The 2018 Japan Team

Noa Chibachi

Noa is a 16-year old student at Tohoku Gakuin Tsutsujigaoka High School in Sendai. She is interested in a future in education or human resources. She enjoys tennis, swimming, piano, and dancing, and has a keen interest in local and national news.

Personal Statement: Here’s how Noa described her reasons for applying for the TOMODACHI US-Japan Youth Exchange Program: “First, I would like to have diverse experiences in  my life – I had many stimulating experiences last year with the TOMODACHI program, and after returning to Japan, I was able to see Japan from various perspectives. Therefore, I would like to visit the US once again to reconsider what we should learn from Americans. In addition, I am sure I can discover positive views about Japanese people and culture, and I will try my best to share my experience with others. Second, seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Memories are fading. This year, I started an activity to pass on the experience of the disaster in Shizuoka Prefecture. High school students in the same grade who participated told us that they were able to understand the situation as a reality through hearing first-hand stories from students of their same age. I am willing to pass on these experiences to high school students in the US as well.”

Minori Kon

Minori is a 17-year old student at Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School. Her academic interests include English, music, LGBT studies, and she is looking forward to a career in the medical field. She participates in the Newspaper Club at school, and enjoys tennis, baseball, photography, singing, and music.

Personal Statement:
Minori sees TOMODACHI USJYEP as a great opportunity to achieve what she wants to do. In Minori’s words: “First, I’d like to be more socially active. America is a great melting pot of races and there are many people who think or live differently. Therefore, as I communicate with those people, I need to tell them about my own opinions and show them what kind of person I am. Second, I’d like to make a direct contribution towards social causes. I generally like to help other people, and I conducted fundraising activities in my school and personally make a clothing donation for people in need, yet these are just minor contributions. Through being involved in local communities in person, I can make a social contribution directly. Finally, I’d like to improve my English skills because I believe that my world may expand if I can speak English fluently. Through talking with Americans, making a presentation, and homestay, I’m sure that my English will improve.”

Fuka Matsumoto

Fuka is a 17-year old student at Iwaki Koyo High School in Fukushima-shi, Japan. She enjoys marathons, soccer, and dance, and aspires for an international career. Fuka has participated in several programs so far in her life, from which she learned by experiencing and meeting many different people.

Personal Statement: Regarding her thoughts for this TOMODACHI program she wrote: “I have  learned it is important to understand the many possibilities one has. If you understand your own personality when doing something, I think you can make a positive contribution. Furthermore, in order to understand your abilities, I think it is important to listen to the opinions of many people and be able to reflect on oneself and others. I want to share this knowledge with American students through this program. Also, I would like to help those who are afraid of challenge and who are suffering from something by sharing them to friends and colleagues. I hope my experience will help not only myself but also the growth of other people and the community.”

Anika Shimizu

Anika is a 16-year old student at Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School. She is a swimmer, and has a serious interest in history, art history, and historical sites. Her career interest is communications.

Personal Statement: Anika had two reasons for applying for this TOMODACHI program. The first is because she has a desire to serve. Assisting her parents with her brother with autism has made her understand the joy and satisfaction of serving the less fortunate. When she moved back to Japan four years after the 3/11 tragedy, she became acquainted with people who were in Tohoku. Many are still having a very hard time getting by and will forever have a deep scar in their hearts. She hopes that by joining this program, she can learn more about the Tohoku tragedy and bring awareness to it among the American counterparts. The second reason is that Anika likes to understand the history of the relationship between Japan and the US, and to promote an understanding between both sides. They’ve been important partners for many decades, but there is a very complicated history behind it. She believes that to build a strong partnership requires a deep understanding of their history, their viewpoints, and their way of thinking and history.

Keiichiro Tamara

Keiichiro is an 18-year old student from Miyagiken Sendai Nika High School in Sendai. His interests include soft tennis, music, and going to concerts, and he is planning for a career in teaching.

Personal Statement: Keiichiro’s dream is to change the education system in Japan through designing a Western-style education system and creating an environment where you can learn what you want to learn when you want to learn. In talking to Americans before, he noticed that in the US there is an environment for people to learn what they want to learn actively (unlike Japan), and he thinks there are many people who are carrying out activities to pursue what they want to do in the US. He believes that the most important thing when educating people is to listen to people’s stories and to try to understand, empathize, and see them as if they were our own. In this program Keiichiro would like to talk with a lot of people who he otherwise would not have been able to talk to in his school life, and he would like to use the experiences to pursue his dream in his future.

Shunsuke Watando

Shunsuke, 16, is a student at Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School. His activities include karate, baseball, soccer, American football, piano, and the performing arts. He is interested in American and aeronautical history, and is planning for a career in the medical field or business.

Personal Statement: Shunsuke’s expresses his personal goals for TOMODACHI USJYEP this way: “I am interested in this program because I would like to develop my understanding of the similarities and differences between Japanese and American cultures. As I looked at the contents of the program, I found that it matched my aim to deepen my understanding of the United States from the perspective of cultural exchange, and I wanted to learn about Japan from the American side. I think there must be many new views toward Japanese society and culture I could learn about if I was a part of this program. I would like to communicate actively with other students, and improve my English skills. Moreover, I want to deepen my friendship and mutual understanding with American students and would like to know what kind of things they think as I am the same generation from the different culture. I have also applied for this program hoping to improve observational and analytical skills to prepare myself and other participants for the challenges of the near future.”