The Government of Japan Announces Strengthening of Partnership and the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges Renew Their Support for Tohoku
TOMODACHI Holds a Reception, “Remembering 3.11—Five Years Later”
March 4, 2016 – The TOMODACHI Initiative (TOMODACHI), administered by the U.S.-Japan Council, held a reception, “Remembering 3.11—Five Years Later” to announce further support for the rebuilding of Tohoku and the fostering of next generation of young leaders.
The event featured a signing ceremony for the “Memorandum of Cooperation on Enhanced Partnership in Support of the TOMODACHI Initiative Between the Government of Japan and the U.S.-Japan Council” by Miki Yamada, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) representing the Government of Japan and Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the U.S.-Japan Council, embodying the groundbreaking public-private partnership. The Memorandum formally established the relationship between TOMODACHI and MOFA—a relationship which has already existed unofficially for several years. In this connection, MOFA appointed Ambassador Masaharu Kohno as the Government of Japan’s Senior Advisor to the TOMODACHI Initiative.
Formalization of the partnership followed the announcement at the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference in November 2015 where His Excellency Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoji Muto declared that the Japanese Government “will bolster its cooperative relationship with the TOMODACHI Initiative and will support this public-private partnership that fosters next generation leaders who are invested in the U.S.-Japan relationship.”
Prior to the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Cooperation, a roundtable discussion was held with TOMODACHI alumni from Tohoku, representatives from the Government of Japan and the U.S. Embassy, and President Irene Hirano Inouye. The topic ranged from the progress made for rebuilding Tohoku, the activities and impact of TOMODACHI to date, and the roles of the young people from Tohoku and beyond who will become future leaders.
Since its establishment in 2012, there have been over 4,600 TOMODACHI program participants which have now become alumni, with over 2,600 from the Tohoku region.
Along with this announcement, the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges announced the renewal of support, which will continue to provide exchanges between the United States and Japan while investing in the next generation of young people in Tohoku. This Fund was established in 2012 through generous contributions from Toyota Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Hitachi, Ltd.
During the TOMODACHI Reception, which began with a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims from the Great East Japan Earthquake, Charge d’Affairs Jason P. Hyland stated, “thank you to Irene Hirano Inouye and the U.S.-Japan Council for being such a strong partner in this Initiative, and for all of the contributors who have done so much on behalf of the young people of our two countries through these programs.”
Miki Yamada, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs said, “in these times of globalization, it is the next generation leaders with global perspectives that will support Tohoku and the U.S.-Japan relationship. In this vein, TOMODACHI is an invaluable initiative. Under the “TOMODACHI Partnership”, the Government of Japan will proactively further its support for TOMODACHI. By cultivating future leaders, recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and contributing to the strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.”*
Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the U.S.-Japan Council, expressed her appreciation to the guests who have been involved with TOMODACHI. “None of this would have been possible without our many sponsors, supporters and partners. Thank you for the generous financial support, organizing events in partnership with us, and supporting the next generation of leaders. A special thank you to our partner from the beginning, the U.S. Embassy. This significant public-private partnership would not have been possible without the vision of Ambassador John Roos and with the continued support of Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and their staff who have been a partner every step along the way. We are especially honored to welcome Ambassador Masaharu Kohno as our new Senior Advisor for TOMODACHI.”
Fumiya Otani, a TOMODACHI alumni from Iwate Prefecture in Tohoku, said the following, “This faith that we can overcome anything has been inspired by the TOMODACHI Initiative and its countless supporters. The Initiative emphasizes hard work, empathy and the importance of making a difference through volunteerism and selfless acts of kindness. TOMODACHI has shown us the amazing things we can accomplish if we work together.”
To conclude the evening program, Caitie McDermott, representing the TOMODACHI alumni from America, recited a poem she created regarding the strength and resilience of the people from Tohoku.
*Note: This is not an official translation of the speech given by Miki Yamada, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.
*Photo taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs