The US-Japan alliance is a central pillar of America’s Asia strategy and it affects almost every aspect of the US approach to the region. Japan is the most important US defense partner in Asia, hosting 130 US military bases and facilities and more than 54,000 American service members, along with the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet. As the world’s third largest economy, Japan is the fourth greatest trade partner and the third leading source of foreign direct investment into the United States. A world leader in technology, science, and culture, it boasts the most established democracy in East Asia and is a key US partner in confronting a range of global challenges. However, after the longest-serving leader in Japanese history stepped down in September 2020, Japan’s new leadership is looking to reinvigorate its relationship with the United States under the new Biden administration.

Building on its 50-year history of hosting exchanges and dialogues for Congressional members, Diet members, Congressional staff, and others, JCIE has created a month-long mini-course consisting of online briefings and roundtables for Congressional staff to update them on the forces shaping US-Japan relations. This course is designed to provide  Congressional staff who cover Asia policy issues the opportunity to speak with leading expert’s from Japan and the United States about security, trade, and other shared challenges.

The course is a supplement to JCIE’s  US Congressional Staff Exchange, which has brought nearly 200 aides from both sides of the aisle to Japan to travel around the country for high-level meetings and site visits and serves as a way to better prepare potential participants for that travel program once in-person exchanges can resume in 2021. List of programs below:


Applications for this Spring 2021 edition of “Japan 101” are now closed. If you would like to be placed on a standby list in the event that any slots open up, or if you would like to be notified about future courses, please reach out to Stephen McHugh via email ([email protected])

2020 course participants during the introductory session with Dr. Sheila A. Smith

March 2021 Course Schedule


 Introduction: Understanding US-Japan Relations
Tuesday, March 2, 12:00-1:30 pm
Guest speaker: DR. SHEILA SMITH, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Japanese Foreign Policy Priorities & the US-Japan Relationship
Thursday, March 4, 7:00-8:00 pm
Guest speaker: MR. HITOSHI TANAKA, Chairman, Institute for International Strategy; Senior Fellow, JCIE; former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs


US-Japan Trade Relations in the Biden Era
Tuesday, March 9, 12:00-1:00 pm
Guest speaker: DR. MIREYA SOLIS, Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies & Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies, The Brookings Institution

Managing China-Japan-US Trilateral Relations
Thursday, March 11, 7:00-8:00 pm
Guest speaker: DR. AKIO TAKAHARA, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Politics, Graduate School of Law and Politics, The University of Tokyo


Security Cooperation in the US-Japan Alliance
Tuesday, March 16, 7:00-8:00 pm
Guest speakers:
RADM (ret). JAMES D. KELLY, former Commander, US Naval Forces Japan
Vice Admiral (ret) YOJI KODA, former Commander in Chief, Self Defense Fleet, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force

A Japanese Legislator’s Perspective on US-Japan Relations
Thursday, March 18, 7:00-8:00 pm
Guest speaker: HON. YOSHIMASA HAYASHI,Member, House of Councillors; former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology; former Minister of Defense


 US-Japan Relations and Global ChallengesーClimate Change & Energy Security
Monday, March 22 8:00-9:00 pm
Guest speaker: DR. NAOKO ISHII, Director, Center for Global Commons, The University of Tokyo; former CEO & Chairperson, Global Environment Facility; former Deputy Vice Minister of Finance

Understanding Japanese Politics and Policymaking
Thursday, March 25, 12:00 – 1:15 pm
Guest speaker: DR. GERALD CURTIS, Burgess Professor Emeritus, Columbia University


As a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1975 in New York, JCIE/USA works in close partnership with JCIE/Japan in Tokyo, organizing exchanges for American and Japanese political leaders, sponsoring policy dialogues, and building ties among nonprofit organizations. Its broad networks enable it to bring together key players from different sectors—political leaders, government officials, policy experts, business executives, social entrepreneurs, and NGO leaders—to tackle the complex global issues facing our countries.

More than 1,000 Americans and Japanese political leaders have traveled to one another’s countries on JCIE’s political exchange programs, and JCIE has organized scores of policy dialogues that have served as a catalyst for US-Japan cooperation, from high-level discussions on US-Japan security and trade in the 1970s and 1980s to ones focused on global health security, women’s leadership, and other pressing challenges in recent years. In recognition of its work to strengthen US-Japan relations, JCIE/USA was the recipient of the Foreign Minister’s Commendation by the Government of Japan in 2004.

This Congressional staff  program has been made possible through the generous support of the Japan-US Friendship Commission, an independent federal agency dedicated to strengthening the US-Japan relationship through educational, cultural, and intellectual exchange.