TOMODACHI Summer 2012 Celebration
September 22, 2012 – The TOMODACHI Initiative celebrated a successful summer of youth exchange programs and recognized the generosity of Japanese and American sponsors at a special event with TOMODACHI students and supporters at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Tokyo.
The “TOMODACHI Summer 2012 Celebration” highlighted the experiences of hundreds of Japanese students from the Tohoku region who were able to participate in TOMODACHI programs in the areas of education, cultural exchange, and entrepreneurship and leadership development. A number of students shared stories of their time in the United States.
Shiho Abe, a TOMODACHI student from Ishinomaki-shi in Miyagi Prefecture, related the harrowing account of her rescue from the March 11 tsunami and spoke about how TOMODACHI has changed her life: “I was able to discover my dream by meeting new people … people who are bridges between Japan and the United States. I deeply felt the courage and the need to open the door of opportunity right before my eyes. I would like to convey my experience to people in the disaster areas and help with the recovery.”
Hikaru Suzuki, a native of Fukushima Prefecture, talked about how her two-week home stay in Salem, Oregon helped her overcome the emotional hardship brought on by the nuclear situation in Fukushima: “When I found out about this program, it had been a year after the disaster, but the discrimination and prejudice towards Fukushima due to radiation had not vanished. Honestly, that has not changed even now. However, the smiles of the host family that took me in, the other students from different prefectures that participated in the program, and the people I met during the homestay program helped to alleviate this anxiety and distress, and gave me courage and confidence.”
Foreign Minister of Japan Koichiro Gemba, who attended the event, gave a glowing commendation of the TOMODACHI participants: “Speaking with the students who participated in the TOMODACHI programs this summer, I was impressed by the energy in their gaze and by the obvious personal growth they achieved during their time in the U.S. In the future, I am sure they will overcome the hardships brought by the disasters with a positive attitude and use the experience they gained during their participation in TOMODACHI programs to support the Japan – U.S. alliance.”
At the event, TOMODACHI recognized many corporations for their invaluable support of these exchanges, and announced new commitments totaling more than USD $4 million. Specifically, Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Ltd. committed to doubling its contribution to TOMODACHI for study abroad and exchange programs for Summer 2013 and Summer 2014. TOMODACHI also enthusiastically welcomed two new Strategic Partners: Mitsui & Co., Ltd., which pledged to support next-generation leaders in Tohoku and throughout Japan in cooperation with their counterparts in the United States; and Aflac International, Inc. which committed to an exchange program focused on training the next generation of pediatric cancer doctors. In addition, TOMODACHI announced new support from additional American companies at the Sponsor level, including Chevron, Goldman Sachs and Salesforce.com, Inc. The TOMODACHI Initiative also greatly appreciates the support from our previously-announced Strategic Partners, including: Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Ltd., GE, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Players Association, Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., SOFTBANK CORP., Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, and Toyota Motor Corporation.
The evening ended with a stirring performance of songs in English and Japanese from American musician Alex York. Alex’s music is rapidly gaining prominence in Japan, cementing his role as a young American deeply invested in the future of the U.S.-Japan relationship and as a leader of the “TOMODACHI generation,” which seeks to work together to build a brighter future for the world while strengthening the deep friendship between Japan and the United States.