The National Economists Club would like to thank our sponsors for making possible our 2015 annual sponsors.  We would like to thank our Diamond Level sponsors Cornerstone Macro and The Observatory Group as well as our Diamond Level sponsor - Econometrica.  Thanks so much for the support!







February 21st

We started our last full day in Tokyo at theTochigi fish market. We were after the morning auction, but it was still bustling, so many varieties of fish. Many of us had super fresh sushi that by wide acclaim was the best people had ever had.

Afterwards, we met with a representative of the gender equality bureau, discussing Japan's attempts to gender equality policies. This issue is particularly important given Japan's rapidly aging population causing demand for more working age employees.  The representative covered the various targets the government has for women in more managerial positions, their changes in family leave,  and their efforts to change the culture around women and men working.  Japan recently (April 2014) changes their childcare leave policies, making them some of the most generous in the world. Despite that, male participation in the program is only 2.65%, while female participation is 81.65%.

Next, we had a meeting with the Keidanren, the Japanese business federation. Talks again focused around TPP, Japan's aging population, and target countries and sectors for Japanese agreement. It was discussed that increasing ties between NEC and Keidanren would be valuable, and contact would be established once the participants were back in the United States.

Finally, we presented it's findings of the trip to JICE. We also presented our plan of action going forward, which will be detailed in a later blog post. We are excited to spend one last night in this wonderful city prior to the flight home tomorrow!


February 18th - Home Stay

Today we met our home stay families at the community center in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture. They were all so excited to see us and greeted us with a warm welcome. Our family prepared a huge dinner and offered us some American cuisine in addition to Japanese. Many of us visited the onsen (hot springs) and had such a relaxing time. The best was sitting in the outdoor spring with the cold air contrasting the hot water. Many of us also made homemade Maki (sushi rolls) with the ingredients prepared by our host families, which was a lot of fun.
The father of our host family was a farmer and stopped on the way home to pick some vegetables out of his garden. His wife was learning English from an instructor and was eager to practice speaking to us. We found this really impressive given she was in her late sixties.
The family had a very nice modern home with a beautiful garden adorned with bonsai trees in the front. With multiple generations living in the same household, we got to see how family oriented the Japanese are. The experience was probably my favorite of the whole trip, and we were extremely sad to say bye to our host family.

Day 2: Februray 16, 2017

The Kakehashi delegation kicked off with two government meetings, an in-country orientation, and a Japanese tea ceremony.

Our hosts graciously presided over the program's objectives, emergency contacts, and itinerary to orient our group to the program.

Our first meeting was with the economic bureau in Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With the timely visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington D.C. the previous week, the ministry presented us with a joint statement on security and economic cooperation between the two countries since U.S. President Donald Trump took office less than one month ago. What stood out in the bilateral economic relationship was the importance of the United States as one of Japan's top trade and investment partners. The United States is Japan's top export destination and receives the greatest foreign direct investment from its U.S. counterparts. Japan has created thousands of jobs in the United States by opening manufacturing facilities throughout the country. In 1986, Japan exported 3.43 million fully assembled cars to the United States and only made 0.43 million in various states. By 2015, Japanese companies assembled 3.85 million cars around the United States and only exported 1.6 million cars. Japanese companies can boost that they are the top job creators in 10 U.S. states and the second top job creators in 8 additional states. Japan hopes to deepen the economic partnership with cooperation in four keys areas 1) U.S. infrastructure on high-speed rails in California, Texas, and along D.C. to New York; 2) energy imports of LNG and crude oil; 3) technology exchange; and 4) global issues of mutual interest. While President Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, ministry officials underscored Japan's interest in working within the multilateral trade bloc so its companies can grow within the regional supply chain.

Next, we met with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Japan imports 61% of its food consumption, compared to the United States that is 100 percent self-sufficient and exports 29% of its food products. The United States is the largest country of origin for Japan's food products at a 19.6% share. Major U.S. food imports include corn, soybeans, pork, beef, fruits, and wheat. Japan exports scallops, yellowtail, alcohol, sauces/dressing, green tea leaves, and sesame oil to the United States. Under TPP, Japan had five sensitive export food products that were negotiated to be exempt from tariffs, including beef, pork, sugar, dairy, and wheat/barley.

To wrap up the day, our delegation drank tea. In the Japanese tea ceremony, guests join together to create a sense of unity called 'ichiza konryu'. We gathered in a small tatami room sharing bitter matcha green tea complemented by a sweet fruit to deepen our group's connection through the shared ritual and enjoyment of tea.  

#Kakehashi2016 #JICE #USA #Japan


Foreign Affairs, Green Tea, and Bullet Trains – The journey begins.

I’m writing this post going 100 miles per hour on the Shiskanen! We started our first full daywith a nice Japanese breakfast at our hotel. We’ve had beautiful sunny weather so far. Our first meeting was an orientation with Makiko and Mikiko who explained the purpose of the KAKEHASHI project to our group.

We met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who focused on how the election of President Trump has brought a likely end to the Transpacific Partnership. While the setback to the TPP is a serious concern in Japan, they were pleasantly surprised by how well the recent Trump-Abe meeting went. Our group asked many questions about trade and we received very thorough and frank answers. Joe thanked the foreign affairs officers for talking with us in Japanese.

In the afternoon we met with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. We learned about domestic and imported food and washoku, or traditional Japanese food including seasonal produce and wagyu.

We visited a tea room and got to try matcha. We stirred the matcha into hot water using a traditional bamboo whisk.

Finally, we’re on our way Tochigi Prefecture where we’ll enjoy dinner and move into a new hotel.

-- Emily Washington

Day 1: February 15, 2017

Kakehashi Day 1

We arrived in Tokyo after a long but surprisingly comfortable flight, due to the great service and food provided by ANA. Upon arrival we met our host Aranishi-san, who guided us to our hotel. Despite being completely exhausted, we were thrilled to see the beginnings of the Tokyo skyline. We had dinner at a delicious tempura - which means "heaven taste" - restaurant, where the server would come around and drop off fresh  fried tempura in front of us.

Breakfast was also a delicious affair with a mix of western and Japanese food, fish and lotus root side by side with eggs and sausage. We are all very excited to see what lies ahead of us! 

First Blog

Upon arriving in Tokyo, We ate a lovely meal of tempura for dinner. We are getting to know each other and the people from Brookings Instutue that are here with our NEC group. We enjoyed the ease of travel upon arriving and the friendly welcome we received.

Announcing the 2017 Kakehashi Scholar Selectees

Dear NEC Members:

Please join us in congratulating the twelve applicants who were selected as our Kakehashi Scholars for 2017.  Their names and primary affiliations are listed below.  Through the generosity of the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE), these scholars will be provided with a fully funded study tour to Japan to encourage greater understanding between the youth of Japan and the United States and to give these young researchers the opportunity to learn about the economy and culture of Japan through meetings with private and public sector organizations and individuals.  We are deeply grateful to JICE for the opportunity to participate in the Kakehashi Project and are excited for what lies ahead for these young scholars.


  • Amanda Riggs, National Association of REALTORS
  • Clare Stechschulte, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Emily Washington, Mercatus Center
  • Ethan Lee, Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Gabrielle Forgione, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Joseph Ahn, Economists Inc.
  • Karen Milam, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Kristine Johnson, U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
  • Laura Stanley, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Scott Condren, Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Suzanne Chang, New York University Stern School of Business

Chaperone:  Michael Ryan, IHS Markit; Vice President of Programs – NEC

Sincerely yours,
NEC Leadership

Opportunity to Participate in a Study Tour to Japan This February

Date: 28 November 2016
To: Potential KAKEHASHI Project Participants

The NEC is excited to announce an opportunity for young NEC members to participate in the "KAKEHASHI Project - The Bridge for Tomorrow program. This program is being hosted by the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) and will provide a fully funded short-term study tour to Japan. The purpose of the program is to encourage greater understanding between the youth of Japan and the United States and to provide the opportunity for young American researchers to learn about the Economy and Culture of Japan through meetings with private and public sector organizations and individuals.  

The trip is expected to take place in mid-February 2017 and all travel costs will be covered by the program, including round-trip air transportation, transport costs in Japan, accommodation in Japan, all meals, entrance fees to special attractions and travel insurance.

After participants have been identified, an itinerary for the tour will be developed based on the interests of the NEC participants and in conjunction with the Japanese organizers. 

The general guidelines to choosing participants is as follows:

Major Requirements: 

  • Participants must be members of the NEC.  
  • Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident with a valid U.S. passport.
  • Participants should be 35 years old or younger at the time of the trip.
  • Applicants who have visited Japan through any other invitation program organized by the Japanese Government or have already had the experience of studying in Japan for a long period may not be eligible to participate.

To Apply:
If you meet the requirements and are interested in participating in the study tour, please send a brief letter of interest and resume to Charles Baschnagel at and Michael Chow at by midnight on December 28th, 2016

The letter of interest should indicate why you would like to join the study tour and what institution, governmental organization, corporations, or individuals you would like to meet with. Briefly discuss why this trip would help your professional career and/or research, what aspects of the Japanese economy you are most interested in learning about, how you would research this aspect before/during/after the trip and why you would make a good candidate. The essay should be no longer than 2 pages. When sending the letter, please also include a CV or resume no longer than 2 pages. Please feel free to email Charles or Michael with any questions during the application process. 

Expected Deliverables from Trip Participants: 

  • Participants must follow the itinerary as a group and must adhere to the itinerary.  
  • Participants will be expected to post 3/4 short blogs (100 words or less to the NEC Facebook/Linkedin/NEC website during the trip to inform the NEC membership and JICE stakeholders about the progress of their trip and ongoing findings. 
  • Applicants must commit to sharing and disseminating their experiences and attraction of Japan after returning to the USA.
  • Upon return to the United States participants are required to prepare material to summarize their experience and representatives of the group will be required to present their work through a short presentation to the NEC/KAKEHASHI Project-The Bridge for Tomorrow group here in DC.  
  • After completing the program, applicants must answer a post-program questionnaire which will be sent 6 months after the completion of the program

We are delighted to have this unique opportunity to build the NEC's relationship with Japanese institutions, and we look forward to receiving your applications! Please check the NEC website for further updates such as the exact dates of the trip once finalized. 

Yours sincerely,
Michael Chow
National Economists Club


We are excited to have had the opportunity to continue this partnership for another year and are grateful to our friends at the Japanese embassy and the funders at the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) for making this a reality.  The tour blog is below

Day One:

We began with a welcome session from the special assistant to the president of JICE. Following orientation, NEC toured the Edo-Tokyo Museum where we learned about the history and lifestyle of Japan during the Edo period and the hierarchical system between the Emperor, shoguns, daimyo, and commoners. We also saw replicas and models of the cities and carrying vessels of the times.  The group played musical instruments used for Kabuki theater sound effects. In the afternoon, we toured Waseda University and enjoyed seeing a university pep rally.  Lectures by professors at Waseda and government officials covered energy security, defense, and foreign policy issues. These were focused on general background information that helps motivate discussions during the remainder of the study tour. We were treated to delicious shabu shabu for dinner.


Day 2  Thursday, October 15, 2015

We began with a welcome session from the special assistant to the president of the Japanese International Cooperation Center (JICE). Following orientation, NEC toured the Edo-Tokyo Museum where we learned about the history and lifestyle of Japan during the Edo period and the hierarchical system between the Emperor, shoguns, daimyo, and commoners. We also saw replicas and models of the cities and carrying vessels of the times . The group played musical instruments used for Kabuki theater sound effects. In the afternoon, we toured Waseda University and enjoyed seeing a university pep rally.  Lectures by professors at Waseda and government officials covered energy security, defense, and foreign policy issues. These were focused on general background information that helps motivate discussions during the remainder of the study tour. We were treated to delicious shabu shabu, a Japanese hot pot dish named for the "swish-swish sound the meat and vegetables make as you cook them in the boiling broth at the table, for dinner .


Day 3  Friday, October 16, 2015

We began Friday with a visit to the Canon Institute for Global Studies, a Japanese think-tank funded by the Canon Corporation.  While there we participated in a Q&A with experts on Japanese healthcare, agriculture, the economy and foreign policy with a particular emphasis on cultural and political challenges to reform.  After lunch at a traditional restaurant popular with local office workers and some time spent walking around the Ginza district (Japan's version of 5th Avenue), we visited Keidanren, the Japan Business Foundation.  This was a valuable opportunity to hear major Japanese companies' opinion on the effectiveness of Abenomics and the federation's position on regional development issues, energy efficiency targets, and labor reforms.  


Meetings for the day finished at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) for a talk on the energy policy of the Japanese government in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear tragedy.  Only 6% of the country's energy requirements are met with native resources (compared with 75% in the U.S) and this fact has important implications for energy security and affordability.  METI officials stressed the need for a continued partnership with the United States to gain access to affordable Natural Gas.



Day 4  Saturday, October 17, 2015


On Saturday the group headed to Yamanashi Prefecture, a landlocked prefecture that is roughly a 2 hour drive west of central Tokyo. We stopped at the Maglev (short for magnetic levitation) train exhibit, where we learned about the technology involved in levitating a multi-ton train as it picks up speed. Every ten minutes or so, the group and hundreds of other tourists viewed the maglev test train whiz by at over 500 kilometers per hour. It is hoped that this Maglev train will be the future of Japan's high speed rail network. Currently, the Shinkansen (bullet trains) travel at speeds of roughly 240 to 320 km/hr but the Maglev train has been tested at 603 km/hr.

We continued the day by driving through the area's misty forests until we reached the highest visitor station of Japan's most famous mountain, Mount Fuji or ˜Fuji-san.' With the mountain's peak obscured at first by clouds, we learned about the mountain and some of the history of the surrounding villages. As the clouds started to clear we enjoyed the mountain's diverse flora and geological features as we hiked partway around the mountain.


Our next stop was the Kitaguchi Fuji Sengen Shrine. This beautiful Shinto shrine, located in the town of Fujiyoshida not far from Mt. Fuji, is the starting point for many pilgrims who climb the mountain.

Our final bus ride of the day took us to our nearby hotel, where most of the group unwound in an onsen, or public bath, followed by dinner. The evening was rounded out with socializing with members of the other two research groups traveling with us, and later with several dozen Japanese resort-goers who warmly welcomed us into their group “ a delightful way to end a great day enjoying the natural and cultural beauty of Japan.



Day 5  Sunday, October 18, 2015

After a few days of policy-intensive lectures and site visits in the bright, loud, super-modern metropolis of Tokyo, the chance to immerse ourselves in the well-preserved, adamantly traditional side of Japanese culture created a more holistic experience for us first-time visitors. This was a common theme throughout our trip: the fascinating and almost paradoxical dichotomy of a futuristic, flashy, technologically advanced society and its deep reverence for its centuries-old cultural practices. Sunday was a day to engage fully in traditional Japanese culture. We began the day at a local festival where we were able to sample traditional food, walk the grounds of a reconstructed traditional village in the shadow of Mt. Fuji (photo 1), help make mochi, a gelatinous rice cake made from pounding cooked rice that is used in many traditional Japanese desserts (photo 2), and some did this while dressed in a traditional kimono or Samurai armor.

Shortly thereafter, we visited a traditional sake brewery that had been family-owned and operated for hundreds of years (photo 3). Everything from the ingredients to the brewing process to the conditions of the facilities were imbued with elements of Japanese culture that had been observed throughout the week.  After a traditional meal near the brewing facility, we were able to walk through the festival grounds to see (or purchase) local craftsmen sell things like hand-carved chopsticks, porcelain tea sets and other traditional Japanese household items (photo 4).

That evening, we stayed at a traditional resort-hotel that involved groups of six sleeping in very space-efficient conditions, in tight quarters, on plain, thin mats called tatami. Before bed, after another traditional Japanese meal (photo 5) we had another opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese bath. This, too, is a cultural practice that contains within it many quintessentially Japanese values: cleanliness, respect for others, and personal conduct that is cognizant of what is best for the collective community. While as economists, we are interested primarily in Japanese policy and its impact on the global economy, it is impossible to fully understand Japanese policy without understanding the underlying values and cultural norms that inform policy decisions. There is a tremendous difference between awareness of policy and understanding; bridging that divide was the enormous value of our cultural immersion experiences on Sunday.



Day 6  Monday, October 19, 2015


Monday began with a visit to Yamanashi University where we heard a presentation about Japan's research into alternative energy, namely fuel cells. In order for the technology to be commercially viable, a more cost effective catalyst is needed. Students showed us around labs where they test the effectiveness of various metal catalysts used in the fuel cell technology. The presenters at Yamanshi were quite proud of their alumnus, Satoshi Omura, who had recently been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research in therapies against parasitic infections.


From Yamanashi University, we returned to Tokyo where we met with two junior officers from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). These trade experts discussed the economic relationship between the United States and Japan, and through dialogue, we sought to better understand important aspects of Japanese trade policy while the MoFA officers inquired about United States trade priorities and how domestic political considerations affect those priorities. In addition to discussing policy, we were able to learn about the MoFA officers' experiences with issues targeted for reform in the third arrow of Abenomics. Long working hours and daycare shortages in Tokyo were cited as anecdotal hurdles to young workers' considering raising a family.

From there, the group drove to Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, where we explored exhibits on cutting edge science research and technology as well as viewed exhibits that were ongoing experiments in which we could participate. A highlight of the visit was a demonstration by ASIMO, a robot designed to move and interact with humans. ASIMO encouraged those of us watching the demonstration to consider the engineering accomplishments that underlie his ability to balance on one foot, run forwards and backwards, and even hop around.  


After touring the exhibits, the Kakehashi researchers gathered in a conference room above the museum to share our findings with each other and with a representative of the president of the Japanese International Cooperation Center (JICE). Each group had gained valuable insights into the social and cultural norms of Japan, and these insights enabled a more complete understanding of many Japanese policies which we understood only superficially before arrival. Most importantly, cross-cultural relationships were cemented. Kakehashi literally translated is "bridge and the program's goal of building bridges of understanding between participants and Japan was clearly achieved.


Day 7  Tuesday, October 20, 2015

After an evening in Yokohoma, the second largest metropolis in Japan, we headed back to Tokyo for a few last cultural highlights.  We visited Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa Shrine. This urban temple and shrine was much more crowded than the one we had visited in Yamanashi. We toured Nakamise-Dori picking up last minute souvenirs. As we headed to the Narita airport, reflecting on the lessons of the trip, we concluded that we would continue to use the bridges built during participation in the Kakehashi program. The United States and Japan are economic super powers with many common advantages and common challenges. Our culture and norms will shape how we respond to these challenges, and what works in Japan will not always work in the United States and vice versa.  Yet we have much to learn from each other, particularly as our governments and societies confront the challenges of an aging population, a shrinking work-force, tepid economic growth, and a social safety net stretched to the limit as a result. As a forum for the exchange of ideas, the National Economists Club is an ideal partner with the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) in the Kakehashi program, and we plan to invite our new friends to be a part of our discussions on potential solutions to these shared challenges at our regular meetings in Washington, DC.



Opportunity to Participate in a Study Tour to Japan
Date: September 18, 2015
To: KAKEHASHI Project Participants

Please join us in congratulating the ten applicants who were selected as our Kakehashi Scholars for 2015. Their names and work affiliations are listed below.


  • John Bennett                   REMI
  • Daniel Brown                   House Committee on Small Business
  • Tammy Chang                 US Department of the Treasury
  • Andrew Clough               Evenflow Macro
  • Julie Gressley                  IHS
  • Danielle Hale                  National Association of Realtors®
  • Amanda Lawrence          FDIC
  • Kyle McCormick               Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Elliott Nethercutt              NERC
  • Hanjie Yu                          Simple Mills

Chaperone:  Charles Baschnagel, Vice President of Special Programs, NEC