TOMODACHI Regional Framework Events in 2022
First Alumni Gathering in Washington D.C.
On July 22nd, the very first Alumni Gathering took place in Washington D.C., organized by Kekoa Erber, the Regional Representative of the Washington D.C. and Vicinity Region. He commented, “It was fantastic to connect with and meet fellow alumni and hear about future events everyone is interested in.” Participants got together at Mission Dupont in Dupont Circle to connect with alumni across different TOMODACHI programs and years, representing TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference and TOMODACHI Dallas-Sendai Young Ambassador’s Program.
Eel Party in the Kansai-Chugoku-Shikoku Region
On August 6th, De’Jia Long-Hillie and Yumiko Kurii, the Regional Representatives of the Kansai-Chugoku-Shikoku Region, organized the eel party to boost regional activities in the region. They got together in a restaurant in Kobe named Kaneu, which is owned and managed by Reiko Ayabe’s husband. Reiko is an alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program (TMWLP) 2018-2019. At the party, seven participants enjoyed the girl talk and the delicious dishes. Akiko Yoshioka, also an alumna of TMWLP 2018-2019, said that since the pandemic began, it was the first time she ate with friends, and it was great fun. It was a great opportunity to witness that new friendships are growing after the meet-up.
Tea Party in the Okinawa Region
On August 15th, Haruna Aka, the Regional Representative of the Okinawa Region, got together for the TOMODACHI Tea Party. TOMODACHI alumni Chitose Uehara and Makiko Nagamine joined and enjoyed sharing their personal updates and interests for the upcoming regional events. Chitose mentioned, “It is important to get together and exchange information as we are all going through difficult times due to the pandemic.” Aya Toyama, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General Naha, also joined and discussed the future event in collaboration with the Consulate. Haruna is excited about this upcoming opportunity and looks forward to engaging many alumni in the Okinawa Region.
Potomac River Clean-up in the Washington D.C. and Vicinity Region
On August 20th, Kekoa Erber, the Regional Representative of the Washington D.C. and Vicinity Region, gathered TOMODACHI alumni to participate in the cleaning up at Columbia Island. This event was hosted by Potomac Conservancy, an advocacy group whose mission is to clean the water of the Potomac River and make outdoor experiences accessible to everyone. Monica Weller, an alumna of TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership program and Janrose Samson from the TOMODACHI Dallas-Sendai Young Ambassador’s Program joined Kekoa and each filled a bag with trash. They joined over 40 other volunteers from around the region. Kekoa commented, “it was a wonderful experience cleaning up green space in the DC region and joining so many other people committed to keeping the Potomac clean.”
First Alumni Meet-up in the California and Vicinity Region
On August 20th, Juan Hernandez, the Regional Representative of the California and Vicinity Region organized the very first alumni gathering in California. The gathering took place at the well-known European-style Urth Caffe in SoCal for alumni to enjoy a variety of food and drink options. Chloe Tachibana, an alumna of the TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference in 2018, joined and commented that “it’s nice TOMODACHI is reconnecting alumni in the region,” and she hopes to see more similar events. Juan also commented that reconnecting with a familiar face was rewarding and showed his motivation to organize another social gathering going forward to cultivate the alumni community and engage more alumni.
Bon-Odori Gathering in the Kansai-Chugoku-Shikoku Region
On August 27th, De’Jia Long-Hillie, the Regional Representative of the Kansai-Chugoku-Shikoku Region attended the Bon-Odori in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture with the TOMODACHI alumni in the region. Tina Inoue, an alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program joined and they enjoyed Japanese culture together. Tina previously volunteered at the Bon-Odori during university before the COVID-19 pandemic and was delighted to return for the first time in three years with fellow TOMODACHI alumni. De’Jia commented, “This was my first time participating in a Bon-Odori and it was a lot of fun! Tina encouraged me to join the dance circle and I am glad I gave it a try”.
Importance of Kataribe (Storytellers) in the Tohoku-Hokkaido Region
On September 19th, Ryota Konno and Yumiko Miura, the Regional Representatives of the Tohoku-Hokkaido Region, organized an online event for TOMODACHI alumni titled “The 1st YURUTSUNA Tohoku & Hokkaido: Storytelling from Miyagi”. Ryota and Yumiko coin the word YURUTSUNA to encourage regional alumni to reconnect as it originated from Yuruku tsunagarou in Japanese, meaning “let’s relax and connect” in English.
Ayaka Obata, a TOMODACHI-MUFG International Exchange Program alumna who is a professional kataribe (storyteller), joined as a guest speaker. The participants listened to the story of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011. Ayaka presented her personal experience, emotion, and her life after the tsunami as a person who started storytelling at the age of 16. Nanako Suzuki, an alumna of the TOMODACHI Lawson High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Tohoku, commented, “It was my first time joining an event as TOMODACHI alumni. I’m glad that I was able to participate today since it was inspiring to hear stories from people from various ages and professions whom I usually couldn’t get to connect with.”
First in-person gathering in Okinawa for the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program alumni
On September 22nd, the alumni gathering for the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program took place in Naha, Okinawa. It was the first in-person gathering for those who participated in the 2019 program since the program shifted to online due to the widespread pandemic. 15 alumni participated and were welcomed by Nicole Lima Nucelli, Public Affairs Officer from the U.S. Consulate General in Naha. They enjoyed exchanging their recent personal and professional updates. Haruna Aka, the Regional Representative of the Okinawa Region, presented her engagement with the region and encouraged the alumni to join her future events to strengthen the regional community. She commented, “I have found that it makes me very happy to see everyone looking so happy and content. There are so many wonderful people to connect with alumni. I believe that the alumni are able to accept, inspire and enhance each other. I appreciate being here as one of the Regional Representatives.”
Dessert & Discussion: Casual Gathering in the Kansai Region
On September 23, De’Jia Long-Hillie, the Regional Representative of the Kansai Region, organized an online event titled “Dessert & Discussion: Fall Favorites!” It took place on the day of the Autumnal Equinox in Japan to enjoy discussing the best things about fall in Japan and the United States with fellow alumni while eating their favorite dessert. Each participant prepared their favorite dessert and explained what it was.
Kazumi Fujiwara, an alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program (TMWLP) shared a picture from a trip she took to the mountains during peak Koyo (Autumn leaves). During the discussion session, Tina Inoue, also an alumna of the TMWLP, shared that she attended a traditional moon viewing (Tsukimi) ceremony with her friends at Himeji Castle. She said although it is an uncommon event today, it may become a new tradition for her since it was so fun.
De’Jia shared a picture of several pumpkins with faces drawn on them by her and her family members for Halloween and concluded the event.
TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program First Alumni Gathering in Hokkaido
On October 14th, the U.S. Consulate Sapporo hosted a gathering for the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program alumni in Hokkaido. Beau Miller, Consul for Public Diplomacy and Yasuko Terashita, Public Affairs Program Assistant at the consulate, welcomed the participants. Yumiko Miura, the Regional Representative of the Hokkaido Region, attended the event and encouraged the alumni to join future regional events organized for TOMODACHI alumni. She commented, “For the mentees and mentors of TMWLP 2021-2022, it was their first time to get together in person since their entire program had been carried out online. Even so, they had a friendly and strong connection with each other, which showed how their program was fruitful and successful. I was grateful that the other alumni fellows from TMWLP 2016 and 2017 also got together for this event. I sincerely appreciate the U.S. Consulate Sapporo and TOMODACHI Women’s Leadership Program Manager Jill Kashiwagi for giving us such a great opportunity to reconnect.
Washington D.C. Region: Winery Tour
On October 15th, Kekoa Erber, the Regional Representative of the Washington D.C. Region organized an afternoon at the Winery at Bull Run in Centreville, Virginia. TOMODACHI alumni and guests came together on a warm fall day to enjoy the experience at a vineyard. They enjoyed wine, mulled wine, and meat and cheese platters. Janrose Samson, an alumna of the TOMODACHI Dallas-Sendai Young Ambassador Program said, “The TOMO meetup at the Winery at Bull Run was a delightful fall hangout with new and old friends. I enjoyed trying mulled wine for the first time and getting to meet more TOMODACHI alumni and their guests. The fall weather made for a pleasant outdoor atmosphere and I hope we get to enjoy more nature together soon!”
Kyushu & Okinawa Region: Co-Organized a Virtual Meet-up
On October 15th, David Palacios, the Regional Representative of the Kyushu Region and Haruna Aka, the Regional Representative of the Okinawa Region co-organized the virtual event titled “Kyushu x Okinawa Meet-up!” TOMODACHI alumni from those regions and beyond participated and shared what they like about the region, special memories when visiting there and differences in dialects. As the organizer, Haruna commented, “I felt it was a great opportunity to collaborate and hold events with both Kyushu and Okinawa’s regional community, as well as to expand the alumni network. It was a very exciting time for us to realize the differences between Japan and other countries and to hear about people who are going abroad in the future.” Miho Kaneshi, an alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program commented, “I was able to discover new horizons and differences between Japan and other countries, and someday I’d like to visit all the countries and places and study more.”
Kanto Region: Learned Tips & Tricks for Career and Academic Advancement
On October 16th, Reika Ishii, the Regional Representative of the Kanto Region organized the event titled “Casual Chat on Careers and Grad School” with a guest speaker Mr. Tadashi Yokoyama from AGOS Japan. He gave TOMODACHI alumni many pieces of advice to consider when they think about their careers and going to grad school. One of the participants commented, “Great opportunity to connect with other alumni who are motivated and driven about their careers.” Reika commented, “It was a successful first event with great engagement and connections made between the TOMO alumni who participated. Looking forward to planning more events in the future!”
Kansai Region: Co-Organized Networking Event in Collaboration with the U.S. Consulate in Osaka-Kobe
On October 21st, De’Jia Long-Hillie, the Regional Representative of the Kansai Region, co-organized the networking event for TOMODACHI alumni with the U.S. Consulate in Osaka-Kobe. Naoko Tsuchimochi, Media and Program Assistant at the Consulate, welcomed the participants at WeWork Midosuji. During the event, a special science workshop was led by TOMODACHI alumna Akiko Yoshiokawho regularly volunteers at the Osaka Science Museum. Participants enjoyed a static electricity game involving fishing and merry-go-round activities to feel the power of the magnet.
De’Jia commented, “I was grateful for the turnout since this was my first time planning an event like this. Everyone was friendly and was eager to network with one another.”