Press Releases 2018

One Hundred Participants Selected for “TOMODACHI
Summer 2018 SoftBank Leadership Program”
at University of California, Berkeley High School Students from Tohoku Participate in a Leadership Program in California

June 14, 2018
U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Group Corp.

The TOMODACHI Initiative, operated by the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan), (hereafter, “TOMODACHI”)* and SoftBank Group Corp. (hereafter, “SBG”) are pleased to announce that 100 Japanese high school participants have been selected to participate in the “TOMODACHI Summer 2018 SoftBank Leadership Program.”

Fully funded by SBG, this program will send high school students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, prefectures affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, to the University of California, Berkeley from July 20 to August 9, 2018 for an intensive three-week course focused on leadership development and community service. SBG will provide ongoing engagement with the program curriculum and iPad will be provided to all students for one year, with the aim of helping them learn more effectively during the program and contribute to their communities after their return to Japan.

The 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 become leaders who have roles in revitalizing their local communities and carrying out community service activities in Tohoku after returning home. The participants will explore ways to contribute to their local communities in Tohoku through a problem-solving workshop (Y-PLAN “Youth-Plan, Learn, Act, Now!) and activities with local NPOs. They will also observe the activities of organizations led by American youth, an experience that will incentivize the participants to lead their own community service activities. In addition, these students will deepen their understanding of American culture and society through homestays and exchanges with local American high school students. The participants will attend career seminars hosted by Japanese citizens who reside in and engage in a wide range of industries in the United States, and will have opportunities to consider their life goals.

This program was established in 2012 and is now in its seventh year, with a total of approximately 800 participants thus far. In the past, participants of this program have applied what they learned through Y-PLAN to benefit their home communities in Japan, including creating an internet shopping site that delivers local produce. Other projects include developing a smartphone application to encourage tourists to visit towns in Tohoku to collect original “Yuru-Charas,” mascot characters that promote local products and municipalities, and holding walking tours so younger generations can see the charm and attractiveness of local communities. After returning from the United States, based on what they learned through Y-PLAN, many participants succeeded in implementing their own projects and activities for community service. TOMODACHI and SBG will provide opportunities for participants to apply what they learn in the United States to assist in the revitalization of Tohoku, while fully supporting the participants' efforts to make positive contributions to their communities.

Furthermore, to provide in-depth assistance to the participants' activities, six NPO members from the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima will be selected to participate in the program. These NPO members 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:

  • Tono City, Iwate Prefecture: Yura Asanuma

    Ms. Asanuma is from Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture, which suffered great damage from the tsunami. She aspires to engage in the revitalization of Kamaishi City through advertising, after she saw her grandmother cheer up from a commercial about revitalization after the disaster. Ms. Asanuma donates picture books she herself creates to kindergartens, wanting children born after the earthquake to know about the disaster. She says that, “in order to communicate about the improving condition of Kamaishi City, I would like to learn communication and leadership skills in the United States.”

  • Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture: Tokichiro Abe

    Mr. Abe decided to participate in this program in order to expose himself to various values in the United States. Mr. Abe is from Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture, which suffered great damage from the tsunami. He says that “after returning home, I want to help in the reconstruction of Onagawa through communicating about my beloved town to high schools and during meetings with others, and advertising all the good parts of the town. Through this program, I look forward to being inspired and encouraged by my peers who participate in the program and to take action for my community”.

  • Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture: Kana Sakuma

    Ms. Sakuma decided to participate in this program to learn leadership skills, after seeing her friend, who participated in this program last year, broaden her horizons and gain self-confidence. Ms. Sakuma is from Okuma Town in Fukushima Prefecture, where evacuation continues to this day. She says that “When I returned home temporarily, I was shocked to see the completely changed town. After returning to Japan, I want to start activities that spread information about Okuma Town through storytelling and videos. In order to do this, I would like to learn team-building and other skills in the United States.”

  • *
    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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