Irene Hirano Inouye and Ambassador Kennedy with the representatives of the six new strategic partner companies.
On December 13, USJC and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo held a reception in honor of the TOMODACHI Initiative. This was the first major TOMODACHI event since Caroline B. Kennedy has become the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and celebrated the continued partnership between USJC and the U.S. Embassy.
The event also announced six new strategic partner companies joining the TOMODACHI Initiative: Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Metlife Alico Life Insurance K.K., Prudential Financial, Inc., Sumitomo Corporation, Suntory Holdings Limited and Toshiba Corporation. Through these corporate contributions, the TOMODACHI Initiative is creating unique new exchange programs; supporting and mentoring young female leaders; offering further support to our program alumni to allow them to continue their connections with the United States and with each other; supporting academic study abroad scholarships; launching scholarship programs at top music schools in the United States; and supporting education and collaboration in science and technology.
During the reception, which was held at Ambassador Kennedy's residence, USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye thanked all the donors. "Two years ago, in this very room, we launched the TOMODACHI Initative,” she noted in the main hall, and continued that she could not have imagined the generous amount contributed by the donors. "We are fortunate to have an incredible new partner," she said of Ambassador Kennedy, "With her dedication to education and passion to support young people, she is the perfect Ambassador for TOMODACHI."
“I am so grateful for the generous support of the new strategic partners,” Ambassador Kennedy said. “I look forward to working with all of you during my time as Ambassador to bring our nations even closer through the connections between our young people.”
"The mutual understanding between the American and Japanese 'TOMODACHI Generation' continues to deepen," said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumihiko Kishida, who also delivered remarks at the event. He said that with the support of so many people from various fields, he believed the further development and success of TOMODACHI was guaranteed.
The program included a speech by Haruna Shiraiwa, a high school student who is from Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture. After participating in the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program in 2012, Ms. Shiraiwa founded TOMOTRA, a company which provides tours to Iwaki to boost tourism in the city. Her remarks were followed by a performance by Reiko Watanabe, a violinist who graduated from The Julliard School, one of the schools with which Suntory established the new TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund.
The more than two hundred guests included: Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Itsunori Onodera, Minister of Defense; Yasuo Fukuda, former Prime Minister; Akitaka Saiki, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs; Former Ambassadors to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki, Ryozo Kato and Yoshio Okawara; Takuya Tasso, Governor of Iwate prefecture; Diet Members and the representatives of the six new strategic partners, as well as representatives of existing donor companies and prospective donors. Several USJC members also attended.
Prior to the event, Ambassador Kennedy also held a roundtable discussion with nine TOMODACHI alumni who represented the three Tohoku prefectures, and had traveled to the United States on a variety of TOMODACHI programs. Two students representing an Iwate Prefecture Governor Tasso youth exchange program also joined the roundtable.
The reception was a true embodiment of the public-private partnership that is the TOMODACHI Intiative, serving as an occasion for TOMODACHI alumni, Japanese Americans, officials from both the U.S. and Japanese governments and representatives from American and Japanese companies to meet each other and deepen the U.S.-Japan relationship on a person-to-person level.