Press Releases 2019

Now Recruiting for the TOMODACHI Summer 2019
SoftBank Leadership Program One-Hundred Japanese Tohoku High School Students to be Invited to Workshop
at University of California, Berkeley

February 7, 2019
U.S.-Japan Council-(Japan), TOMODACHI Initiative
Softbank Group Corp.

The U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative (hereafter “TOMODACHI”) and SoftBank Group Corp. (hereafter “SBG”) are pleased to announce that the “TOMODACHI Summer 2019 SoftBank Leadership Program” will take place from July 19 to August 9, 2019 (dates are tentative). Recruitment will begin on February 7, 2019. Fully funded by SBG, this program will send 100 Japanese high school students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures, which were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, to the University of California, Berkeley, for an intensive three-week workshop focused on community-based projects and leadership development. The goal is for participants to utilize what they learn from the program to strengthen their local communities in Tohoku and 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 exchanges with American youth, including high school students. Moreover, the program will send six professionals in the non-profit sector from the three prefectures to California to further support and inspire the students. Until the end of March 2020, the program will provide follow-up activities for the participants after their return from the United States, including a project management seminar and support for the local activities of the six professionals.

Launched in 2012, 2019 marks the eighth year of the program. Many 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.

“I was exposed to a new culture when I went to the U.S. at the age of 16 and later studied at University of California, Berkeley. Those experiences changed my life dramatically,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SBG. “Inspired by experiences and lessons gained and the stimulation from living in the U.S., bonds with their peers as well as their ingenuity, our past program participants have definitely achieved tremendous results in their efforts to help resolve issues such as those facing their local communities. I strongly wish that this program serves as a catalyst in helping participants achieve their hopes and dreams by encouraging them to take on new challenges and assisting them in gaining leadership skills and a broad perspective as internationally-minded individuals.”

TOMODACHI Summer 2019 SoftBank Leadership Program Information

Application Criteria High school students from Iwate, Miyagi or Fukushima Prefecture
Number of Participants 100 students (tentative)
Program Location University of California, Berkeley in the United States and other locations
Program Dates July 19, 2019 to August 9, 2019 (tentative)
Recruitment Period February 7, 2019 to March 31, 2019
Participant Selection End of May 2019 (tentative)
For more information on the program, please go to http://www.laurasian.org/tomosoft/ (Japanese)

Link to the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program's website on SBG's webpage:
https://group.softbank/en/corp/csr/tomodachi/

Comments from 2018 Program Participants on Their Activities After Returning from the Program

  • Ms. Mayuko Yamamoto (Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture)

    Ms. Yamamoto aspires to make her town full of life and community interaction, as it used to be. Together with local residents, she is creating a plan to renovate local shopping streets. Ms. Yamamoto commented, “Before I participated in the program, I had never even thought of revitalizing my community. However, after joining the program, I started to think that youth have their own role to play. I heard from local residents that Kamaishi's shopping streets used to bring many people, even from those outside of the town, together, which were cherished connections. I thought it was a shame to lose such culture and value bonds between people, so I decided to work on a project to renovate a shopping street. Before departing for the United States, I was worried I would not be able to keep up with the program, but the program's team activities enabled me to exchange opinions with my teammates, and I was able to realize perspectives I could not have thought of by myself. I am determined to give back to my community by utilizing my strengths.”

  • Mr. Masayasu Kakishita (Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture)

    Mr. Kakishita wants to rejuvenate his community's bond using his own strengths, and is therefore planning sports events in which everyone from adults to children can participate. Mr. Kakishita commented, “Before I went to the United States, I was very shy, and had always thought that ‘I could leave things to other people.’ Joining the program changed my way of thinking 180 degrees, and made me want to participate and do everything with the utmost effort. Upon returning, I came to realize that many young people in my community feel the same way I used to feel. This made me want to create places where people can easily and casually interact with one another. Utilizing my soccer skills, I am organizing events where local adults and children can enjoy soccer together to build connections in the community. I want to continue further contributing to my community while making the most of my strengths.”

  • Ms. Senna Abe (Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture)

    “It is such a waste!” Ms. Abe lamented the fact that when there are no festivals being held at the temples and shrines in her town of Koriyama, the spaces become empty and absent of people. Therefore, she is working on a plan to feature series of stamps at spots that everyone, including children, can collect and enjoy. Ms. Abe commented, “Our local communities have many temples and shrines with profound histories. Though festivals are often held, these places are not otherwise used and their value is not fully conveyed. Therefore, I developed an action plan called “Goshuin Rally,” to enable local children to visit these places while gathering the red-seal stamps of the temples and shrines along the way. To start, I visited the local temples and shrines, created a guide map, and distributed the printed maps to children. Juggling my action plan with school, club activities, and other commitments can be challenging, but I will continue my action plan because I will never forget the lesson I learned in the United States: ‘I can overcome any obstacle in order to achieve what I want to do.’ ”

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 www.tomodachi.org

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