Tragedy and Friendship – Strengthening the Bonds with Japan

The world is focused on Japan this  month, following the devastating  earthquake, tsunami and on-going nuclear crisis.  My friend Hiroko Tatebe, the founder of an international non-profit,  was in a  hotel in Tokyo when the  earthquake hit, causing damage to a hall in the same building that resulted in injuries and two  deaths. Hiroko is now back in Los Angeles, but she told me in an e-mail that her heart is breaking for the victims and survivors in her homeland.

I met Hiroko when we served on a Board  together for the Los Angeles chapter of a state-wide organization called Women in Business. At the time, she was an executive in the LA office of Dai-Ichi Kangyo, a Japanese Bank, and I was a partner in a woman-owned business that  specialized in public relations for community based businesses and non-profits.  Hiroko was a very dedicated volunteer. We enjoyed sharing storiesabout our families.  She was the youngest of six daughters.  I was also the youngest, with two older brothers – while  my parents were from large farm families where my mother was one of six children and my father one offifteen. I know what it is like to have a large extended family.

Hiroko was eventually promoted to her bank’s Board of Directors, becoming the first woman to attain that level at a Japanese Bank.  Yet Hiroko was very self-effacing about her achievements.  Above all, she wanted to encourage more of her countrywomen to aspire to leadership roles.  She eventually left the bank to start a pan-Pacific non-profit called GOLD –Global Organization for Leadership and Diversity (  GOLD is an organization dedicated  to developing global women leaders and building bridges across the Pacific. She has received many honors for her international efforts.

As  the world’s eyes focus  on Japan in its hour of tragedy, I hope we will remember our commonalities and use this time to strengthen our bonds of friendship.  Hiroko is leading the way.

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