Press Releases 2018

Now Recruiting for the TOMODACHI Summer 2018 SoftBank Leadership Program Japanese Tohoku High School Students to Participate in Workshop
at University of California, Berkeley

January 31, 2018
U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Group Corp.

January 31, 2018 — The TOMODACHI Initiative (hereafter “TOMODACHI”) and SoftBank Group Corp. (hereafter “SBG”) are pleased to announce that the “TOMODACHI Summer 2018 SoftBank Leadership Program” will take place from July 20, 2018 to August 9, 2018 (dates are tentative). Recruitment begins on January 31, 2018. 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-based projects and leadership development. The goal is for the participants to utilize what they learned from 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 fuller understanding of American society and culture through homestays and exchanges with American high school students. This program will also send six professionals from the non-profit sector and educators from the three prefectures to provide additional support for the students' activities following their return.

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

“Visiting the United States 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 seventh year, has seen participants from over the past six years take advantage of their experiences in the United States. They have implemented all kinds of new activities in their local communities with great results. I sincerely hope that this program will be the first step that enables high school students to follow their dreams.”

TOMODACHI Summer 2018 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 20, 2018 to August 9, 2018 (tentative)
Recruitment Period January 31, 2018 to April 1, 2018
Participant Selection End of May 2018 (tentative)

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

Comments from 2017 Program Participants on Activities after Returning from the Program

  • Ms. Yuki Uchikoshi (Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture)

    Ms. Uchikoshi wishes to brighten her local community by painting the neighborhood's bus stop benches with her fellow high school and university students. Ms. Uchikoshi commented, “First, we will start with the bus stop benches that are close to the temporary housing complexes. As we are still rebuilding the cities' coastal areas, a lot of construction is still underway. I hope that painting the bus stop benches will not only lift the spirits of bus riders, but also for those passing by in cars and those working at the construction sites. We are now proposing our ideas to the bus companies. The idea stemmed from my learnings in the United States. It would be a lie if I said at first I had no concerns going to the United States, but once I got there, every day of the program was a moving experience because my friends always gave me new perspectives and advice. I am determined to execute my plan and to encourage more people to join the initiative by utilizing the leadership skills I've developed.”

  • Ms. Ayaka Ikeda (Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture)

    Ms. Ikeda aspires to increase fans of Ishinomaki by conducting tours that introduce shops in the Tachimachi district. Ms. Ikeda commented, “I started the tour because I wanted more people to learn about Ishinomaki. As part of the tours, high school students walk together around the Tachimachi district in Ishinomaki to introduce people to the shops in the district. I have learned so much from interacting with the shop owners. But most importantly, I came to adore the district more than before, and I want other people to have similar experiences by coming and learning about the area. Continuing the project requires me to talk to the shop owners after school or on the weekends. Therefore, I am maximizing my time between classes and my other free time to keep up with my studies at school. My goal is to bring as many people as possible to the district on our tours.”

  • Mr. Yusuke Muranaka (Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture)

    Concerned about the lack of activity on the local shopping streets, Mr. Muranaka started a project to revitalize the streets by promoting local products. Mr. Muranaka commented, “While I was on the program in the United States, my friends and I created a plan to rejuvenate the shopping streets. When we came back, two friends and I went to take a walk on the streets. We witnessed that there were very few young people on the streets and that atmosphere was not uplifting. We are currently proposing plans to collaborate with Koriyama's local product makers, because we want to make the shopping streets a place that people, especially youth, will love and visit often. My strengths are organizing information and creating presentation materials. I gained confidence about my presentation skills after working with a team on this project and successfully presented our ideas during the program in the United States. I may be the youngest member of my team, but I am determined to use my strengths to give back to the community where I was born and grew up in.”

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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