Personal Reflections on the 2023
Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Trip to Japan
Photos & Text by Calvin Terada
For The North American Post
Wa, Kei, Sei and Jaku are the principle philosophies for Sado, the Way of Tea, as the Sensei explained to us at the tea ceremony at the Cha-No-Miyako Museum in Shizuoka Prefecture, south-central Japan. “Wa” stands for harmony, “Kei” for respect, “Sei” for purity and “Jaku” for tranquility. These four principles are what the sensei explained to us as we experienced sitting together, learning about culture, absorbing our surroundings and enjoying delicious tea, each in our own way.
My journey to Japan with a group of amazing individuals during March 3–11, helped remind me of the true beauty of our ancestral heritage and incredible culture. The dialogue and discussions with various people and organizations that we met made me realize why the cultural bridge and exchange is so important between Japanese Americans and Japanese. Sitting and carefully listening to the Sado sensei helped me realize that there are critically important leadership principles that can be gained from following philosophies that are imbedded into the DNA of Japanese culture.
As we spent our time in Tokyo engaging with various leaders in education, industry and government regarding the importance of incorporating the practices of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) into our workplaces, I recognized that these practices are not new to Japan at all. Rather, they have existed in the cultural fabric of Sado for more than 1000 years. If we leaders simply stepped back and incorporated the principles of Wa, Kei, Sei and Jaku into our leadership style, perhaps we can be more aware and avoid the dangers of implicit bias creeping into our decision making, especially during hiring. Perhaps by following these principles, I can recognize when my own behavior is perceived as being disrespectful to others. Most importantly, I can possibly apply these lessons to slow down and to be more present so that I can thoroughly enjoy time with my family and friends, watch my children grow and savor opportunities that are presented to me. Of course, these principles are a way of life, but this exposure to Sado opened my eyes. Enjoying a simple cup of tea became a lesson about life and a teachable moment on how I can lead people and organizations better in our busy and hectic world.
Just like entering the small door in the Chashitsu or tea room, the symbolism and physical lesson that everyone is equal at some point in life is a beautiful teaching. In western philosophy, we often say “leave your rank at the door” so that we can create the safe space to discuss matters that are important between people. Even leaders need the periodic recalibration and humble lesson that we do not have all of the answers. Through deep listening, maybe we can find common ground or the essence of a concern.
From the Sado principles, I realized how much I needed the opportunity to recalibrate myself. Through this incredibly special opportunity of participating in the JALD program, the trip served as my virtual tea room. The room inspired me to think about how we can bring out the inner beauty of our culture and take concepts that are over 1000 years old and bring them forward to the present day. Perhaps by incorporating these concepts into our leadership styles, we can help make a visible difference to the people in our lives and help make the world a better place.
I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the U.S. Japan Council for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I also want to express my deepest appreciation to the JA Community, the Consul-General of Japan in Seattle, and the organizations that have supported me in Seattle for guiding and developing me as a community leader. I fully realize that I walk in the footsteps of giants, like Senator Daniel Inouye, Secretary Norman Mineta, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and countless other JA leaders nationally and at home who paved the way so that we could make this important journey. I am going to challenge myself to use these principles to find opportunities to take bold steps to support everyone in my life, especially the JA leaders of tomorrow.