Reception with light refreshments starting at 1:30 PM


America’s current love affair with Japanese consumer products, popular culture, and tastes stems from an era just after World War II that produced the “Japan Boom.”  This panel highlights and explores the hidden role that second-generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) played in this boom in Japanese exports.  What were Japan’s postwar export strategies and how and why did Nisei contribute to them as ethnic brokers paving the way for fledging companies such as Toyota and Sony, and new tastes such as sushi to enter the US market?  


Each of the below panelists will address a different part of this question.  Professor Saori Katada will layout the context of postwar Japan’s international and domestic economic policies.  Jon Kaji and Shawn Layden will address the crucial role played by Nisei for Toyota and Sony, respectively.  Atsuko Kanai will discuss her Nisei father Noritoshi Kanai and his role in birthing the sushi boom in the US through his business Mutual Trading Company.  Finally, Professor Lon Kurashige will chair the panel and introduce the themes connecting the panelists’ talks.


Please join us for light refreshments starting at 1:30 PM. The panel will start promptly at 2 PM. 



  • Jon Kaji: President, Kaji and Associates, Former Director of the State of California Office of Trade and Investment in Tokyo, Japan and South Korea; currently Torrance city council member. His father Bruce Kaji was instrumental in bringing Toyota’s US headquarters to Torrance in the 1950s.
  • Shawn Layden: Former CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America and former chairman of PlayStation Worldwide Studios. Prior to that, he worked for Sony founder Akio Morita as speechwriter and special assistant. Layden currently advises a number of firms including Tencent Games and Streamline Media Group. 
  • Atsuko Kanai:  Executive Vice President of Mutual Trading Company, an American firm specializing in the import-distribution of Japanese foods. Kanai’s father Noritoshi Kanai was recently featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the Little Tokyo origins of America’s love of sushi.
  • Saori Katada:  USC Professor of International Relations and expert on Japan’s economic and foreign policy.
  • Lon Kurashige: USC Professor of History and expert on Japanese American history.


This event is presented by the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, and co-sponsored by the Center for International StudiesDepartment of History, and East Asian Studies Center

Event Details

  • Arone Saldana

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