2018-19 Watanabe Scholars (Japanese Students)

In the 2018-19 program year, the scholarship supports American and Japanese students who are undertaking international study in either the United States or Japan

(** indicates the scholar is a graduate student)

Please join us in welcoming the Japanese cohort:

Home Institution: Tohoku University 
Japan Institution: University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)


Moe is a junior majoring in Sociology at Tohoku University and will be attending the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC). Ever since suffering from absenteeism during high school, Moe has wanted to get involved with helping children who cannot attend school. Her dream is to create an environment in Japan that will enable children who are truant to have an alternative education. She is highly motivated to help children find their own comfort zones so that they’re more able to communicate and express themselves openly. During her time at UNCC, Moe hopes to cultivate the skills she needs to achieve her goals by volunteering at an organization that supports homeschooled students. Moe is grateful for the Watanabe Scholarship for supporting her study abroad. With this support, she can focus more on achieving her goals. She is looking forward to learning how to change the experience of school for truant students, interacting with new people and having lots of new experiences in the United States.

Home Institution: Kyushu University
U.S. Institution: Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)


Shota is a junior majoring in Civil Engineering at Kyushu University. Ever since visiting other Asian countries, he has believed that civil engineering has enormous power and wanted to build sustainable infrastructure. His goal is to become a project leader to help support development in Asia. While in the United States, Shota will be studying Construction Management at Northern Arizona University. Outside of school, he looks forward to learning about other cultures as well as introducing his own, such as Ryukyu-style karate, which he has learned for six years. Coming from a single father household, Shota did not think it was possible to study abroad in the United States. Shota is thankful for being chosen as a Watanabe Scholarship recipient.

U.S. Institution: Springfield College (Springfield, MA)


Court is an international, degree-seeking student at Springfield College, where he studies Sports Management. He grew up in Morioka city in Iwate Prefecture, and his childhood interests included global relations and the sports industry. Court is interested in the U.S. sports industry because of its successful business strategies in addition to its advanced support systems for athletes. He hopes that spending time in the United States will allow him experience the U.S. sports world more closely. In the future, he would like to contribute to the Japanese sports industry with the knowledge and experiences he acquires in his studies. Court hopes to build meaningful relationships in his last year of college. He could not complete his education without the support of the Watanabe Scholarship. This is Court’s second year of support from the Watanabe Scholarship.

Home Institution: Waseda University
U.S. Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)


Naomi is a sophomore at Waseda University majoring in International Political Science and Economics. She is very excited to study at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill as the next step toward her career goal of changing and developing the sports industry in Japan. Specifically, Naomi hopes to leverage the popularity of the Japanese sports industry as a diplomatic tool to strengthen the friendship between the United States and Japan. Her experience working at the Waseda University sports club as a student staff member taught her the potential of sports as cultural communication. While at UNC, she hopes to learn about how sports shapes international relationships, globalization and merges with popular culture. She is eager to find out what makes sports so much more popular on U.S. college campuses than on Japanese campuses.

Kei KATO**
U.S. Institution: Ohio University (Athens, OH)


Kei, a native of Nagoya, moved to Ohio in the summer of 2017 to pursue a master’s degree in Geography at Ohio University. He earned his BA in Anthropology from the International Christian University (ICU) in March 2017. During his first year at Ohio University, finances were always of great concern for him. Kei thanks the Watanabe Scholarship for helping him continue his graduate studies in the United States. His academic interests include cultural landscape, qualitative research and the geography of memory. As he is passionate about feminism and queer activism, he is also enrolled in the Women, Gender and Sexuality graduate certificate program. Since this year is his second year in Ohio and he feels more comfortable living in the States, he wants to engage more in the local community during his free time. Engaging with communities is not only a social occasion for him, but it will also let him connect his studies to the real world. Kei is immensely grateful to the Watanabe Scholarship for allowing him to fully focus on his studies by lessening the financial burden of attending graduate school.

Home Institution: Keio University
U.S. Institution: University of Washington (Seattle, WA)


Satsuki has been interested in international collaboration and aid since high school. Discussions with classmates from diverse international backgrounds helped her to understand the seriousness of various global issues. Participating in an international camp called Toshiba Youth Club Asia cemented Satsuki’s interest in tackling global issues. During her first three years at Keio University, she did sales activities for products that were made in Bangladesh and became fascinated by the concept of social businesses, which aim to solve social problems using the power of business. She wants to study abroad in order to acquire the latest knowledge on social businesses and to help broaden her view on social issues. She is excited to spend the year studying at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her ambition is to change Japanese society so that people can help others through challenges, and the Watanabe Scholarship is a key factor in her being able to pursue this goal. It relieves her from financial stress, enabling her to focus on pursuing her ambitions and studies.

Ryohei KONO
Home Institution: Kyushu University
U.S. Institution: The University of Georgia (Athens, GA)


Ryohei is an exchange student from Kyushu University who will spend a year at the University of Georgia studying civil engineering. He has previously studied abroad in and traveled to various Asian countries (Philippines, China, Singapore and Malaysia), and those experiences made him hope to improve the living environment in those nations by addressing problems like access to a fresh water supply and clean air. Through these experiences, he is also interested in green infrastructure and landscape architecture, and in implementing these technologies in order to improve countries’ overall environments. He plans to continue pursuing these interests and studies while in the United States. He hopes to absorb knowledge and exchange ideas with peers and faculty in the U.S., and bring his experiences back to Japan to invigorate and inspire Japan’s tech, landscape and infrastructure fields. Ryohei is grateful to be selected as one of the Watanabe Scholars. It gives him this invaluable opportunity to learn about cutting edge topics.

Home Institution: Ritsumeikan University
U.S. Institution: California State University Long Beach (Long Beach, CA)


Jotaro will be transferring to California State University of Long Beach, majoring in Design. Jotaro has always loved cars, motorbikes and bicycles. When he was 18, he went to Vietnam and noticed many old Japanese motorbikes on the roads. He was inspired to design new eco-friendly motorbikes so that all people, no matter their economic background, can participate in protecting the environment. In addition, he wants to improve the design of Japanese eco-friendly cars so that high-quality Japanese design and technology can be known for eco-consciousness worldwide. During his studies, he is looking forward to learning how to make design compatible with functionality. He is especially excited to visit the main factory of Tesla Motors, a company known for its electric cars. He loves the way that Tesla is able to merge functionality and design, and he hopes that by visiting the factory he can gain inspiration and insight into improving the design of Japanese eco-friendly cars. Jotaro cycled throughout Taiwan this past March and is also excited to go cycling in California.

Tamayo MUTO
Home Institution: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
U.S. Institution: San Diego State University (San Diego, CA)


Tamayo is a sophomore at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, majoring in American Culture. In 2017, she studied in San Diego for a month, where she was fascinated by the complexities of intermixing cultures in America. She was particularly drawn to San Diego’s Mexican and Mexican American heritage. After her return to Japan, she furthered her newfound admiration by working at a Mexican restaurant and writing articles about Mexico online. She decided to study at San Diego State University, where she can take classes on Mexican and Latino studies while immersing herself in the local Latino culture and politics. She will also study visual art and advertisement in order to communicate her experiences in San Diego to Japanese people effectively. As a recipient of the Watanabe Scholarship, she hopes to inspire more young people in Japan to study in the United States, and find unexpected interests that they become passionate about.

Home Institution: International Christian University
U.S. Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)


Momo is a student at the International Christian University. Originally from Kansai, she has previously lived in Singapore and France. She will study U.S.-Japan public diplomacy and Japanese American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara for the 2018-19 school year. Outside of academics, she is working to launch an online project featuring exchange students and their experiences studying abroad through her home university’s student newspaper. She hopes this will promote cross-cultural understanding and expand international networks. In the spring of 2018, Momo traveled to the U.S. for the first time as a participant of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program. She was inspired by the powerful female leaders she met and by American ideas she heard. She is excited to continue her learning experiences in California, where she cannot wait to experience its innovative culture and its diversity. Momo is honored to receive the Watanabe Scholarship, which will not only alleviate her family’s financial burden but will also provide a strong network of inspiring professionals and students. Thanks to this opportunity, she now feels truly ready to grow both academically and personally in a place where she has always dreamed of studying.

U.S. Institution: Skyline College (San Bruno, CA)


Miho is a sophomore student at Skyline College, majoring in psychology. Suffering from eating disorders from an early age, she developed an interest both in clinical psychology and social work. With her unquenchable curiosity and influence from her friends in a global-minded high school, Miho started to learn English and thought about studying in different countries. She was selected as one a scholarship student to go to New Zealand during her second year of high school. Upon her return, she decided that she wanted to study psychology in a university in a cosmopolitan environment. Miho decided to go to California, where she hopes to gain many different perspectives through cross-cultural interactions and experiences to become a more understanding medical social worker in the future. She intends to transfer to a four-year university after two more semesters in her current community college. Receiving this scholarship is a big help for her since studying abroad as a degree-seeking international student is a long, expensive journey. 

Tomoko OYAMA**
Home Institution: Waseda University
U.S. Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL)


Tomoko will enroll in a master’s program in Teaching English as a Second Language in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She previously studied at UIUC as an exchange student as a TOMODACHI Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship Program scholars (2015-2016). Her main research interests lie in the areas of Second Language Acquisition and English Language Pedagogy for Japanese students. She is also interested in the maintenance of Spanish as a Heritage Language (a “Heritage Language” is a minority language that is learned together with a socially dominant/majority language). She is excited to return to Illinois and continue her study both as an active researcher and practitioner of language learning and teaching. Without financial assistance from the Watanabe Scholarship, her dream to study abroad again in the United States could never have been realized. Through this program, she envisions learning with and from the other Watanabe scholars to promote and sustain the power of this TOMODACHI Generation.

Masaaki SAITO
U.S. Institution: Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)


Masaaki is a junior at the Berklee College of Music double majoring in Jazz Composition and Performance. Masaaki is a bassist, inspired by the renowned Japanese composer Kosaku Yamada, as well as by his parents who are classical guitarists. He decided to pursue a career in music when he realized the potential of music to bring joy into people’s lives. At the age of seventeen, Masaaki participated in a program at the Berklee College of Music, and was moved by audience members’ remarks on how his band’s music brought them joy. During that program, he studied with students who came from more than 70 different countries, which allowed him to experience diversity in culture, language and music. This experience inspired him to want to study at the Berklee College of Music for his undergraduate degree. Masaaki is extremely grateful for the Watanabe Scholarship for making it possible for him to successfully complete his studies. 

Maaya SATO
U.S. Institution: State University of New York at Oneonta (Oneonta, NY)    


Maaya is a degree-seeking student at the State University of New York at Oneonta studying International Development Studies. Maaya has always been fascinated by the multi-cultural diversity of the United States, and its embracing of people from all around the world. Ever since her first year at the State University of New York in 2015, she has been able to truly understand and accept different cultures through interactions with people she’s met. The Watanabe Scholarship has made it possible for her to continue to cultivate valuable skills in the field of international development studies. During her time abroad, Maaya is thrilled to sharpen her leadership, communication and teamwork skills to prepare for a career in the international sphere. And she is excited to meet and learn from many young future leaders. She is looking forward to making the most of her opportunities in the United States to eventually build and deepen relations and bonds between people beyond borders.

Home Institution: Osaka University
U.S. Institution: University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)


Sawa is an alum of the 2017 TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice University Program. During that four-week program, she conducted research on the reliability of aging bridge girders. Thanks to the experience, Sawa became more interested in her major, civil engineering, and began to conduct research about the effect of tsunamis on bridge piers at her home university. Her project was selected as one of ten excellent undergraduate research projects all over Japan. She decided to study abroad this year to learn even more and experience many things as a female engineering student. She is excited to learn about the differences between natural disasters in Japan and the United States at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dream is to become an enthusiastic civil engineer who can consider infrastructural problems from multiple standpoints and continue to find the best answers. She is curious about pursuing her academic career in foreign countries, and believes studying in the United States will give her a chance to decide whether to get a Ph.D. Thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship, she can take the first step towards making her dream come true.

U.S. Institution: University of California

Kana will be studying engineering in the United States, with a focus on medical engineering and device production. Ever since she was a child, she has had a strong interest in nature conservation and technology that aims to improve human health, and has always dreamed of producing medical devices that improve the lifestyles of people who suffer from chronic illnesses. By gaining hands-on experience with advanced research at cutting edge laboratory facilities, she hopes to take a leap towards fulfilling her dream of becoming a globally successful researcher in the field of experimental engineering. Kana looks forward to actively taking part in various student organizations as well, such as volunteer groups that support science education for young children, and musical performance groups that will allow her to showcase her talents.

U.S. Institution: University of Washington (Seattle, WA) 


Aya had a chance to talk with foreigners and to see outside of Japan through her ballet experiences when she was younger. That opportunity made her want to study abroad and explore the world. She decided to be an exchange student at the age of 17, and attended high school in the United States for a year. During her exchange, she experienced things that she would not normally do in Japan, which helped develop her character. After high school, she chose to attend a college in the United States to continue learning about language, cultures and herself. She is currently attending a college in Seattle for her associate’s degree. While attending college, she has met and worked with many international students from all over the world. She would like to continue to improve her English, and learn about other cultures and how to communicate with people from different backgrounds. Aya is very thankful for this scholarship because this gives her a chance to continue her journey at the University of Washington Seattle.

Sayaka TANAKA**
Home Institution: Keio University
U.S. Institution: Columbia University in the City of New York (New York, NY)


Sayaka is a second-year Master of International Affairs student concentrating in Economic and Political Development, with a specialization in Management at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs. She studies innovative approaches to international development through social entrepreneurship and sustainable finance. She hopes to continue exploring these subjects in her career and she believes that her previous work experience for an international NGO and a global management consulting firm will help her as she works to become a development professional. Her connection to the United States began when she participated in a one-year exchange study abroad program at Bates College during her junior year at Keio University. The program was her first time living abroad. At Bates, she gained English skills and a mindset that has helped her to thrive in challenging situations and even enjoy them. Since Columbia University will be her second study abroad experience, she hopes to take advantage of American culture, which has encouraged her to keep trying and be innovative, and has expanded her potential to pursue her career. She is sincerely grateful to the Watanabe Scholarship for making her study abroad happen, and for letting her join the wonderful community of U.S.-Japan leaders at the U.S.-Japan Council.

Home Institution: University of the Ryukyus
U.S. Institution: Tyler Junior College (Tyler, TX)


Wakana grew up in Okinawa and became interested in English when she was ten-years-old. Because she had some American neighbors, there were many chances to play with American children even though she could not speak English at that time. After graduating from high school, she decided to go to university in the United States. Wakana will be studying business at Tyler Junior College in Texas with plans to transfer to a four-year university later. During her time in the United States, she is eagerly anticipating meeting and communicating with many people from different backgrounds. She wants to participate in many activities, both inside and outside of class, as well as make many friends. Wakana is delighted to be a member of the third cohort of Watanabe Scholars and is excited to pursue her dream in the United States. She is honored that her hard work was recognized by the scholarship committee and promises to make the best out of this opportunity. 

Home Institution: Tohoku University
U.S. Institution: University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)


Takashi is a student at Tohoku University and will spend a year studying Social Studies and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Before enrolling in university, Takashi participated in a high school Bridge Program that sent high school students to the University of California, Riverside through Tohoku University and ultimately inspired Takashi to try many things in his university life. Takashi’s decision to study at Berkeley is one of those things, which include short-term study abroad, an internship in Indonesia and advising in an international dormitory. Takashi hopes to alleviate the cycle of social pressure and stigmatization faced by many Japanese people. With this opportunity to study in the United States thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship, Takashi will work to achieve this goal and to help Japanese people tap into their full potential, free from social pressures.