The Honda float in the Rose Parade
The day after Christmas, 20 high school students from Miyagi prefecture arrived in Los Angeles to participate in the TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program, sponsored by Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
A highlight of the many cultural programs was their musical performance, beautifully produced by Daniel Ho, a six-time Grammy Award Winner, for the Honda Float at the 126th Rose Parade. The theme of the float was “Building Dreams of Friendship,” and they shared the float with a few officers of the United States Operation Tomodachi, who were sent to Japan for rescue and humanitarian assistance immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The float was designed with the students’ input, with a bridge of LCD screens showing the videos of Operation Tomodachi and messages from the TOMODACHI Initiative (see a video of the float here, starting at 00:09:46).
Participants of the TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program with U.S. military officers
The 12-day program consisted of many components, from serving meals to over 1,000 local homeless individuals, senior citizens and disadvantaged residents, assembling disaster relief kits for the Red Cross, a visit to Japanese American National Museum (JANM), a new year performance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, a visit to the UCLA campus and networking with UCLA students, as well as touring Disneyland, watching the musical Wicked and attending an Anaheim Ducks’ game.
Helping prepare the Honda float
This program was supported by many members of USJC, including Steve Morikawa of American Honda Motor Company, Inc. The execution of the program was flawless, thanks to Steve’s leadership and his team’s dedication. Dr. Susumu Ito, new USJC member in Boston and a member of the 442nd Regiment during World War II, shared his stories with the students when they visited JANM, and presented his book to each student. USJC member Patricia Kinaga and her husband Peter Wong were gracious hosts to two students. Curtiss Takada Rooks helped his former TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars to engage with the students at the closing reception. Paris Underwood and Michelle Tanaka, former participants of TOMODACHI MUFG Summer International Exchange Program who participated in 2014 Rose Parade were also there to share the evening with the students. Board of Directors Member Henry Y. Ota went above and beyond the call of duty and spent many days with the students, encouraging and inspiring them.
The students gave a music and dance performance at the farewell dinner (see the video here). The students and their host families bid farewell in tears. Honda’s slogan “The Power of Dreams” seemed to resonate profoundly, and the students seemed to be filled with a sense of pride.
The program participants with ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot
USJC would like to extend its sincere appreciation to Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and American Honda Motor Company, Inc. for this incredible opportunity. Our hats go off to Steve Morikawa, who spearheaded the American Honda team that includes Karin Baker, Erik Wedin and Alexandra Warnier, who gave the students a life-changing experience. We thank Mr. Mitsuya Kokaji and Ms. Yuko Yokota for their kind support and guidance to the students during the trip. The encouraging remarks and the presentation by Mr. Takuji Yamada, President of American Honda, were the perfect finale to the program. USJC also wishes good luck to the students in their future adventures, and asks that they stay in touch with TOMODACHI.