Press Releases 2015

One Hundred Participants Selected for
“TOMODACHI Summer 2015 SoftBank Leadership Program”
at University of California, Berkeley

May 28, 2015
TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Corp.

The TOMODACHI Initiative and SoftBank are pleased to announce that 100 Japanese high school participants have been selected to participate in the “TOMODACHI Summer 2015 SoftBank Leadership Program.”

This program, fully funded by SoftBank, will send high school students from the disaster-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima to the University of California, Berkeley from July 21 to August 12, 2015 for an intensive three-week course focused on global leadership development and community service. SoftBank will provide each student with an iPad to help them document their experiences and stay connected to their families and friends back in Japan.

Beginning in 2012, this program is in its fourth year. The TOMODACHI Summer 2015 SoftBank Leadership Program is designed to provide participants with a broad cross-cultural perspective through exposure to a different culture. The goal is for the students to utilize what they learned on the program to contribute to the reconstruction and revitalization of Tohoku and their communities.

The participants will learn how they can positively impact their local communities through a problem-solving workshop (Y-PLAN “Youth–Plan, Learn, Act, Now!”). In addition, they will deepen their understanding of American culture and society through homestays, volunteer activities, and interactions with American high school students. They will also assess their life goals and attend career seminars, hosted by Japanese citizens residing in the United States.

In the past, participants of this program have applied what they learned through Y-PLAN for the benefit of their home communities in Japan, including the establishment of a travel agency to increase tourists and the creation of an internet shopping site that delivers local produce. TOMODACHI and SoftBank will provide opportunities for participants to apply their skills and knowledge that they gleaned in the United States to help the reconstruction of disaster affected areas, while supporting the participants' efforts in making a positive contributions to their communities.

Furthermore, to support the students when they are in the United States, six NPO leaders from the three prefectures affected by the disaster are selected to participate in the program. These NPO leaders will also help the students with their community building projects after returning to Japan.

Below are comments from students who were selected to participate in this year's program:

  • Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture: Mr. Wataru Kudo

    Mr. Kudo has lost family members from the Great East Japan Earthquake tsunami. He has also seen people who still live in temporary housing and people who have lost hope because of the disaster. He thought, “I have to make a difference. I want to do something only I can do for these people living in temporary housing to cheer them up.” Mr. Kudo's peer who participated in the TOMODACHI Summer 2014 SoftBank Leadership Program last year, is actively making efforts for the community by outsourcing updated information towards its recovery. He was greatly inspired by this friend, which is why he decided to apply to this program. “I want gain leadership skills and strategies for the recovery of the local community,” Mr. Kudo said.

  • Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture: Ms. Mana Sasaki

    While attending a high school at Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, Ms. Sasaki is a part of ISHINOMAKI 2.0, which aims to create a new Ishinomaki. Ms. Sasaki participated in a local community event that one of the former participants of this program organized. The former participant shared, “I realized the greatness of my community through the program,” which moved Ms. Sasaki to apply. She plans to hold a fashion event this fall and said, “I want to explore the challenges and strengths Ishinomaki holds and derive that to an event to make the community brighter. I want to create a place where young locals can find their dreams.”

  • Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture: Mr. Bishal Katari

    Mr. Katari moved to Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture from Nepal five months prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake. At that time, he could not speak Japanese and he lived in a dilapidated restaurant that was owned by his parents. Also since the great earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, his close relatives are currently living in tents. He hopes to contribute to Fukushima and to have a career supporting developing countries in the future, and is currently eagerly participating in volunteer activities. Mr. Katari remarks, “I want to strengthen my communication skills and acquire ways to benefit the community in order to achieve my dream goal.”

About the TOMODACHI Initiative

The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Born out of support for Japan's recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, TOMODACHI invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs.

The TOMODACHI Initiative seeks to foster a “TOMODACHI Generation” of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, appreciate each other's countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world. For more information please visit:

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