(L-R) Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamada; Jun Miura, Director of the Second North America Division, MOFA; Shota Eda, TOMODACHI alumnus; Akane Meguro, TOMODACHI alumna; U.S. Embassy Tokyo Charge d’Affairs Jason P. Hyland; Irene Hirano Inouye
On March 4, the TOMODACHI Initiative hosted a reception to commemorate the fifth year since the Great East Japan Earthquake. At the reception titled "Remembering 3.11—Five Years Later," the TOMODACHI Initiative and its partners announced further support for the rebuilding of Tohoku and the fostering of next generation leaders.
The event featured a signing ceremony for the "Memorandum of Cooperation on Enhanced Partnership in Support of the TOMODACHI Initiative Between the Government of Japan and the U.S.-Japan Council" with Miki Yamada, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), representing the Government of Japan, and Irene Hirano Inouye, USJC President. The Memorandum formally established the relationship between TOMODACHI and MOFA—a relationship which has already existed unofficially for several years. In conjunction with this, MOFA appointed Ambassador Masaharu Kohno as the Government of Japan's Senior Advisor to the TOMODACHI Initiative.
Irene Hirano Inouye (left) and Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamada (right) sign the Memorandum of Cooperation between USJC and the Government of Japan
Prior to the signing ceremony, a roundtable discussion was held with TOMODACHI alumni from Tohoku, representatives from the Government of Japan and the U.S. Embassy, and Irene Hirano Inouye. Topics included the progress made in rebuilding Tohoku, the activities and impact of TOMODACHI to date, and the roles of the young people from Tohoku and beyond who will become future leaders.
Since TOMODACHI's establishment in 2012, there have been over 4,600 program participants, with over 2,600 from the Tohoku region.
Fumiya Otani, an alumnus of the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program and the TOMODACHI Summer Softbank Leadership Program, discusses his experience abroad
The reception was attended by approximately 200 guests, including representatives of companies that contributed to and have partnered with TOMODACHI. U.S. Embassy Tokyo Charge d'Affairs Jason P. Hyland, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamada, and Irene Hirano Inouye spoke at the reception. Yorihiko Kojima, Chairman of the Board for Mitsubishi Corporation (and Member of the USJC Board of Councilors), spoke on behalf of the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges, which just renewed its support to Tohoku. TOMODACHI alumnus Fumiya Otani from Iwate prefecture shared what he learned in the United States. To conclude the program, Caitie McDermott, representing TOMODACHI alumni from America, recited a poem she wrote regarding the strength and resilience of the people from Tohoku.
Guests at the reception, Dave Spector (left) and Chairman of the USJC Board of Councilors Paul Yonamine (right), exchange business cards