504 Sadami (Chris) Wada

Sadami (Chris) Wada (ICU Class of 1960, 4th graduating class)

Chris Wada served as one of the first Japanese lobbyists in the United States and actively engaged in and positively influenced the U.S.-Japan relationship. On behalf of Mr. Akio Morita of Sony, Chris played a key role advocating for the passage of legislation that brought a significant positive impact to Japanese industry at the time. Specifically, he lobbied for the enactment and modification of the “Unitary Tax”* law and was also involved in helping to redefine the interpretation of copyright law related to video formatting. Through his charm and grass-roots activities, Chris became one of the most well known Japanese in Washington DC and a dear friend to many U.S. politicians, including former Vice President Al Gore, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, and former U.S. ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley, just to name a few. He even earned the trust of the gate guard at the U.S. Congress, who always smiled and always gave Chris a free pass whenever he entered the building.

No one was as passionate as Chris when he talked about the love and virtue he learned from a liberal arts education at ICU. Through his course of studies, Chris realized the beauty in the universe and cherished it throughout his life. He appreciated the professors from whom he learned during the early days of ICU. His passion, stories and love were so contagious that they spread beyond national, racial and generational boundaries and touched so many hearts. To this date, this love still lives in our heart as joyful memories of Chris Wada.

After graduating from ICU in 1960, Chris first joined Riken Optical Co., Ltd. in Japan. After a while, however, he accepted an invitation from the Department of State for a position as a simultaneous interpreter and took a leave of absence from the firm and decided to go to the U.S. Shortly after, he married Mrs. Reiko Wada who was a JAL international flight attendant at the time, and often flew between the U.S. and Japan. One day Chris met with Mr. Akio Morita and he was hired right away at Sony Corporation of America. While working his way up in the organization, Chris completed his MBA from New York University. Later, he was appointed as a Senior Vice President of Sony America in Government Affairs and was designated as Sony's in-house lobbyist. That was the beginning of his experience in Washington DC which turned out to be a huge success for the company as well as for the U.S.-Japan relationships.

Chris was known as a man of character with an irresistible charm. Unprecedented as a Japanese businessman, Chris somehow got himself involved in the film “Strawberry Road” in 1991 (the original book written by Yoshimi Ishikawa) and played a small role as a Japanese salesman (he quickly says “it’s a Sony!” in the film), co-starring with movie stars such as Ken Matsudaira. The encounter with Yoshimi Ishikawa led Chris to attempt to run for Upper House elections in Japan in 1995.

Chris also served as a president of the ICU Alumni Association of the Americas from 1992 to 1996. Under his leadership as a president of ICU-AAA, a great number of events were organized including a lecture series featuring alumni from various fields. Chris was often asked to lecture, and he shared his extraordinary stories with the alumni members in NY. In 1999, a joint fundraising campaign for Kosovo was initiated by Chris and the money raised from the campaign was handed over to Ms. Sadako Ogata in person who was the head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at that time. Chris also continued to contribute to the U.S.-Japan relationship after his retirement in 1995. Based upon a recommendation of Mr. Junji Kitadai (ICU graduate of 1957) who is a well-known expert on John Manjiro, Chris joined The Manjiro Society (Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society) and in 1996, he was appointed as a board member together with Dr. Michael Amacost, then president of the Brookings Institution in Washington DC and former Ambassador to Japan as well as a former ICU professor.

Later in his life, he devoted his passion for education and care for young people, and taught lectures such as “winning business diplomacy” at International University of Japan in Niigata as well as at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing as a special guest speaker. Chris suddenly passed away from a heart attack in Connecticut while he was fast-walking in the morning of June 29, 1999. Chris always loved ICU, alumni, and their families. Memories of Chris Wada will be always remembered by all of us.

* Sony History Chapter 20 http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/CorporateInfo/History/SonyHistory/2-20.html Nikkei Business 7/12/1999 article by Koichiro Sakai, then New York Editor in Chief (ICU graduate of 1981)
*Names appear in alphabetical order
*The numbers indicate graduating class
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  • 1 anonymous

Sadami (Chris) Wada 和田貞實
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