TOMODACHI U.S. Japan Youth Exchange Progam
The TOMODACHI U.S. Japan Youth Exchange Program is a two-way exchange which promotes mutual respect and understanding among Japanese and American high school students by focusing on cultural awareness, social entrepreneurship, and service learning. An important focus of the program is on the Tohoku region of Japan, devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Students visit Tohoku, listen to the stories of residents and community leaders, and then take on the responsibility of sharing these stories with others. The USJYEP Program was piloted in 2013, and has been offered each year since.
Tomodachi means “friend” in Japanese. The U.S. Japan Council’s TOMODACHI Initiative seeks to foster a “TOMODACHI generation” of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening US-Japan relations, appreciate each others’ countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world.
In years 2013 and 2014, six (6) DC students and six (6) Tokyo students were selected through competitive application processes in their respective cities. Selection criteria included academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership abilities, maturity, and commitment to the mission of the program. For the Japanese students, English language proficiency was an additional requirement. The Japanese students all attended Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School. The DC students all attended DC Public Schools or charter schools. In 2015, the third year of the program, we were thrilled to also include two (2) TOMODACHI alumni from the Tohoku region for a total of fourteen (14) student participants. The program was expanded again in 2016 to a total of eighteen (18) students – with nine (9) DC students, five (5) from Keio SFC High School, and four (4) TOMODACHI alumni from Tohoku.
Student participation in the U.S. Japan Youth Exchange Program is fully funded, thanks to the generosity of the U.S.-Japan Council TOMODACHI Initiative.
2016 Program Elements
Part I: DC program (July 16-31). Japanese students travel to Washington, DC where the entire program takes place. After a 3-day residential program for all students, Japanese students are placed in home stays (not in the homes of their DC student peers).
Part II: Japan program (July 31-August 16). DC and Japanese students travel together to Japan. Time is divided between Tokyo and Tohoku. DC students spend some of their time in Tokyo in home stays with their Keio peers.
Part III: Follow-up student programming in DC and Japan to develop a follow-up project designed to share their TOMODACHI experience with their peers and the wider public.