Press Releases 2019

100 Participants Selected for TOMODACHI Summer 2019
SoftBank Leadership Program High School Students from Three Prefectures in Tohoku to Participate
in Leadership Program at University of California Berkeley from July

June 4, 2019
U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Group Corp.

The TOMODACHI Initiative, operated by the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan), (“TOMODACHI”)* and SoftBank Group Corp. (“SBG”) are pleased to announce that 100 Japanese high school participants have been selected to participate in the TOMODACHI Summer 2019 SoftBank Leadership Program, for which recruitment began on February 7, 2019.

With generous financial support from SBG, this program will invite high school students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures, which were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, to the University of California, Berkeley from July 19 to August 8, 2019 for an intensive three-week course focused on leadership development and community service. SBG will provide ongoing engagement with the program curriculum and iPads 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 broad cross-cultural perspectives through exposure to a different culture and help the students 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 cooperation with local NPOs. They will also learn about the work of organizations led by American youth, an experience that will motivate the participants to lead their own community service activities. In addition, these students will deepen their understanding of American culture and society through exchanges with local American high school students and young entrepreneurs. The participants will attend career seminars hosted by Japanese citizens who reside 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 eighth year, with a total of approximately 900 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 have included 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 community service projects and activities. TOMODACHI and SBG will provide opportunities for participants to apply what they learn in the United States as they assist in the revitalization of Tohoku, while fully supporting the participants' impromptu 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.

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

  • Yamadamachi Shimohei Gun, Iwate Prefecture: Rio Matsuba

    Ms. Matsuba decided to participate in this program in the hope of gaining the skills needed to identify the challenges facing her hometown and find solutions for them. She is originally from Yamadamachi Shimohei-Gun, Iwate Prefecture, which was devastated by the tsunami. Ms. Matsuba commented, “I would like to work in a job that contributes to the revitalization and promotion of my hometown, Yamadamachi, overseas in the future. Upon returning from the United States, I would like to find volunteers to join me in cleaning up glass on the beaches of Yamadamachi, where entry was restricted after the disaster, to help restore them.”

  • Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture: Mirai Saijyo

    Ms. Saijyo decided to participate in this program because she was inspired by a friend who broadened her perspectives and gained confidence after participating in the program last year. She hopes to learn the same leadership skills as her friend through the program. Ms. Saijyo is from Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, which was severely damaged by the tsunami. Ms. Saijyo said, “After the earthquake, my friends around my age became involved in community service, and I realized that I had not had the same opportunity to get to know my hometown as much. There are so many interesting people in my hometown. I hope to increase the opportunities for high school students to interact with local people and participate in community activities more proactively.”

  • Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture: Daiki Watanabe

    Mr. Watanabe has been fond of fish since his childhood and wishes to contribute to his hometown by working in the fisheries industry in the future. Mr. Watanabe is from Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, where their local agricultural and marine products still suffer from damaged reputations due to misinformed rumors caused by the disaster. Mr. Watanabe commented, “I know how delicious our local seafood and vegetables, called jobanmono, are. Through the program, I would like to learn about leadership in the United States and implement activities to promote the safety of jobanmono.”

[Notes]
  • *
    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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