Panel with Japanese American Women Leaders

 For this activity, the tomodachi participants engaged in a panel that involved successful Japanese American women. The panel was held at the Amazon Tokyo branch office. Upon entering Amazon I noticed that everything was brightly colored which gave me the impression that they wanted to have fun working atmosphere. Then after walking into the meeting room and sitting down, we were offered refreshments. A few minutes later the panel started their presentation. Each of the panelists introduced themselves by telling us about their hometown and past and present jobs. From there on they talked about their experiences such as their struggles to triumphs. Being a woman in work force is quite difficult in the U.S. and especially in Japan although times are changing. 

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Climbing wall in the foyer

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Panel of Japanese American Women Leaders

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Panel Venue at the Amazon office Tokyo branch

This activity motivated to go out there and try new things. All of the panelists got a good education and moved from their hometowns to pursue a career. I really connected to one of the panelists because she grew up in Hawaii and went to Pearl City High School just like I have. In Japanese culture, I knew that it was a male dominated society where women only hold certain job positions. Although now I have learned that times are changing and woman are slowly working their way up in the work force. Japanese and American culture is similar in the fact that it originally started out as only men working while the woman stay home and take care of the house and the children. Both cultures are always striving to become more technologically advanced and to constantly industrialize.

Janelle Nakamura


Strength. Individuality. Intelligence. Wit. Such are the qualities of Amazon’s top leaders and executives, but not listed is perhaps the most important descriptive characteristic: female. Due to the strong patriarchal norms in Japan, such a feat waxes especially impressive, exemplifying the hard work and determination of these individuals.

On August 5th, the TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars had an amazing opportunity to gain the insights of these leaders. As part of the Japanese-American panel at Amazon Tokyo Headquarters, Royanne Doi, Eriko Talley, Miori Oka, and Evelyn Tokuyama composed this team of working females, creating a window of conversation to explore issues of gender and country and facilitate deeper understanding of Japan’s economic and social environment.

A Hawaii girl, Royanne Doi attended Pearl City High School. She explains that her family struggled with low-income, but it was her circumstances and her teachers that encouraged her to reach beyond her situation. Other panelists describe their various experiences in college, experiences that provided the necessary skills that helped them achieve their goals. While their stories are unique, it is a fierce resolve and unwavering confidence that binds these women.

The creativity of Amazon Tokyo thrives not only in the brilliant and hard-working minds of its executives and employees, but flourishes in the architecture of the office space as well. An abundance of doors hang horizontally from the ceiling, surrendering their vertical and functional qualities as if to summon the imagination. The climbing wall in the foyer, its appearance more closely mirroring that of a collage, evokes similar curiosity. Perhaps they are poetic metaphors meant to convey hidden symbolisms of opportunity, possibility, and endurance, or perhaps it is art for the sake of art. Regardless of its intended message, however, these installations enliven the environment at Amazon Tokyo, facilitating an atmosphere where innovation reigns.

Ushered by the amicable yet assertive tone of the panel facilitator, our attention is brought to the front of the room where a group of four women sit, their backs straight and their gaze certain. The panel commences and each woman speaks. They answer questions, they bestow advice, they laugh and share stories of childhood and school. Although highly successful and thoroughly accomplished, their words contain no hubris but brandish the wisdom of experience.

The minutes quickly roll away and soon we are prompted to ask questions of our own.

“How do you balance individuality with professional image?”

“Have you noticed much difference between Eastern and Western culture in business aspects?

“Is it gender or seniority that contribute most to differences in salary?”

The inquires range from personal to economic to political, but the panelists welcome every participant’s concerns and curiosities and are quick to provide sensible and informed answers.

“Be bold, not aggressive.”

“Embrace differences; play them as a competitive edge.”


Their advice is both fresh and timeless, applicable to a broad amount of situations yet specific in their instruction. We are encouraged to build networks, develop strategies, but work flexibly, embracing any and every opportunity that comes our way. “Don’t think of it as a career ladder, but a career lattice,” explains Doi.

Between the serious talk and , the panelists still find time for humor. Upon being asked a question about the wage gap between the sexes, Doi responds, “I prefer to think that there is no glass ceiling, only thick layers of men.”

But the message is clear: be humble, be hard-working, and be yourself.

Nina Martinez

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One Response to Panel with Japanese American Women Leaders

  1. Chelsie Takasaki says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Great job, Janelle! Eloquent and beautifully written, Nina!

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