Press Releases 2017

Now Recruiting for the TOMODACHI Summer 2017 SoftBank Leadership Program Japanese Tohoku High School Students Participate in a Workshop
at University of California, Berkeley

February 1, 2017
TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Group Corp.

February 1, 2017 — The TOMODACHI Initiative (hereafter “TOMODACHI”) and SoftBank Group Corp. (hereafter “SBG”) are pleased to announce the “TOMODACHI Summer 2017 SoftBank Leadership Program” that will take place from July 21, 2017 to August 10, 2017 (dates are tentative). Recruitment begins from February 1, 2017. Fully funded by SBG, this program will send 100 Japanese high school students from the disaster affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima to the University of California, Berkeley for an intensive three-week workshop focused on community service and leadership development. The goal is for the participants to utilize what they learned on the program to strengthen their local communities in Tohoku and to become active leaders after returning to Japan.

During this program the students will explore methods for contributing to their local communities and be exposed to projects led by young people in the United States to inspire them to take action, while gaining a further understanding of American society and culture through homestays and exchanges with American high school students. In addition, this program will send six NPO professionals and educators from the three prefectures to enable additional support for the students' activities following their return.

Launched in 2012, this is the sixth year of this program. Many of the past program participants are currently actively applying what they learned on the program to improve their home communities. TOMODACHI and SBG plan on continuing this program until 2021.

“Visiting the U.S. when I was 16 years old, learning a new culture and then studying at University of California, Berkeley, changed my life completely; it led me to believe you can change your future by challenging yourself to do new things,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SBG. “This program, now in its sixth year, has seen participants over the past five years take advantage of their experiences gained in the U.S. They are starting all kinds of new activities in their local communities with great results. I strongly hope that this program will be the first step that enables even more high school students to follow their dreams.”

TOMODACHI Summer 2017 SoftBank Leadership Program Information

Application Criteria High school students from Iwate, Miyagi or Fukushima prefecture
Number of Participants 100 students
Program LocationUniversity of California, Berkeley in the United States and other locations
Program Dates July 21, 2017 to August 10, 2017 (tentative)
Recruitment Period February 1, 2017 to April 2, 2017
Participant Selection End of May, 2017 (tentative)

For more information on the program, please go to: (Japanese)

Comments from 2016 Program Participants on Activities after Returning from the Program

  • Mr. Kakeru Yamamoto (Morioka, Iwate Prefecture)

    After participating in the program, Mr. Yamamoto, who was concerned about the local aging population, wanted to create a way in which the elderly and young people can support each other. "For example, I am considering a situation in which the elderly and young people live together. The young person can live within a reasonable budget and in turn, would support the life of an elderly person. As the first step, with the support of the neighborhood association chairman and other local community leaders, I visited the homes of local elderly people after school and on the weekends to have conversations with them, help with housework, and so on. While participating in the program, I realized that I am good at noticing things that other people may not be aware of, and learned that such support is also a type of leadership style. Although I am currently working alone, I would like to get others involved and make use of my own leadership style and expand my activities,” said Mr. Yamamoto.

  • Ms. Miki Hiratsuka (Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture)

    Ms. Hiratsuka wanted to solve the issue of the massive disposal of “hoya” (sea squirt) that is harvested in her hometown, Onagawa. She has been working to increase consumption of “hoya” by selling broiled hoya with her friend. She remarked, “After the disaster, I moved away from Onagawa town. I did not want to remember the earthquake and disaster, and did not do anything to support the local community. However, after participating in this program, I realized that I need to confront what is happening before my eyes and to do something. Moving forward, not only will I attempt to increase the consumption of ‘hoya’ but would also like to actively spread the word about ‘hoya’ from Onagawa throughout the country in the future. Although it is difficult to balance schoolwork and club activities, now that I have started these local activities, I intend to work on it wholeheartedly.”

  • Ms. Nanako Inukai (Fukushima, Fukushima Prefecture)

    Ms. Inukai, who focused on the issue of low sales of fruits and vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture due to reputational damage associated with the disaster location, worked on developing a type of ramen that used vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture together with friends that participated in the program. Her goal is to offer the ramen at local, well-known ramen shops. Ms. Inukai explained, “During this program, I learned that it is necessary to research my own information without being swayed by what I heard around me. After returning from the program, I went to multiple towns within the prefecture to study and research vegetables in the area. If the people within the prefecture do not eat our vegetables, then the people outside of the prefecture will not as well. What we need to do is to encourage the local people in Fukushima to eat vegetables from our prefecture through our ramen. This should start a chain reaction, encouraging people outside of the prefecture to eat our vegetables as well."

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, with support from the Government of Japan. 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 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. Visit us at

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