JUSFC40 Meet Our Grantees Series: Japan Center for International Exchange

March 21, 2016 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

For a number of years, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission has proudly supported the U.S. Congressional Staff Exchange Program, which is managed and executed by the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). This longstanding project is designed to educate senior Congressional staff about the dynamics of U.S.-Japan relations. The program gives these staff members the opportunity to meet a wide range of Japanese leaders, allowing them to learn about the key factors affecting bilateral relations and to engage in frank, substantive discussions about issues facing both countries.

The core of the program is an intensive one-week study trip to Japan that is comprised of meetings  and site visits for 6-7Congressional Staff Exchange senior staff with the potential to contribute to U.S.-Japan relations.  According to JCIE, congressional staff members play a vital role in the U.S. Congress’ dealings with Japan, and their role has grown in importance as Members of Congress are increasingly unable to travel abroad due to schedule and other constraints. The program plays an important role in enhancing staff members’ knowledge and capacity to provide farsighted policy advice to legislators.

JCIE calls on its extensive alumni network to recommend exchange participants, and participants receive briefing seminars before their trips. “They meet a broad range of leaders, activists, and regular people,” says JCIE’s executive director James Gannon. “Since we are an independent nonprofit organization, we are able to expose them to a wide spectrum of people, not just the ruling party or the opposition party but Japanese people of many different backgrounds. I think they come away with a much more nuanced understanding of the issues.”

After the Japan visits, JCIE schedules a number of networking and educational activities, including a follow-up round-table meeting with the staff participants as panelists. “The exchange builds a depth of understanding amongst congressional staff members that influences how they react to international relations issues after returning home,“ Gannon remarks. “It creates a cycle of virtuous connections between the countries.”

Since its founding in 1982, JCIE’s Congressional Staff Exchange has brought 170 senior staff to Japan on 24 separate visits to enhance their understanding and appreciation of U.S.-Japan relations.