One Hundred Participants Selected for “TOMODACHI Summer 2016 SoftBank Leadership Program” at University of California, Berkeley

High School Students Affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake Participate in a Leadership Program in California

U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Group Corp.

The TOMODACHI Initiative (TOMODACHI) * and the SoftBank Group Corp. (SoftBank Group) are pleased to announce that 100 Japanese high school participants have been selected to participate in the “TOMODACHI Summer 2016 SoftBank Leadership Program.”

Fully funded by SoftBank Group, this program will send high school students from the disaster-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima to the University of California, Berkeley from July 21 to August 11, 2016 for an intensive three-week course focused on global leadership development and community service. SoftBank Group will provide each student with a complimentary iPad for one year to help them document their experiences and stay connected to their families and friends back in 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 utilize what they learned on the program to contribute to the reconstruction and revitalization of Tohoku and their communities. The participants will learn how they can positively impact their local communities through a problem-solving workshop (Y-PLAN “Youth-Plan, Learn, Act, Now!”). In addition, they will deepen their understanding of American culture and society through homestays, volunteer activities, and interactions with American high school students. They will also assess their life goals and attend career seminars, hosted by Japanese citizens residing in the United States.

Beginning in 2012, this program is in its fifth year with a total of 600 participants. In the past, participants of this program have applied what they learned through Y-PLAN for the benefit of their home communities in Japan, including the establishment of a travel agency to increase tourists and the creation of an internet shopping site that delivers local produce. Other projects include the development and distribution of a newspaper to close the gap between the inland and coastal communities in Tohoku, connecting local famers with consumers, and a cooking class that teaches the importance of food and farm produce. After returning from the United States, the TOMODACHI and SoftBank Group will provide opportunities for participants to apply their skills and knowledge that they gleaned in the United States to help the reconstruction of disaster affected areas, while supporting the participants’ efforts in making a positive contributions to their communities.

Furthermore, to support the students when they are in the United States, six NPO leaders from the three prefectures affected by the disaster are selected to participate in the program. These NPO leaders 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:

  • Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture: Miyuki Kato

    Ms. Kato is a member of a student organization named “COM” in which high school students from Minamisanriku actively support the local community. She has been planning networking events that connect university and high school students. In addition, she is planning on creating areas for children to play in Minamisanriku. Through the program, Ms. Kato would like to, “... improve upon my communication skills and assertiveness so that I can utilize them in my COM activities once I return.”

  • Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture: Aki Sakamoto

    Ms. Sakamoto is from Okuma City in Fukushima Prefecture. She thought that if she participated in a program with 100 students from the three disaster-affected Prefectures in Tohoku, she will be able to discover what she can do for the city of Okuma. Ms. Sakamoto proclaimed, “I would like to make friends while traveling to Berkeley so that together, we can think about what we can do to help the community. I would like to use social media to transmit information about Okuma City.”

  • Kitamoto City, Saitama Prefecture (Originally from Fukushima Prefecture): Minari Kaga

    Ms. Kaga evacuated from Naraha City, Fukushima Prefecture to Kitamoto City, Saitama Prefecture, after the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster. Although the evacuation order was lifted, the population in Naraha City is very low. Ms. Kaga would like to help bolster the area. By participating in the program, Ms. Kaga would like, “To attain the skills to become assertive and bring people together to plan events and revitalize the Naraha City area.”

  • The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. 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

  • iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc.

  • SoftBank, the SoftBank name and logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of SoftBank Group Corp. in Japan and other countries.

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