March 2023 Issue
March 11, 2023, marked the 12th year since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. 

The TOMODACHI Initiative, born out of Operation Tomodachi, the relief efforts of the U.S. military and Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) in the aftermath of the earthquake, began as a way to support reconstruction efforts in Tohoku and is now expanding its activities into developing the next generation of leaders throughout Japan and the United States. 

In the program, we share our experiences of the Great East Japan Earthquake and learn together the importance of resilience to cope with rapid changes. The TOMODACHI Initiative will continue to make every effort to nurture young people who will be leaders in the development of the Tohoku region while ensuring that the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake are passed on to the next generation.

SoftBank's Renewed Program Seeks Students Interested in Community Contribution

The TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program 2.0: -Building Resilient Communities for the Future- will be held this year, and we started accepting applications. The program is for 18 high school and university students and begins in June and lasts six months, including orientation and a final presentation. From July 26, participants will study community service and leadership at UC Berkeley in the U.S. for three weeks.

The TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program 2.0 is an expansion of the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program, held since 2012. The previous TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program provided more than 1,000 high school students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures with opportunities to learn about community service and leadership.

As a milestone, a face-to-face gathering and "TOMODACHI SoftBank Greeting" was held in Tokyo on February 26. More than 20 people participated in the event, with alumni forming the organizing committee and taking full responsibility for the planning and operation of the event. Program alumni formed new connections, and a panel discussion was held to consider the future of Tohoku.

The impact report of the ten years activity will be released in April.
Please see the application detail here for students interested in applying to the program.

Disaster Nursing Training Program Accepting Applications

The TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Training Program is now recruiting ten nursing students for the 8th cohort of its program. In addition to recruiting student participants, two mentors are also being sought to support the students' learning as healthcare professionals.

The program is a six-month training program for leadership development in the field of disaster nursing. The program includes workshops on caring for patients during a disaster, caring for the mental and emotional impacts on people involved in a disaster, and how students can be better responders.
Please see here for application details.

First Cohort of the Sports Leadership Program Returns from the U.S. Trip

On March 13, ten Japanese university students selected to participate in the first round of the TOMODACHI - U.S. Embassy Go for Gold Sports Leadership Program returned from their training in the U.S. and gave their final presentations in Tokyo. The students were divided into three teams, each providing a presentation in English on "Management of Sports Facilities," "International Games such as the Olympics and Inheriting Legacies," and "Business Operations and Fundraising in the Sports Industry," based on what they learned during their training in the U.S.

The presentations were well received by the participants, Japanese government officials, sports management industry representatives, and U.S. government officials in Japan, who provided feedback. After the presentations, an award ceremony was held to certify students' program completion.

One of the participants, Yota Kishimoto, reflecting on the program, said: "I would like to contribute to the development of sports in the future. Through this program, we visited the LA84 Foundation in Los Angeles and learned from the many organizers of the LA28 event, and I was able to make connections with them. With these connections, I will move forward so that I can make it my career. It's up to me from now on."

Ten Female STEM Students' Adventure

Ten female students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) from seven different universities in Japan participated in the 2022-23 TOMODACHI-STEM Women's Leadership and Research Program. The program began with an online orientation hosted by Lehigh University on September 20, followed by a five-week research internship in February and March 2023 in the U.S.

Students traveled to either Lehigh University in Pennsylvania or Rice University in Texas.
Each student was assigned a professor as an advisor and a graduate student or postdoc mentor. The students had diverse backgrounds and were hosted by various science and engineering laboratories.

The program catalyzes participants to pursue research and graduate study further and offers an opportunity for cultural exchange. This year, the research projects the students worked on a variety of projects. They ranged from reducing the mixed metal oxide to investigating the effects of atlastin on the mitochondria of muscle cells in drosophila.

In addition to participating in research, the students engaged in many career and leadership development workshops and activities. Workshop topics included applying to U.S. graduate schools, communicating in different cultures, creating presentations, searching and applying for jobs, and panel discussions with female STEM researchers.

Students learned so much through the program, not just academically in the research lab but also through cultural experiences and lessons, as well as making life-long friends who are also female STEM students.

Inouye Scholars Immersed Themselves in Life in Japan

On February 28, the TOMODACHI KAKEHASHI Inouye Scholars Program held a final presentation in Akihabara, Tokyo, with Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, which partnered with Tokai University in Hokkaido. As this was the program's final event, two groups gave presentations and reported on their action plans after returning home.

One of the presenters, who has over 600 followers on YouTube, plans to create a travel blog in March to share what she has learned about Japanese culture and the similarities in the history and struggles of the Ainu with the indigenous populations they were familiar with. Another presenter, a graduate student aspiring to become a professor, said she would like to teach her future students about Japan and create opportunities to visit Japanese architecture and museums to see Japanese art with their own eyes.

After each scholar's action plan was discussed, they shared with the audience their aha moments in Japan throughout the program. Many students shared that "spending time with the host family" was the most aha moment. Many scholars stated that it is a wonderful and very valuable opportunity to see the other side of other people's lifestyles. They also noted that the host families welcome the students with open arms and that having in-depth conversations with the host families helps the scholars learn about deeper aspects of Japanese culture. Some scholars said that learning about the Inuit people at the museum made them think about their ancestry and realize that "this is why I am here," which made them feel aha moment.

Through this program, the scholars learned how important it is for Japanese people to cooperate with each other and to be not only "I" but also "We." Having grown up in an individualistic society, the scholarship recipients felt their worldview had changed as they learned the true meaning of "We" by living in a community where everyone supports each other.

At the end of the event, the scholars unanimously said that they wanted more people from abroad to come to Japan and experience the culture by actually living in Japan, not by sightseeing. Scholars added that social media and websites provide limited knowledge and that without deeper exploration, talking to and interacting with the Japanese people, one cannot understand the true meaning of Japan and its culture.

Other Inouye Scholars were from Randolph-Macon College, Howard University, Hawaii Pacific University, and Hendrix College.

Alumni Participation in U.S.-Japan Council Business Advisory Board (BAB) Meeting

On February 22, the twenty-ninth U.S.-Japan Council Business Advisory Board (BAB) Meeting was held at the Tokyo American Club. It was the first in-person BAB gathering in three years. Six TOMODACHI alumni participated in the meeting and listened to the keynote speech by Board of Councilors Member Professor Naoyuki Agawa (Keio University). Jenifer Rogers (General Counsel Asia of Asurion Japan Holdings) moderated the dialogue titled “Is the Japan-U.S. Alliance As Solid As Ever? ~Impact of Bipolarization of America and Japan’s Reluctance to Fight.”

Reflecting on the fireside chat, TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program alumnus Yasunori Seki shared that he was prompted to consider the U.S.-Japan relationship, particularly due to Professor Agawa’s assertion that “the relationship needs to be beneficial for both nations in terms of security.”  Read More>>

Join Next Generation Summit 2023! Introducing the Panelists

The TOMODACHI Next Generation Summit is an annual opportunity for TOMODACHI alumni and Watanabe scholars to reconnect, learn together, and inspire one another. One of the two panels at the Summit focuses on studying abroad. Three alumni panelists will share their experiences and advice for future generations who are interested in studying abroad.  


  • Hiroko Okutani, Building the TOMODACHI Generation: Morgan Stanley Ambassador Program (2016)


  • Marina Yoshimura, Watanabe Scholar (The Toshizo Watanabe​ Study Abroad Scholarship Program, 2017-2018)
  • Tokuyasu Endo, TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program (2021)
  • Shunsuke Hayasaka, TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program (2017)

Read their bio and sign up here.

Alumni Highlight

Kellie Tokunaga is the 2023-2024 TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Representative of the Kyushu Region. She participated in the 2014 TOMODACHI KAKEHASHI Inouye Scholars Program and the 2018 TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference in Los Angeles. Kellie is a 5th generation Japanese American born and raised in Hawaii and is interested in learning more about Japan and her great-great-grandfather’s immigration roots in Fukuoka. 

She says her biggest takeaway from TOMODACHI programs was the influence of one to believe in change and the power of unity. She felt empowered by talking to people. Read More about her experience. Read More>>

TOMODACHI Opportunities 

Interns, U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) & TOMODACHI Initiative (remote)
The U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) and the TOMODACHI Initiative are currently seeking interns. The internship offers an exciting environment where interns will be exposed to the non-profit, corporate, and government fields simultaneously. Responsibilities include creating and drafting documents, translation, website management, social media management, newsletter development support, public speaking, communication with program participants, designing presentations and posters, and event planning. 
For more information and to apply, click here.
Program Intern, TOMODACHI Initiative Alumni (remote)
The Program Intern will assist the Director of Programs and Partnerships for the U.S.-Japan Council and the TOMODACHI Alumni Coordinator in the area of programming for the TOMODACHI Initiative Alumni Leadership Program. Reports to the Director of Programs and Partnerships for the U.S.-Japan Council. This position requires conveying and dispersing information from TOMODACHI Alumni Affairs to the TOMODACHI alumni community, as well as the broader U.S.-Japan Council community. 
For more information, click here.
Please send applications to

Update from Team TOMODACHI - March 2023

For donors, supporters, and friends of the TOMODACHI Initiative and the TOMODACHI Generation.

Led by the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership 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 and leadership programs.