2015-16 TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program

To honor the life and legacy of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, 200 youth exchanges were announced on May 28, 2013 by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the U.S.-Japan Council’s Symposium in Tokyo. These exchanges, the TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program, would take place under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan’s “KAKEHASHI Project – The Bridge for Tomorrow,” aimed at enhancing bilateral youth exchange and mutual understanding between the two countries. The broad goals of the KAKEHASHI exchange project are (1) to promote deeper mutual understanding among the people of Japan and the United States, (2) to enable future leaders of U.S.-Japan exchanges to form networks and (3) to help young people develop wider perspectives to encourage active roles at the global level in the future. KAKEHASHI consists of two types of programs – invitation and dispatch – totaling exchanges of 4,600 people between the United States and Japan.

The invitation program brings 2,300 Americans total, ranging from junior high school to graduate school, who are invited on a 10-day study tour to Japan. Participants experience Japanese culture, advanced technologies, the historical heritage and natural environment unique to Japan, and engage in exchanges with Japanese students. Groups travel to Tokyo as well as another local city.

In return, 2,300 Japanese youths are sent to different destinations across the United States as part of the dispatch program to participate in homestays and exchange activities with American peers and people. Through presentations at schools and in their host communities, Japanese participants seek to heighten potential interest in Japan and enhance international understanding of the “Japan brand,” as well as the nation’s strengths such as Japanese-style values and “Cool Japan.”

The TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars program is unique among the KAKEHASHI project programs because in addition to cultural visits and activities, both the American and Japanese participants will have opportunities to learn about the legacy of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. In addition to KAKEHASHI programming that includes visits to historic and cultural sites in Tokyo and various activities in cooperation with the Japanese students at the partner university, there are specialized activities and meetings centered on the legacy of Senator Inouye. Specifically, students learn about Senator Inouye’s contributions to his state, his country, his heritage and to the U.S.-Japan relationship. The aim is that they will return to their schools inspired by the Senator’s commitment to public service, justice and U.S.-Japan cooperation.

2015-16 TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program

University of Hawaii at Hilo preserves indigenous language and culture in Hokkaido and Tokyo

The Scholars arrive in Japan

The group of 21 undergraduate students and 2 chaperones from the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo spent nine days in Japan (March 19-27) where they expanded their understanding of global citizenship and reaffirmed individual responsibility toward their indigenous cultural and linguistic heritage. 

University of Hawaii at Hilo was selected as a school for the 2016 TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Programbecause of the support the late Senator Inouye showed for the preservation and continuation of native Hawaiian language there at the college. The school proposed an exploration of Ainu language and culture in Japan as an entry point for experiencing Japanese culture as a whole. 

This trip was the first time a majority of the students had traveled to Japan – or anywhere outside of Hawaii. The group traveled to Tokyo and Hokkaido. In Tokyo, they visited the Edo Tokyo Museum, the Imperial Palace, and listened to a foreign policy lecture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also observed cutting edge technology at Chiba Institute of Technology, visited the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensoji, and witnessed pop-culture in Harajuku.

The students at the Shiraoi Ainu Museum

They visited the grounds of the Meiji Jingu Shrine and enjoyed the cherry blossoms. In Hokkaido, the students attended an information session at the Sapporo International Plaza and lectures by experts at the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies at Hokkaido University. They also engaged in a cultural exchange of Japanese dance and hula with Tokai University students, and also had the opportunity to visit the Ainu Museum in Shiraoi.

For many of the participants, it was the first time that they saw a train, rode on a subway, entered a building taller than 20 stories high, and actually saw snow falling from the sky. To the students, the trip was an intense but immensely rewarding program – both educationally and emotionally.

USJC congratulates the Scholars on finishing their program and wishes them safe travels home.

Program Administrators and Implementers

This program is administered by the Japan Foundation. The U.S.-Japan Council supports the implementation of this program, through coordination with the Japan Foundation and the Laurasian Institution.

The educational content about Senator Inouye’s legacy that the U.S. faculty developed for these exchanges is made possible by a generous grant from the Daniel K. Inouye Institute Fund of the Hawai’i Community Foundation. USJC would like to thank the Institute for their support that allowed us to honor the legacy of the Senator. 

For more information about the TOMODACHI Initiative, please visit the TOMODACHI website.