The United States-Japan Foundation (USJF) congratulates Arfiya Eri, an alumna of the organization’s US-Japan Leadership Program (USJLP), on her historic election Sunday to Japan’s parliament.
Eri is the first person with Uyghur heritage to run as a major party candidate in a Japanese election. She was elected Sunday to the lower house of the Japanese Diet to represent Chiba prefecture’s 5th district, endorsed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
“We are proud of Arfiya’s milestone victory, and the significance of her support from Japanese voters,” said USJF president Jacob Schlesinger. “She exemplifies the goals and aspirations of our Foundation as we work to support a new generation of diverse and innovative leaders in both countries.”
Eri is a Class of 2018-2019 USJLP Fellow. She was joined on the campaign trail by Taro Kono — a USJLP 2000 fellow, and a former USJF Trustee — who is currently Japan’s minister of digital affairs.
Eri is a native of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka prefecture and became a Japanese citizen at the age of 11. Her father is a Uyghur engineer educated in Japan on a Japanese government scholarship. Her mother is Uzbek.
Eri is a graduate of Georgetown University, speaks seven languages, and worked as an official for the Bank of Japan and the United Nations.
“I… represent a much bigger population of Japan that hasn’t been represented before in democracies and in the LDP,” she told the Japan Times in a recent interview, “including women who work, Japanese folks who have grown up abroad, and those who are bilingual and multilingual.”
USJLP was launched in 2000 and has since cultivated a network of nearly 500 leaders from the U.S. and Japan representing a diverse array of sectors and backgrounds. Eri joins five additional USJLP fellows who currently hold seats in Japan’s parliament, including Kono, Keiichiro Asao (2001-2002), Motohisa Furukawa (2005-2006), Akihisa Shiozaki (2010-2011), and Yutaka Arai (2017-2018).
The USJF has been working to foster closer ties between the two countries since its founding in 1980, through the fellowship program and more than $100 million in grants.
Source – United States-Japan Foundation