s 90th Anniversary interesting and informative, and to JASC alumni, reminiscent of an exciting experience.

Chapter I: 1934 to 1940

The Early Conferences The first Japan-America Student Conference (JASC)* was held in Japan in 1934 by Japanese and American university students with great expectations tempered by the deterioration of U.S.-Japan relations in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The underlying assumptions of the Conference, then and now, are that intense interactive experiences of carefully selected young men and women from the U.S. and Japan would have a growing impact on relations between the two countries as they assumed positions of leadership in their respective nations. The idea of such a Conference, in light of the social, political and militaristic atmosphere of the 1930’s in Japan, was revolutionary.

The small group of Japanese university students who envisioned the binational student conference labored against the winds of a gathering storm in U.S.- Japan relations. The Japanese army’s occupation of Manchuria in the 1930’s angered large sections of the American public which, for many historical reasons, had an unbounded sympathy for China. In Japan, on the other hand, a radical nationalism stimulated by the Japanese military and civilian ideologues was spreading rapidly. Additionally, the Japanese smarted from the non-acceptance of the principle of racial equality (i.e. full acceptance of Japan) in the overall post-World War I settlement by the Western Powers, and from the Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 that restricted Japanese immigration into the United States.

Many of Tokyo’s universities in the 1930’s sponsored English Speaking Societies as one of the campus activities. Although their major purpose was to promote knowledge of spoken English, the members were also vitally concerned with international affairs, notably the relationship between their country and the U.S., which some students felt was rapidly heading toward disaster.

On a Spring afternoon in 1933, a small group of concerned Japanese student members of these societies concluded that peace in the Pacific depended on friendly relations between Japan and the U.S. and that this amity was rapidly eroding. Furthermore, they concluded, their government seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about it. After lengthy discussion, they decided that what appeared beyond governmental remedy might possibly be ameliorated by the concern of students.

The Japan Student English Association, a federation of the English Speaking Societies at various universities in Tokyo, was formed to sponsor the proposed Conference of Japanese and American students to be held in Japan in the summer of 1934. The Conference would invite 50 American university students, with a similar number of Japanese students, to a Japan-America Student Conference the following year in Tokyo. The Conference, to be conducted entirely in English, would be a completely free, uninhibited exchange of opinions on the major problems confronting the two countries. They felt that such an exchange would at least produce a foundation of understanding among students of both nations.

*The first seven conferences were originally referred to as the America-Japan Student Conference but for this publication we will refer to it as it has been known since after World War II, the Japan-America Student Conference.

Close association and frank exchanges over the long summer period would cement friendships across boundaries. A student core in each country could then help combat the growing antipathy of the two nations toward one another.

Not widely discussed at the time, but in retrospect a hoped-for result, was that at least a fair percentage of participating delegates from each country would ultimately rise to high positions in their respective societies and governments. From these lofty heights, they could, perhaps, in later years, use their influence to improve U.S.-Japan relations. In fact, these hopes have been realized to a substantial degree over the intervening years. A partial list of notable JASC alumni who have distinguished themselves in the fields of business, academia and government, including a Prime Minister of Japan and U.S. Secretary of State, is included in Appendix VIII and IX.

The Japanese student visionaries were confronted with the reality of organizing the Conference: how to convince their skeptical government to support them and how to raise the necessary funds from the business community. At meetings with government and business leaders they were commended for their goodwill but little else was forthcoming. The prospective organizers wondered: if businessmen thought their idea was so wonderful, why the reluctance to offer financial support? Their conclusion was that businessmen doubted the student group could persuade 50 American students to attend such a Conference in Japan.

The students were determined to prove the feasibility of the idea. They decided to send a goodwill mission to the United States for the express purpose of recruiting 50 American Conference participants. Four students were selected for the delegation: Namiji Itabashi of Meiji University, Haruo Endo of Waseda University, Koi Nakayama of Aoyama Gakuin and Toshio (Edwin) Tabata of Keio Universit y. Namiji Itabashi was to figure prominently in the later history of the JASC enterprise. The pioneering delegation sailed from Yokohama in the spring of 1934, amidst an enthusiastic send-off by members of the English Speaking Societies of Tokyo. As the view of Mt. Fuji receded, however, so did the confidence of the mission’s members. The recruitment task began to seem more formidable.

Fears quickly faded at the first stop in the United States: the University of Washington in Seattle. Unveiling their plan before more than one hundred students, the Japanese received a surprisingly enthusiastic response. Two students returned immediately to Japan to begin serious fundraising. Of the remaining two, one visited other universities on the U.S. West Coast. The other, Namiji Itabashi, set off to recruit from universities in the Midwest and on the East Coast. (One of those who introduced Namiji to such campuses as Columbia and Princeton was Tadashi Yamada who became Chairman of the Association of World Trade Centers).

Their success was remarkable. Not only students but also faculty members wanted a piece of the action. Instead of fifty, 99 Americans were to descend on Tokyo, including seventy-nine students, and 20 faculty members and their wives as chaperons/advisers/observers. While the Americans would pay their fare to Japan and back, all of their expenses while in Japan, as well as during their post-Conference travels in Japan and to Korea and Manchuria, would be paid by their Japanese hosts. (Fortunately the Japanese fundraising was also more successful than expected). The first Japan-America Student Conference was soon to be realized.

With 70 Japanese and 79 Americans, the First Japan-America Student Conference convened at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo on July 14, 1934. Opening ceremonies, attended by Ietatsu Tokugawa, descendant of Tokugawa Shoguns, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, were broadcast nationally on radio.

The student discussions were declared a resounding success. At the end of the Conference discussions, the Japanese Conference founding committee took the Americans on an extended trip through the Osaka-Kyoto area of central Japan, then on to Manchuria, Korea, and back across the Strait of Korea to Shimonoseki, from where the group returned to Tokyo by rail. Conference discussions and travel combined, gave the Americans over a month in the region. The results were electric. For most American delegates, if not all, it was their first physical exposure to Asia; certainly the first opportunity to establish personal friendships with citizens of the “Mysterious East.” Surviving members of that First Conference list it as one of the most memorable experiences of their lives, and many state without equivocation that it opened new horizons and altered career directions.

The Americans were so impressed by the Conference experience that, before leaving Tokyo, they unveiled a plan to hold a second Conference session the following year in the U.S. The Second Japan-America Student Conference took place during July/August, 1935 at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. It, too, was an unqualified success. Following the 1934 Japanese example, the American Student Executive Committee treated the Japanese delegates to a tour. U.S. geographic size and American committee fund restrictions limited travel to a chartered bus tour of the Pacific Coast, but the Coast’s geographic and scenic variety provided the visitors with an unforgettable experience.

Following the 1935 Reed College meeting, sessions were held annually, alternating between Japan and the U.S., through the Seventh Conference in 1940. During this period the U.S.-held Conferences remained on the West Coast and were hosted by Stanford University in 1937 (4th JASC) and by the University of Southern California in 1939 (6th JASC). The 6th and 7th Conferences were noteworthy for the participation of a lively and popular Japanese delegate from Tokyo University named Kiichi Miyazawa. The future political leader formed his first impression of the United States during his earliest trip abroad as a member of the 6th JASC: “Each American student has his or her own strong opinion and they have heated discussions. They even criticize their own government. I was impressed and concluded that this was an amazing country.” More recently, as Japan’s Prime Minister, Miyazawa referred to this JASC experience as “one of the formative events of my lifetime.”

The 7th Conference was remarkable not only for young Miyazawa’s participation (as well as the participation of his future wife, Yoko Ichiji!) but for the fact that it reflected the growing strain in U.S.- Japan relations and the increasingly repressive atmosphere in Japan. For the first time since its inception, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education attempted to bring the student-run Conference under their sphere of influence by suggesting that they sponsor the Conference. The students soundly rejected these offers, emphasizing that there was no point to the Conference if it were to be controlled by the government. The students continued fundraising in the private sector.

Close association and frank exchanges over the long summer period would cement friendships across boundaries. A student core in each country could then help combat the growing antipathy of the two nations toward one another.

The student discussions took place in small groups called “roundtables”, each devoted to a particular subject such as religion, politics, economics, international trade and education. Table discussions during this Conference focused on the imminence of a large-scale world war, leaving discussions of the more discrete subjects of religion, art and culture to a more peaceful era. Freedom of expression during table discussions was hindered by police presence, causing somewhat tense deliberations as American delegates openly opposed Japan’s use of force in China and Japanese delegates tried to justify military actions in Manchuria.

At the conclusion of the 7th Conference in the summer of 1940, the American and Japanese Executive Committees (AEC and JEC) were duly elected to organize the 8th meeting in 1941 which was destined not to be. Diplomatic negotiations between Japan and the United States came to a dead end and made it impossible for Japanese students to get visas to the U.S. Relations had so deteriorated that the Conference had to be cancelled. So ended the first phase of this remarkable endeavor.

Seven features characterized the Pre-War JASCs:

1. All of the Conferences were conceived, organized, funded, and carried out completely by student efforts. There was no senior sponsoring organization, governmental or private, in either the U.S. or Japan.

2. Each Pre-War Conference consisted of 2 parts: First, an intensive internal seminar period covering problems of special concern to both countries. Lasting approximately one week, the seminar groups consisted of both American and Japanese delegates divided into groups of approximately equal size. At the end of this carefully structured seminar period, formal discussion ceased. Second, the host country Student Executive Committee conducted the visiting delegation on a tour of scenic locales in order to: acquaint them by personal observation with cultural patterns, regional differences, and local customs; guide them through representative manufacturing establishments; show off nationally famous products, and especially, to sustain them at dinners, luncheons, or receptions sponsored by business/manufacturing organizations, civic associations, or occasionally, government entities.

3. The travel segment of the Conference experience was viewed by both the American and Japanese delegates as equal in importance to the academic discussion segment. Far from being considered a frivolous waste of time, the travel was believed necessary if the visitors were to get a true feel for and understanding of the country and its people. More importantly, the shared enjoyment of Japanese and Americans traveling together cemented cross-national friendships, which were looked upon as a major purpose of the Conference program.

4. Trans-Pacific air travel was in its infancy. The visiting delegation crossed the ocean by ship, a thirteen or fourteen day voyage, depending on whether Seattle or San Francisco was the Stateside port. The two week ocean crossing knitted the delegation closely together in a manner that is not possible today, when it is done always by air.

5. Although Japanese business and governmental establishments may have initially doubted its feasibility, once the Conference became reality, both were quick to capitalize on its potential. The arrival of an American student delegation in Japan in those days received the sort of press coverage reserved today for Summit Conferences. Public attention to the Conferences which took place in the United States was much less extensive. The Japanese press saw fit to stress student presence as evidence that the American people did not look upon Japan with the same disapproval exhibited by the U.S. government. It also seems certain that the visits, particularly to Manchuria at a time when military operations were at a critical point, could not have taken place had the Japanese government not seen it as a public relations plus. Manchuria at this time was the puppet state of Manchukuo, and a major reason for its inclusion in the travel segment of the Conferences was to show off the remarkable city Japan had made out of Chang Chun (then called Hsinking) and the “enormous blessings” Japan was bringing to the previously poverty-stricken peoples of Manchuria.

6. Despite the strict ideological control and surveillance that took place in Japan in the 1930’s, the American and Japanese students conducted truly frank, uninhibited discussions during the long social evenings together outside the structured table discussions.

7. It should be noted that, from the outset, the Conference was exceptional in overcoming gender, ethnicity and university affiliation biases in existence during this period. Both the Japanese and American delegations represented women in equal numbers to male participants. In fact, for some female Japanese delegates, the Conference was the first opportunity to discuss such issues as politics, economics and science with members of the opposite sex, even of their own nationality.


Chapter II: 1947 to 1954

In the devastation and confusion of the ending of the Pacific War and the American Occupation of Japan in the fall of 1945, there was little thought of the Conference. Japanese were preoccupied with surviving the aftermath of war and were not allowed to travel abroad. The American Occupation headquarters understandably did not welcome “non-essential” Americans visiting Japan in 1945 and in early 1946.

In late 1946, however, a boom in English-language study resulted in the re-discovery of JASC by a group of Japanese university students who were members of English Speaking Societies at Tokyo universities. Learning of the Pre-War Conferences, these students were determined to revive JASC in whatever form possible. One of these students was Mr. Cecil Uyehara, then a student at Keio University who was later to become a U.S. citizen and President of JASC, Inc. from 1984-1988. A small number of Americans were in Japan at this time: families of Red Cross and military personnel, as well as missionaries residing in Japan. Many GI’s of college age were interested in pursuing university-level schooling while in Japan. By 1947, the University of Maryland had established a Tokyo campus where young Americans could enroll for college credit. Enrollment, both of military and civilian personnel, was expanding.

The Japanese student group hoped to draw an American delegation from this reservoir of young Americans. Working with great perseverance, they obtained Occupation permission to hold a Conference, organized its program and recruited delegates. U. Alexis Johnson (deceased), former Ambassador to Japan and JASC, Inc. Board Member, often told the story of students landing at his desk in Yokohama where he was Consul General earnestly pleading that they should be allowed to start the student dialogue again between the two countries. He agreed and assisted the students with renewing the JASC in post-war Japan. The Conference (numbered as the 8th in the Japan-America Student Conference series) was sponsored by the Japan Student English Association and was held from November 28-30, 1947 at Meiji University in Tokyo with 78 Japanese and 48 American delegates in attendance.

Subsequently, all Conference sessions from 1947 through 1953 (14th JASC) were held in Japan with Americans participants drawn from within Japan. The primary obstacle that the students faced was raising the necessary funds. Fortuitously, Imperial family member Prince Takamatsu, younger brother of the Showa Emperor, endorsed the Conference by becoming Honorary Advisor to the students in 1947. Coming only two years after the end of the war, the Prince’s support of the Conference was invaluable in establishing the reputation of the Conference within Japan. A few years later, American Ambassador to Japan, Robert Murphy, also joined as an Honorary Advisor. Although Conferences during the recovery period after the war had a limited number of table seminars and no travel segment, the Conference table organization and discussion format remained unchanged. The 1951 JASC included an American delegate named Henry Kissinger, a future Secretary of State.

In 1953 one student from Cornell University, in Japan during the summer, participated in the 14th Conference. Upon learning of the history of JASC, the Cornell student, Gordon Lankton, invited the Conference to hold its 15th JASC at his campus in 1954. Japanese students readily accepted the invitation, but few of them could afford the air fare. The U.S. military came to the rescue, offering fifteen free seats on a military transport plane. Fourteen students and a supervisor attended. Perhaps because of the dissatisfaction with this limited participation on the Japanese side, the apparent lack of any continuing student support organization, and the dearth of financial support in the U.S., the Conference was not held from 1955 through 1963.

Chapter III: 1964 to 1993

In 1964, two alumni of the First JASC revived the Conference: Namiji Itabashi, one of the four principal founders of JASC in 1934, and Rudie Wilhelm, Jr., an alumnus of the first and second Conferences, now a prominent business man, legislator, and civic leader in Portland, Oregon. Itabashi had long dreamed of reviving his creation.

The 30th Anniversary of JASC in 1964 seemed a propitious time. The International Education Center (IEC) in Tokyo of which he was a founder and Board Chairman, already supported the International Student Conference and could act in a similar capacity for the Japanese side of a revived JASC. He wrote to a few American First Conference alumni for possible help. Rudie Wilhelm, Jr., generously agreed to underwrite a week’s expenses. Revival was assured. Seventy-seven Japanese and sixty-two Americans attended the JASC rebirth at Reed College, Wilhelm’s Alma Mater, and the site of the Second Conference in 1935.

The American side rallied, and since 1964 the Conference has been held annually, alternately in Japan and the U.S. In general, it has followed the pre-War pattern. Its central discussion portion is divided into individual table discussion groups, usually numbering ten, covering broad subject matter areas. The practice of including a travel itinerary as part of the overall Conference program was gradually revived.

The table seminar discussion portion of each Conference comes early in each year’s program, at a site often varying from year to year. Of greatest significance was the continuation of the Conference as a student planned and executed enterprise. However, the scope and nature of the annual JASC program changed and broadened in the years since the 1964 rejuvenation:

1 . Pre-War Conferences placed equal weight on academic/study discussions and travel/socializing aspects of the program. Since 1964, the emphasis shifted from a travel/socializing program to that of on-site learning experiences at changing geographic locations, such as visits to host country business, government, trade, manufacturing and trade organization establishments, the U.N. and its specialized agencies, and, included homestays. This change substantially altered the travel part of the Conference sessions, making it more a continuation of the study program rather than simply an opportunity to view geographic, scenic and cultural characteristics of the host country.

2 . In 1979, a series of Fora and Symposia were added to the overall program, dealing with such topics as environment, trade, race relations, national defense, social change, gender and communication, which supplement the small, intense table discussions and enable all eighty delegates to interact simultaneously among themselves and with private sector professionals, academics and governmental representatives who participate as featured speakers.

3. In 1992, the delegates began incorporating some volunteer activities in the host country into the Conference schedule. Delegates in Washington, D.C. distributed food to the homeless and in Colorado helped to maintain a nature hiking trail. In Japan, the students helped to turn used milk cartons into paper products.

4. Composition of the American Delegations, in recent years, has substantially diversified in terms of ethnic and geographic representation as well as in areas of academic specialization. Recent American delegations have included students from all of the country’s major minority groups. The 1993 group came from 28 different U.S. universities and colleges, a significant geographic spread when it is considered that delegation size for each country is limited to 40 students. In contrast with earlier years, the “typical” JASC delegate majoring in international relations is no longer the norm. Today’s delegates’ areas of study range from medicine, to business administration, music, economics, engineering, and political and physical sciences.

Additionally, American JASC delegates increasingly demonstrate competence with the Japanese language– an ability that challenges the “English only” tradition of JASC.

These changes have increased JASC’s visibility and reputation to the point that it is becoming recognized among academics and professionals alike as a “training ground” for young leaders with an interest in U.S.-Japan relations. In 1991, the “JASC Mentorship” program was inaugurated, matching well-qualified students with companies and organizations who seek such individuals for entry-level positions. Also, significantly, the Conference has forged mutually beneficial relationships with a growing number of major academic institutions across the U.S., including Harvard, Stanford, Universities of Washington and California (Berkeley), and Princeton, which either annually, or periodically for successive years have given full or nearly full scholarship grants funding their students participation in JASC.

A major event in JASC history is the founding of the JASC, Inc. headquarters in Washington, D.C. The JASC American delegation had no senior support group of its own comparable to the IEC in Tokyo until the early 1970’s when this fact began posing a problem for the American students. Inflation escalated annual costs, increasing fundraising burdens. New state and federal tax regulations governing fund solicitation made corporations less willing to donate to a completely student-run enterprise with no fixed headquarters location or continuity of managerial personnel. For a few years in the mid and late 1970’s, the Japan Society of New York and later the Council for International Education Exchange acted as JASC’s supporting organization by receiving donations on behalf of JASC and managing JASC’s finances. The 1978 Conference in the U.S. was made possible only by the very generous support provided by the Japanese, since the American delegation had been unable to raise sufficient funds to hold the Conference.

At this point, a small group of pre-World War II JASC alumni living in the greater Washington, D.C. area, led by G. Lewis Schmidt of JASC 4 & 5, realized the American side of JASC faced failure. Mr. Schmidt, who later became Chairman and Treasurer of JASC’s Board of Directors, displayed determination reminiscent of the original JASC founders by laboring for over a year to establish the first permanent senior support group for JASC in a small office in downtown Washington, D.C. In April 1979, Mr. Schmidt, Dr. Eleanor Hadley of JASC 2, 3 & 4, and their fellow alumni incorporated the non-profit Japan-America Student Conference, Inc. (JASC, Inc.). In August of the same year IRS granted the important 501 (c) (3) designation which gave JASC, Inc. tax exempt status and made donor contributions tax deductible.

Since then, JASC, Inc., with the guidance of a Board of Directors representing corporate, university and alumni members throughout the U.S., carries out most of the fundraising with assistance from AEC members, provides advice and counsel to the AEC, and fosters alumni relations by publishing a biannual newsletter and other alumni activities.

Chapter IV: 1994 to 2003

1994 marked the 60th Anniversary of the JASC, and that year’s program included sessions with the poet Maya Angelo at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and a day of construction work at a Habitat project in south Newark, New Jersey and a return to the University of Washington where it all began in 1934. An assemblage and commemoration at New York City’s Nippon Club drew alumni from Japan and the U.S., as well as corporate executives and diplomats, and featured a video-taped message to the students from then Ambassador to Japan, Tom Foley.

The 1995 JASC, held in Japan, was highlighted by an unanticipated offer from alumnus Kiichi Miyazawa (JASC 6 & 7), and Yukio Okamoto to fly to Iwo Jima for a memorial service. The daylong outing was covered closely by Japanese media. During this 47th JASC, there was an APEC Day, a Gender Day, and a Minority Day to focus on issues related to each of these topics. The JASC ENDOWMENT ENDEAVOR, under the auspices of the Ambassadors to Japan and to the U.S., was launched in 1995 to commemorate 50 years of peace between the two countries and was highlighted with alumni giving by decades. Nine years later, while it is well short of the $4 million target, which would make JASC, Inc. financially solvent, and no longer wholly dependent on annual corporate or foundation giving, it continues in perpetuity.

The 48th JASC in 1996 included a stint at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT, and a traditional western BBQ at the Pony Duke (Doris Duke Foundation Executor) ranch. Pony’s son George is a 1985 JASCer. Ambassador Kunihiko and Mrs. Saito, welcomed the delegation and guests at their gracious Residence in northwest Washington. Noted editor and author James Fallows was featured in a session on U.S.-Japan Relations at American University.

In 1997, the 49th JASC convened in Japan and the itinerary, for the first time, included Okinawa, and the opportunity to address first hand the attendant military and economic issues there with the Governor. Discussions continued with Okinawan students and host families. A Tillicum Village outing hosted by the Boeing Company on the Puget Sound was a highlight for the American delegates at their Orientation prior to flying to Japan.

The memorable 50th JASC began in the dry heat of Tempe Arizona, then to mild northern Massachusetts, and concluded in the windy city of Chicago. Hosted by Arizona State University, Smith College, and DePaul University, this JASC drew scores of alumni from both the U.S. and Japan. The schedule included a visit to Gila River Reservation for briefings by native Americans and former Japanese-American internees during World War II. The Grand Canyon and Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous desert home and studio were visited. Japan Consuls General from Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago participated. A JASCer, now a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, wrote a feature article about the Conference which circulated internationally, and NHK offered a 3 minute TV portrait throughout Japan August 14. Two days of events in Chicago drew JASC alums from the U.S. and a delegation of senior distinguished JASCers from Japan.

Namiji Itabashi, passed away April 14, 1998 at the age of 90. He was JASC’s driving force as a student in 1934 who planned the first JASC and, thirty years later, jump started a resumption of the JASC after a ten year hiatus. During the 50th JASC Commemoration at the Chicago Cultural Center, the two Executive Committee chairs filled one eye of a large Daruma to wish success for the JASC Endowment Endeavor and another 50 years of this unique student directed Conference. JASC Board Member and benefactor Haru Reischauer also passed away in 1998.

The following year, Japan’s Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi received ten JASCers at his Residence during the 51st JASC , and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Tom Foley, hosted a dinner for the entire delegation in the garden of his Residence. These were highlights during the summer of 1999, which included venues in Kyoto, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Tokyo. Homestays on Hokkaido were especially welcomed as a break from the heat. Jim Halsema JASC 7 (1940), published electronically his diary of that year’s Conference, in collaboration with the University of Kansas on September 9. Viewable via the Wayback Machine via this link.

Chapter V: 2003 to present

A full day briefing by CINCPAC at Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of the 52nd JASC , which moved on to Chapel Hill, NC, Washington, DC, New York City, and then to the Reischauer Institute at Harvard. JASC Board Member Dr. Robert Reischauer and family member John Westgarth, JASC 45, shared memories of Edwin and Haru’s collaboration with the JASC, and delegates visited the Reischauers’ former residence in Brookline, which is maintained by Kodansha Publishers.

Overnight stays at two Buddhist temples in Kyoto were on the agenda for JASC 53 , as was the launching of paper lanterns from the banks of Motoyasu River in Hiroshima. In Okinawa, fifty Okinawan university students joined the delegates to address problems facing Okinawa as well as its rich culture. The Conference Forum in Tokyo at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center included lectures by ToDai savants Shinichi Kitaoka and Kiichi Fujiwara, who addressed such issues as the new middle school history textbook’s treatment of the Pacific War, and Yasukuni Shrine’s symbolism.

The September 11 terrorist attacks prompted a memorial service in Tokyo. Among the speakers were Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker. Also on the program was Maiko Morishita, the Japan Chair for the 53rd JASC, who urged her listeners “to strive to make a world where different beliefs can coexist peacefully.”

Despite lingering concerns as the war on terrorism ratcheted upwards, the 54th JASC convened at Howard University. On the eve of that JASC, the American delegates and JASC alumni gathered at DACOR Bacon House, also home of JASC, Inc. to hear from Ambassador (Ret.) Thomas Pickering, now a Boeing Senior Vice President, on balancing morality with pragmatism in foreign policy. The JASC itself boasted seven Special Topics in addition to the eight Roundtable Topics. These included Film and Animation, Music and Cultural Rhythms, Sports and Recreation, and last but by no means least, Terrorism. On site briefings included the Environmental Protection Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Urban Institute, the National Institutes of Health and other DC institutions, as well as panel discussions on U.S.-Japan relations at each site.

At Oberlin College, the 54th JASC commemorated the Reischauer Partnership dating back to the 1960s. Both Haru and Edwin have passed on, but son Robert has been a JASC Board Member for the past four years. His father graduated from Oberlin in 1931. Following a brief but substantive stint at the UC Berkeley, a highlight of the 54th JASC’s UC San Diego stay, was home hospitality offered by area families through the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana and a visit to Cetys University in Mexico.

The 55th JASC was held in Tokyo, Okinawa, Fukui, and Kyoto with American Orientation at the University of Washington in Seattle, where the JASC began attracting delegates for the very first Conference in 1934. Fukui hosted farming & homestay experiences and a JASC-Okinawan Student Discussion was held while in Okinawa, as well as a Japan-Korea-U.S. Student Discussion in Kyoto.

The 56th JASC marked the watershed 70th Anniversary of the founding of the JASC. Special events were planned for both the delegation and JASC alums from across the globe in Hawaii, Washington, DC, and Princeton. Jack Shellenberger’s ten-year JASC, Inc. Presidency comes to a close, succeeded by Ambassador William Clark, Jr.

JASC Innovations of the early 2000s:

• Volunteer Community Service days held during each JASC to benefit seniors, youngsters, low-cost housing and other such projects. Collaboration with Habitat for Humanity draws attention to “The House that JASC Built.”

• Ongoing Endowment Endeavor established for alumni contributions for perpetuating the JASC, co-chaired by the Ambassadors to the U.S. and Japan respectively. Highlights included Alumni Giving by Decades.

• Compilation in the JASC archive of ALL JASC Bulletins, student-authored summaries of proceedings, since 1934.

• American and Japanese Student Executive Committee members use e-mail for communication, which exponentially enhances their planning capability and relationship.

• JASC office computerized for administrative efficiency.

• Corporate and Alumni Mentor Program established with American Chamber of Commerce in Japan for internships and job opportunities for students.

• Promotional and recruitment video produced in 1994 on the 45th JASC, and continuously updated to include scenes from later Conferences.

• Boeing Company offered to match JASC alumni gifts over $10,000 up to $10,000 and hosts the AEC’s annual American Delegate selection meeting at its Missouri Leadership Training Center.

• JASC, Inc. created its website on the internet with link to Japanese JASC site and an e-mail address is established. Brochures and applications are available on the website, as well as alumni updates and contributions by credit card on the website.

• Bi-annual alumni directories were introduced as was the spring and fall JASC Journal or Newsletter.

• Alumni Planned Giving program established for alumni estate planning.

• JASC archival collection was catalogued at the University of MD, College Park.

• Conference Correspondent for each JASC was established to maintain contact with fellow delegates.

• First official “Alumni Chapter” formed in New York City with plans for the first AEC reporting forum for fall 2003 in New York City.