Now Recruiting for the TOMODACHI Summer 2020 SoftBank Leadership Program

One-Hundred Japanese Tohoku High School Students to be Invited to Workshop at University of California, Berkeley

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 2020 SoftBank Leadership Program” will take place from July 17 to August 8, 2020 (dates are tentative). Recruitment will begin on January 30, 2020.


Fully funded by SBG, this program will send 100 Japanese high school students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures, all where 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 program aims to help participants utilize what they learn through the program to strengthen their local communities in Tohoku and become active leaders after returning to Japan. The program is expected to continue through 2021.


During the program, the students will explore ways to contribute to their local communities and be exposed to projects led by young people in the United States, inspiring them to take action. Meanwhile, they will gain a fuller understanding of American society and culture through exchanges with American youth, including high school students.


Moreover, the program will send six professionals from the non-profit sector in the three prefectures to California to offer further support and inspire the students. Through the end of March 2021, SBG will provide follow-up activities for the participants after their return from the United States, including a project management seminar and support for local activities from the six professionals.


This program was established in 2012 and is now in its ninth year, with a total of approximately 1,000 participants thus far. Many past program participants are currently actively applying what they learned from the program to improve their home communities.


The students have already begun to influence business and society through their actions. For example, one past participant has conducted a workshop in collaboration with a leading Japanese confectionary company, where participants created new product ideas using goods produced in Fukushima. Other projects that have been proven contributors to the revitalization of communities include an event where farmers can interact with consumers by bringing vegetables they have grown, and a fashion show that utilizes locally-owned designated cultural properties.


“I was exposed to a new culture when I went to the U.S. at the age of 16 and then when I later studied at the University of California, Berkeley. Those experiences transformed my life,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SBG. “Inspired by the experiences, lessons, and motivation they gained in the United States, as well as bonds with their peers, our past program participants have used their creativity to address the challenges facing their communities. I strongly hope that this program serves as a catalyst to help participants gain the mindsets needed take on challenges and leadership, broaden their perspectives as global citizens, and realize their hopes and dreams.”

TOMODACHI Summer 2020 SoftBank Leadership Program Information

Application CriteriaHigh school students from Iwate, Miyagi or Fukushima Prefecture
Number of Participants100 students (tentative)
Program LocationUniversity of California, Berkeley in the United States and other locations
Program Dates

July 17, 2020 to August 8, 2020 (tentative)

  • The program will support the participants' local activities even after their return from the United States through the end of March 2021.

Recruitment PeriodJanuary 30, 2020 to March 29, 2020
Participant SelectionEnd of May 2020 (tentative)

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


Link to the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program's website on SBG's webpage


Comments from 2019 Program Participants on Their Activities After Returning from the Program

  • Ms. Yukina Matsuda (Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture)

    Ms. Matsuda says she gained much by spending time with different highly motivated people who inspire her, and that she has kept in touch with other participants. Ms. Matsuda commented, “Before joining the program, I used to think taking initiative was required to be a leader and lead a team. However, I came to realize it's not fun to do everything by myself. I learned it's important to take action by bringing everyone's ideas together and utilizing the strengths of each person. I have learned a great deal working in collaboration with my cohort. I am currently working on a project to paint images on braille blocks. I aspire to make this project a reality with support from not only my program peers, but also my schoolmates and volleyball club teammates, my family, and most of all, people in my community.”

  • Ms. Riko Goto (Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture)

    Ms. Goto spent three weeks in the United States during the summer of her final year of high school, with strong aspirations to do something to support Tohoku and help make it a little brighter, despite others' recommendations to focus on studying for university entrance exams. Ms. Goto commented, “By going to the United States, I realized my community was still in the process of reconstruction compared to other areas. To bring back the cheerful atmosphere of Ishinomaki we had before the earthquake, I am developing a cycling tour project in which young people can take part. By joining the program, I learned the importance of taking action while bringing together various voices. Before, I used to just focus on speaking up and asserting my own ideas. In Ishinomaki, I have many friends and people in the community on whom I can rely. I want to implement my action plan with support from these individuals.”

  • Mr. Koki Yoshida (Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture)

    Mr. Yoshida is currently in his second year of high school. In his hometown of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, he developed and now manages a “Science Café,” where participants can deepen their understanding of energy challenges. Before taking part in the program, he had always thought that he would take action once he became a college student. However, he says, “I started to think that a high school student can also act, after I gained confidence through the program and meeting with and listening to various people. When I was temporarily evacuated from my prefecture, I realized there are many biases against Fukushima, like those regarding nuclear power plants, and its damaged reputation due to uninformed rumors. Even if only slightly, I am determined to lessen such biases towards Fukushima by bringing more and more people to the Science Café.”

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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