2022-23 Watanabe Scholars (Japanese Students)

Ⓐ indicates a previous recipient of the scholarship
** indicates a TOMODACHI alumnus or previous recipient
^ indicates a graduate student

Please join us in welcoming the Japanese cohort:

Gota AKAGIRI
Home Institution: McKendree University

Gota is a freshman at McKendree University and a degree-seeking student majoring in international relations and urban planning. At the beginning of his senior year of high school, he thought he would go to a Japanese university, but an online program by Stanford University gave him a great opportunity to consider studying abroad in the United States after graduation. He also took part in practical courses by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and realized the country is the best place for him because the education systems at American schools enable him to try interdisciplinary studies. Gota has been interested in city design and urban construction. He has traveled all over Japan since he was a kid, which encouraged him to study those fields. Also, as an extracurricular activity, he participated in Peace Messengers and learned the importance of realizing a peaceful world. He has become more eager to cultivate global diplomacy skills and expand his perspectives of political science. He believes receiving the Watanabe Scholarship is very invaluable for him and not only will it support him financially but also strengthen his passion to learn a new skill every day through life in the United States.


Kanon ASO
Home Institution: Keio University
Host Institution: Boston University

Kanon is most interested in learning about journalism and the media industry during her study abroad. She is currently studying mainly political science at the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Law at Keio University. In the process, she became interested in the influence of mass media on politics and how journalism should inform society. So, she decided to study in the U.S., where journalism and the media industry are at the cutting edge. Kanon is going to study at Boston University, which offers a wide range of journalism-related courses in its College of Communication. Also, one of the main reasons for her decision to study in the U.S. is her longing for America, which she has had since she was a child. Kanon loves American popular culture (music, etc.) and would like to study the social impact of this on the United States and the world. She has never traveled or studied abroad in an English-speaking country, so this will be her very first time, but she is determined to make her study abroad experience one that she will not regret.


Hiroshi AZUMA ^
Home Institution: Kyoto University
Host Institution: Johns Hopkins University

After spending his early years in Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto, Hiroshi moved to Tokyo and trained as a mental health professional. His experience in the process, especially the encounter and interaction with people with severe mental illness who stay at a psychiatric hospital for decades, has inspired him to pursue the Master of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. In spite of both being a high-income country, the mental health care system of the U.S. and Japan could not be more different, and neither, in his view, is ideal. Through his graduate studies, Hiroshi hopes to clarify the current problems of each country and propose a better way to care for individuals in both communities. Anxious about the rising tuition and weakening Japanese yen, Hiroshi sincerely appreciates the generous support from the Watanabe Scholarship. His other interests include the so-called “cancel culture” at elite institutions and social divisions in the U.S., which he expects to observe firsthand in the city of Baltimore.


Shohta FUJII ^
Home Institution: Osaka City University
Host Institution: American Film Institute

Shohta was born and raised in Japan. He is a self-starting cinematographer with three years of experience working on documentary and commercial sets in Japan. He graduated from Osaka City University in 2013 and started his career as a filmmaker for local business owners and volunteer jobs for local people. From there, he learned basic skills of filmmaking such as compositions, exposures, lighting, and editing. As a cinematographer, he worked with Japanese clients as well as international clients such as IOC, Microsoft, Rakuten, DAZN and Google. AFI Conservatory in California is his next challenge offering the MFA program for learning skills of narrative filmmaking. This opportunity to study abroad with the Watanabe Scholarship is very special for him because of his experience of giving up education in Tokyo University due to a financial problem nine years ago. Acquiring techniques and meeting passionate people in the school will help him to reach his goal to be an international filmmaker. He looks forward to being a valuable resource to build a bridge between Japanese and American film industries.


Yuichi FUKUNAGA **
Home Institution: Williams College

Yuichi is a first-generation and an international student at Williams College (Honor’s Candidate for Psychology Major with Neuroscience Concentration). He previously attended the Faculty of Economics, Keio University and has had experiences in business development (i.e. healthcare and education) in Tokyo, Japan. Yuichi is currently pursuing a research career in neuroscience and planning to apply to PhD programs in neuroscience in the United States. His research interest is the neurobiological mechanisms of the development of mood and anxiety disorders. Yuichi aspires to become a professional with a unique background both in healthcare business development and fundamental research in neuroscience. The reception of the Watanabe Scholarship will reinforce his academic pursuit for its honor and generous support. Yuichi will continue working on his research at Williams and develop more robust foundations for his future research career.


Reina HAGA
Home Institution: Musashi University
Host Institution: Temple University

Reina is a third year student at Musashi University. Her interest is in LGBTQ communities. In Japan, a lot of people are still struggling with accepting sexual minorities, which leads to discriminations. She has made it her life mission to advocate for the LGBTQ community on issues regarding same-sex marriage, equal rights, and eliminate discrimination based on sexual identity. In order to achieve this, abundant knowledge and critical thinking are required. Unfortunately her home university does not provide lectures which only focus on LGBTQ communities. On the other hand, Temple University has various lectures which enable students to think about LGBTQ-related issues. She is excited that her study abroad will provide her with various perspectives and information. The high-quality lectures at Temple are useful for her purpose. However, studying at Temple university is too expensive for her family to support. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship supports her study abroad and would make a huge difference for her future. Without this, learning at Temple University and fulfilling her dream would be impossible.


Ayano HIROSE
Home Institution: Waseda University
Host Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Ayano is a sophomore majoring in School of International Liberal Studies at Waseda University who will be attending University of California, Berkeley. She is eager to study in the United States to pursue her interest in American history, culture, and media. She initially developed an interest in this field when she participated in “Stanford e-Japan”, a distance-learning course on cross-cultural perspectives, during high school. In this program, she discussed a wide range of topics such as historical events, educational problems, and gender issues related to the United States and Japan with Stanford professors, experts, and other students from diverse countries and cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, interned at Olympic Broadcasting Services and currently broadcasts news from The New York Times as a radio personality (“Voicy News Brief”). In the future, she strongly desires to convey the information to a larger audience, and contribute to the realization of a society that is tolerant of diversity. In order to realize her dream of becoming a news anchor, she will take classes from Media Studies and American Studies at UC Berkeley to strive for a new form of journalism and create broadcasting with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.


Sena IHARA
Home Institution: Keio University
Host Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sena is a sophomore majoring in Political Science at Keio University who will be attending University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before enrolling in Keio University, he spent his life in Singapore, where various races coexist. This experience of spending his formative years in a cultural melting pot gave him a unique ideology and global perspective on the world without prejudice or discrimination. Forty thousand      students from 34 countries gather at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, symbolizing their vision of diversity. Sena is looking forward to learning about law and politics in the U.S. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship has supported him in both financial and mental aspects. Without the scholarship his study abroad would have been difficult but the scholarship provided a great amount of support. Furthermore, it gave him confidence and he is now aiming to voice his ideas more effectively and to a larger audience. He is planning to join the “Wisconsin Speech Debate” while studying abroad and he is looking to make the best out of living abroad without regrets.


Leona IIZUKA
Home Institution: Brandeis University

Leona is a sophomore at Brandeis University, pursuing a business major and minors in cultural anthropology and psychology. She is passionate about learning human behavior and communication, with a focus on how business can help customers make the right decisions for society and the environment. She is originally from New York and spent most of her lifetime in Tokyo, Japan. She believes the US has a unique environment where women, as well as other social groups of people, are active in society. She also believes studying in the U.S. will equip her with the interdisciplinary skills necessary to realize her educational and career goals and  become a global citizen who thrives in different cultural contexts. She looks forward to her second year at Brandeis University to challenge herself, expand her understanding of society, and meet new people. To her, being part of the Watanabe Scholars community means connecting with global leaders with whom she will overcome hardships and grow intellectually and personally. With this support, she strives to maximize her opportunities during her time in the United States.


Namuka ISHII ^
Home Institution: Georgetown University

Namuka is an international student from Japan. He will use his knowledge from his undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a minor degree in Education to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Policy in graduate school. His field of study is educational finance policy. His goal is to use fiscal leverage to reduce the burden of student spending on higher education in Japan as much as possible. His graduate study is made possible by the generosity of the Watanabe Scholarship. His ultimate goal is to create support in Japan where people can go to study abroad without worrying about money. There are people for whom education is the only way to escape from unfavorable circumstances such as poverty. He wants to help those people by shaping the education policy.


Sakura ISHIZAKI **
Home Institution: Grinnell College

Sakura is a senior at Grinnell College double majoring in Biological Chemistry and Anthropology. Due to the generous scholarship award from the Watanabe Scholarship during her junior year, Sakura was able to immerse herself in her academic studies and independent research in medical anthropology, which focused on uncovering the medical decision-making process in Japanese ICUs during the pandemic. Through her independent research supported by both the Anthropology Department at Grinnell College and leading medical professionals at Tohoku University, she noticed her passion for both medicine and medical anthropology. With the research still in progress, she is grateful for being selected for her second time as a Watanabe Scholar, as she can once again allocate immense time to her research project. By allowing Sakura to explore her interests in medicine, medical anthropology, and other various fields, the Watanabe Scholarship has and will continue to allow her to discover her true passion, which will lead to the enrichment of her life.


Kiwa KADEKARU
Home Institution: Lane Community College

Kiwa is a student at Lane Community College. She is currently studying general studies to transfer to a university majoring in Musical Theater. She has loved musicals since she was little, and as the years went by, she became more interested in the history and the production process of musicals. She hopes      to learn musical theater deeply in the United States, the birthplace of musicals, and where many new musicals still are produced. She also enjoys learning academics. Taking interesting classes at college satisfies her desire for learning. The environment in the U.S. where she can interact with people from various cultural backgrounds enriches her experience and stimulates her senses and thinking alike. She was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan. She only has financial support from her mother and is grateful for the support from the Watanabe Scholarship in helping her establish successful academics and her future career.


Kanon KII
Home Institution: Nihon University
Host Institution: University of West Alabama

Kanon was born in Osaka, raised in Tokyo near Tokyo Disney Resort. She is currently a junior studying film, mainly screenwriting at Nihon University College of Art. She will be studying abroad for one year at the University of West Alabama starting Fall 2022. In middle school, she fell in love with Harry Potter. Since then, she started to write her own stories and her long-term goal has been to become a storyteller. Also, she has always wanted to be in an environment where English is spoken every day because her other dream is to be able to write scripts in English. She hopes that taking classes of creative writing and/or having a lot of conversations with friends would allow her to gain ideas for the English scripts she will write. The Watanabe Scholarship has given her the opportunity to fulfill both of her dreams. She is truly grateful and through this experience, she hopes to be a creator who has a wide perspective to bridge Japan and the United States.


Mone KINJO
Home Institution: Keio University
Host Institution: Dartmouth College

Mone is a junior at Keio University majoring in Political Science and will be attending Dartmouth College. She has never studied abroad before, but has always been interested in global social issues, and enthusiastically tried to make contributions. As a member of the executive committee of the Japan-America Student Conference, she has led the Social Justice roundtable in discussions with U.S. and Japanese students on politics, philosophy, and social activism. Her academic interests lie in the area of international politics such as global governance, and sociology. She is very much looking forward to learning these topics and interacting with students at Dartmouth, through intensive class discussions. The scholarship was essential in helping her study abroad, and being a Watanabe Scholar is a great honor for her. Since she is willing to get out of her comfort zone to learn, she hopes to make the most of this wonderful opportunity to gain different perspectives through cross-cultural interactions.


Miho KURASHIMA**
Home Institution: University of North Carolina Wilmington

Miho is a senior student majoring in Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is passionate about using media technologies as a tool to raise awareness of global issues and deepen people’s understanding of what is happening in the world. Amongst the global pandemic, the opportunities as a 2020-22 Watanabe scholar and serving as an online video editing volunteer at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Tokyo office taught her the importance of passing on people’s histories, memories, and stories to future generations to make the world a better place. Thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship, she will be able to complete the university program without financial anxiety. As a second-time recipient of the Watanabe scholarship, she genuinely looks forward to connecting and collaborating with people from vastly diverse sociocultural and disciplinary backgrounds in person. During this time abroad, she intends to engage with many people to deepen her understanding of international relations and obtain different perspectives regarding global issues. For her, this scholarship is not only financial support but it is also a source of inspiration. She truly appreciates the U.S.-Japan Council’s continued generous, strong, and considerate support for her journey.


Sae MOROZUMI
Home Institution: University of California, Los Angeles

Sae is a junior majoring in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). When she was in 12th grade, she had a chance to attend the “We for She” conference and learned about the current societal gender inequalities. Encountering oppressions and prejudices first-hand through the events, she became interested in social issues and their solutions. During her study abroad, she is thinking of starting a non-profit organization to share worldwide social issues and spread awareness on how those issues should be addressed to fill in the gaps between Japan and the U.S of understanding towards minorities. The Watanabe Scholarship means a lot to her. The University of California Los Angeles is one of the most diversified schools in the world and has the strongest networking opportunities for a variety of jobs. She is excited to experience interacting with people from all over the world to see beyond race while gaining an international perspective.


Yurika NAKAGAWA
Home Institution: Smith College

Yurika is an undergraduate student at Smith College. Since her childhood, she has been curious about the world outside her comfort zone. Thus, although she was born and raised in Japan, she has eagerly deepened her understanding of different cultures and values. While studying English, she encountered the concept of “critical thinking:” She learned the importance of questioning the status quo instead of irresponsibly criticizing or blindly approving it. Since then, she has examined various social issues with this mindset. Shortly after, she noticed that the implementation of ethics in data science to deter the misuse of individuals’ data is understudied, despite the rapid advancement in the field. Accordingly, Yurika now aspires to be a liaison between computer scientists and ethicists and contribute to the ethical application of Big Data. Towards her goal, she decided to major in computer science and philosophy at a liberal arts college, where she’s allowed to study them with equal emphasis. In 2021, she enrolled at Smith College and began a new chapter of her life in the United States, a hub of both the computer science industry and liberal arts education. Thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship’s support, she is about to start her second year of study.


Ayano NAKAMURA
Home Institution: Bates College

Ayano is a fourth year student at Bates College in Maine. She is seeking a B.A. in Sociology and Chinese. She will be receiving the Watanabe Scholarship for the third time this academic year. Ever since she was seven years old, she has moved between Japan and the U.S. several times, and became incredibly close to both nations. Her current goal is to serve as a bridge between the U.S. and Japan, and to develop a stronger bilateral partnership. Over the past three years, she was able to get closer to her dream thanks to help from the Watanabe Scholarship and the USJC community. She attended the 2019 USJC Annual Conference in Los Angeles, which gave her a fresh perspective and inspired her to take part in three internships in Washington, D.C., which were focused on the U.S.-Japan relationship. In her final year at Bates College, she intends to research U.S.-Japan diplomacy for her senior thesis, and to make the most out of her experience in the United States.


Hitomi NISHIOKA
Home Institution: Osaka University
Host Institution: Georgia State University

Hitomi is a junior at the School of Human Sciences of Osaka University and will study at Georgia State University for one academic year as an exchange student. She has been strongly interested in social problems related to children since she was in elementary school. Currently, her interests are in studying the positive impact of hospice care for children, and questioning the status quo of the organ transplant system in Japan, which forces children to travel outside the country. Hitomi realized that research in Japan would not be enough to address her interests. Therefore, she decided to study in the United States, where organ transplantation and children’s hospice are more advanced. She hopes to explore the flaws of Japan’s organ transplant system and children’s hospice through active discussion in classes and participation in volunteer activities. Furthermore, she believes this will lead her to find out ways she can help resolve the social problems of children in the future. The Watanabe Scholarship not only financially supports her goals but also provides her with the opportunity to meet fellow students with clear aims. Hitomi is convinced that encounters with peers will inspire and motivate her to study abroad more.


Zen TAMURA
Home Institution: Keio University
Host Institution: Brown University

Zen is a third-year student studying medicine at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. (Medicine is a six-year undergraduate degree in Japan.) He is planning to study computational biology, computer science, and statistics for a year at Brown University as an exchange student. A research project in computational cancer genetics first sparked his interest in computational biology. As he worked on his research project, he realized he wanted to learn more about the field and acquire key foundational skills in computer science and statistics. He was attracted to the United States, because it leads the world in the life sciences, medicine, and computer science, and to Brown, in particular, because of its unparalleled commitment to undergraduate computational biology and computer science education. Eventually, he hopes to help advance medicine by leveraging his education at Brown. He is immensely grateful for the generosity of the Watanabe Scholarship, which made it possible for him to study abroad.


Hideki TOMITA ^
Home Institution: Keio University
Host Institution: Stanford University

Experiencing America for a week during his college graduation trip made Hideki realize the world was filled with unknowns leading him to seek knowledge. Strongly influenced by the marketing-based advertising practice in the United States, he was convinced that advertising is “an art based on science.” He learned that it is an intelligent business activity backed by science and should not be practiced by solely relying on intuition or the virtuosity of an individual. During his upcoming time abroad in the United States, Hideki looks forward to being exposed to broader aspects of global marketing. Particularly, his long-term goal is to contribute to and grow his marketing skills as he launches a career in international development finance. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship will allow Hideki to engage in community service and explore his potential in assisting the needs of people of the U.S.-Japan community as well as the opportunity to network with the USJC members.


Ryoga UMEZAWA
Home Institution: Minerva University

Ryoga is a senior at Minerva University. He entered Minerva University after living in Kyoto his entire life, where he was born and raised. As a business major with an interest in behavioral science, he wants to explore ways to support Japanese youth      who are pursuing non-traditional career paths. After experiencing some challenges pursuing studying at a foreign university right after graduating from a traditional high school, he developed an interest in supporting those who make unique career decisions, in the context of Japan’s collectivist society standards. He decided to enter Minerva University because of its active-learning education, focused on global learning and practical application. He is excited about learning about entrepreneurial opportunities while he attends Minerva in San Francisco. Both inside and outside the university, he aspires to build a network with aspiring change-makers, who have been overcoming hardships to innovate society around the globe. Though studying in the U.S. has been economically challenging , Watanabe Scholarship  made it possible for Ryoga to continue his study at Minerva and pursue his vision.


Takuto YOSHIDA ^
Home Institution: Hokkaido University
Host Institution: Harvard University

Takuto wants to promote the treatment of obesity, especially bariatric surgery, in Japan. Obesity is now considered a global concern, and in Japan, 20-30% of the population is considered overweight with a BMI >25 due to the westernization of the Japanese diet. Furthermore, obesity was originally thought to be a disease of the wealthy, but low-income people are more likely to suffer from obesity due to a diet low in nutritional value, making it one of the social determinants of health. Obesity is not only associated with various health problems, but is also closely related to prejudice, discrimination, and mental health issues, making it an urgent social issue. His long-term goal is to improve the overall quality of life of patients suffering from obesity and related diseases through clinical research and to improve patient outcomes by contributing to the advancement of surgical interventions for those patients. The United States is a leader in the treatment of obesity, and he decided to study in the U.S. in order to promote bariatric surgery based on a public health approach and evidence.