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COVID-19 Recovery:

Public Health and Resumption of Travel Wednesday, February 24, 2021

3:30pm-5:00pm (HST)

Zoom Webinar Panel Discussion

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Thanks to the generous support of the Embassy of Japan and the National Association of Japan-America Societies, attendance is free and open to the public.

JOIN US on Wednesday, February 24 at 3:30pm (HST) as experts from the U.S. and Japan share their country’s experiences, policies, and plans moving forward regarding COVID-19 recovery in the public health and travel sectors. Please note that due to the content of this program, this event will now be in webinar format and will not include the previously advertised breakout sessions.


We are honored to announce our incredible line-up of speakers for this year’s Japan Currents. Speaking on public health, we welcome Lt. Gov. Josh Green, physician and 14th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, and Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of AMR Clinical Reference Center and Director of Disease Control and Prevention Center of National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) in Japan. Presenting the latest information on the resumption of travel, we welcome John De Fries, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA), and Eric Takahata, managing director of Hawaiʻi Tourism Japan (HTJ). The program will be moderated by Barbara Tanabe, owner and founder of Hoʻakea Communications, LLC (a public affairs company) and JASH board director.

Public Health

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Lt. Gov. Josh Green is a local doctor, husband, and father of two who has spent his life caring for Hawaiʻi families. After completing his medical training, Lt. Gov. Green joined the National Health Corps and started his life’s work as a family physician and ER doctor in rural hospitals and clinics on the Big Island.  He served in the Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008 and in the Hawaiʻi State Senate from 2008 to 2018 where he chaired the Health Committee and Human Services Committee. In 2009 he was named “Hawaiʻi Physician of the Year”. The hopes, challenges, and values of the families he cares for inspire Lt. Gov. Green to do more to make life better for the people of Hawaiʻi and he is honored to serve as their Lieutenant Governor.

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Dr. Norio Ohmagari is the director of AMR Clinical Reference Center and Director of Disease Control and Prevention Center of National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) in Japan. He completed his clinical fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas- Houston. Dr. Ohmagari is engaged in the care, prevention and research of infectious diseases from a global perspective. As a physician, Dr. Ohmagari is directly involved in the clinical management of patients with infectious diseases. He is also actively working on activities concerning the controlling of antimicrobial resistance in Japan. In addition, Dr. Ohmagari continues his work regarding the on-site response in infectious disease crisis management in Japan.

Resumption of Travel

John De Fries was appointed as president and chief executive officer of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) on September 16, 2020. Born and raised in Waikīkī, Mr. De Fries has more than 40 years of professional experience in the tourism and resort development industries. His recent visitor industry experience includes serving as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. He is also president and principal advisor for Native Sun Business Group. Mr. De Fries previously led the Department of Research and Development for the County of Hawaiʻi, a division responsible for stimulating economic growth in sectors including tourism, agriculture and renewable energy. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Hōkūli`a, a luxury residential community on Hawaiʻi Island.

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Eric Takahata serves as the managing director of Hawaiʻi Tourism Japan which is the official tourism office in Japan for the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority. Born and raised in Hawaii, Mr. Takahata graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa with a BBA (MIS) in 1990. The start of his 30 years of professional work experience began as sales manager for Sea Life Park and Atlantis submarines with a primary focus on the Japan, Korea, and China markets and has since expanded into sales, marketing, public relations, and coordination in the Japan tourism, commerce and Japanese sports & entertainment industries. He established LLC as wwner and president in 1997 which provides sales, marketing, public relations and business development consulting specifically for the Japan market.

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Barbara Tanabe is owner and founder of Hoʻakea Communications, LLC (a public affairs company). Ms. Tanabe started her career as a news anchor in Washington at KOMO-TV becoming one of the first Asian-American women News Anchors on the West Coast. Ms. Tanabe won an Emmy Award for her piece, “The Fence at Minidoka,” a documentary focused on Japanese-Americans interned in the United States during World War II. In Honolulu, while at KHON-TV, she became the first female news co-anchor of Asian descent on July 29, 1974. She holds an MBA in Communication from the University of Hawai`i. She is a board director for both JASH and Bank of Hawaii.

For more information, please email Lila Frisbie at or call 808-524-4450.
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