One Hundred Japanese High Schoolers Selected For "TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank

SoftBank To Provide All Participants With iPads

May 22, 2013

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The TOMODACHI Initiative and SoftBank are pleased to announce that 100 Japanese high school participants have been selected to participate in the "TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program."

The program, fully funded by SoftBank, will send these students from the disaster-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima to the University of California, Berkeley from July 22 to August 12, 2013 for an intensive three-week course focused on global leadership development and community service. SoftBank will provide each student with an iPad to help them document their experiences and stay connected to their families and friends back in Japan.

The TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program is designed to provide participants with a broad cross-cultural perspective, and to help them overcome their difficult situations by focusing on their future goals and dreams. This is the second year that TOMODACHI and SoftBank have teamed up to offer this opportunity for Japanese high school students.

The students will explore methods for improving their local communities through participation in a workshop at UC Berkeley called the Y-PLAN (Youth - Plan, Learn, Act, Now!). They will also gain further understanding of American society and culture through homestays, volunteer activities, and exchanges with U.S. high school students. Some of last year's participants have already applied what they learned from Y-PLAN for the benefit of their home communities in Japan, including tourism planning and municipal revitalization events.

Here are the stories of three of this year's participants in the TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program:

  • Jun Murai from Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. Jun Murai spent a month living in evacuation shelters after the March 2011 earthquake destroyed his home. During that time, he witnessed a middle school teacher who was able to overcome numerous fears and anxieties to become a leader in the community. This experience caused Jun to want to become a teacher himself. He noted, "In the future, when I become a middle school teacher, I want to be able to share my stories with my students, who would be about the same age that I was when I was going through those difficult experiences during the disaster."
  • Maho Abe from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. Maho Abe, who lost her mother in the Great East Japan Earthquake, was encouraged and touched by people in Ishinomaki. Despite adverse conditions, she saw people trying to help and cooperate while living in evacuation shelters. After that experience, she began to think how she could give something back to her community in the future. She said, "In the future I want to live in Ishinomaki and work in a hotel here, so I can tell the guests about my experiences from the earthquake - not just the Japanese guests but also foreigners traveling to see our city."
  • Kana Sagawa from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. Kana Sagawa applied for this year's program after learning about the "TOMOTRA"* (short for "TOMODACHI Travel") tourism project that was launched by an alumnaof last year's TOMODACHI-SoftBank program in her hometown of Iwaki. "I want not only Japanese tourists, but tourists from all over the world to come visit Iwaki," said Kana. After participating in the TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program, Kana hopes to join and expand the TOMOTRA project, and show the world that Iwaki is being revitalized. She also wants to acquire leadership skills and gain a global perspective in order to improve the lives of people who suffer from poor living conditions and hunger around the world.

* TOMOTRA is a project led by high school students in Iwaki to bring tourists back to the city. In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, tourism to Iwaki dropped dramatically due to damaging and harmful rumors.

Additional information about the TOMODACHI Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program, as well as many other TOMODACHI educational, cultural, and entrepreneurial programs, can be found at the TOMODACHI website:

The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership, born out of support for Japan's recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as entrepreneurship and leadership programs.

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