Bianchi, Anthony

A Councilman Grows in Inuyama

An Update from Brooklyn’s Own Anthony Bianchi

(From the Spring 2004 “Politics” Issue of the JETAA NY Newsletter)

In the Summer 2003 Issue, the Newsletter interviewed JET Alum and Brooklyn native Anthony Bianchi who had just been elected as a city council member in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture, making him the first ever North American to hold an elected position in Japan.

So how is he doing? Many JET Alums wanted to know.  So we asked him to write a letter to let us know what he’s been up to.

May 23, 2004

Dear JETAA NY Newsletter,

How have you been?  It’s hard to believe that I’m already in the second year of my term and that almost a year has passed since we meet last at Brooklyn Borough Hall.  As you might imagine things have been hectic.  I thought I’d write and give you a few random thoughts to let you know how things have been going.

I find that I must really make an effort to keep focused on the things I wanted to accomplish as a council member, while also being responsive to the needs of individual citizens and new challenges and issues that come along.

For example, one of the things I stressed in my campaign was freedom of information and greater openness  johokokai.  The reason for this is that I believe in the wisdom of the citizens, and that collectively the citizens know better than anyone else what is best for the city.  However, no one can make informed decisions without ample information.

I made this the point of my first speech on the council floor.  I suggested broadcasting the council meetings to allow the people greater access to the issues the council was dealing with and how those issues were being dealt with.  There was some resistance to this, and an attempt to block my question, ostensibly on rule of order.  Luckily, this is such a self-evident issue with which most agreed, or at least realized it would be difficult to not agree, and the council meetings are now on the internet for viewing on demand.  (If you’re having a hard time sleeping some night have a look.)

For some reason, many people say that they feel comfortable in coming to our office for consultation.  Since there are twenty other council members who have served longer, this is a great honor and a point of pride for us.  I say us, because my wife Keiko and my sister-in-law Hiromi, who works with us, are as much responsible for creating that environment as I am.  Because of this we have had a chance to address other issues that are of direct concern to citizens, some of which include:  the treatment of students with learning difficulties (LD), the situation of foreign students in the public school system, citizen patrols, methods of garbage collection, and the placement and allocation of street lights.  Pursuing these issues along with my original ideas about freedom of information, the status of NPOs and citizen groups, education, and cultural exchange keep me more than busy.

On top of that there are the fuzzy areas, requests to attend and speak at events or write articles.  I try to keep to things that are at least tangentially related to my job.  I’ve made speeches at the AET midyear conference, Aichi Junior High School, the Gifu Ken Japan American Society, Aichi Good Will Guides (NPO) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. I’ve written more articles and been interviewed in print and TV much more often than I deserve to be, but I feel if I manage these things well it will be good publicity for Inuyama City and help me to accomplish my goals. To be honest this can sometimes be fun.  I’ve meet Ambassador Baker, former Mayor Giuliani when he was in Japan, attended a reception aboard the Blue Ridge when it was in port, and attended the International Women’s film festival.  But, as I mentioned earlier, I try never to confuse these things with the real purpose of being a council member.

There is one good concrete thing that has come out of these social events.  Aboard the Blue Ridge I met the manager of the Misonoza, the kabuki theater in Nagoya.  He is interested in introducing kabuki to people from other cultures.  I was able to help him set up a program with the Prefecture that invites JET program participants to a free seminar about kabuki and a back stage tour and gives discount tickets to those who wish to see a performance.  In the first session 20 AETs participated in the tour and seminar.  In connection with this I meet Kankuro Nakmura, a famous kabuki actor.  He and his troupe will be performing at Lincoln Center this July.  I understand they are going to build a replica of a traditional kabuki theater in the Lincoln Center plaza.  Anyway, if any NYJETAA members are interested I can get you more information.

The council meeting next month will be the first of my second year.  My year of experience has made me aware of two more problems that need to be addressed.  One is the balance between the bureaucracy and the council, and the second is the fiscal responsibility.  I hope to begin to raise these issues at the next council session.

Well, that is what has been going on.  By the way, I am helping a gentleman who is trying to bring a samurai artifacts exhibition to New York, so I may be in the city at the beginning of July.  If so, I hope to see you and any of the NYJETAA members who may have some free time.

Take care,


Thanks Anthony!

To learn more about Anthony Bianchi, you can visit his official website at

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