2020-22 Watanabe Scholars (Japanese Students)

In the 2020-22 program year, the scholarship supports American and Japanese students who are undertaking international study in either the United States or Japan.

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

Please join us in welcoming the Japanese cohort:

Minori AOKI
Home Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Minori was born and grew up in Japan until she moved to New York at the age of 12 due to her father’s job transfer. She is currently a third-year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, double-majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology and Music. Having lived on the two opposite coasts of the U.S., she especially enjoys the cultural diversity of California in addition to the beautiful nature and weather. Being a Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship not only supports her financially but also motivates her to continue her academic pursuit in the field of medicine. The competitive environment at Berkeley pushes her to strive for her goals, while its diverse student body gives her opportunities to gain different perspectives. Her experiences in the U.S. have taught her to embrace her Japanese identity and be proud of her background, so she is very excited to be a part of the U.S.-Japan Council which supports fostering leadership for Japanese students as well as strengthening the bond between the two countries. As a Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship from Japan, she also hopes to encourage and assist Japanese students that are interested in studying abroad in the future.

Home Institution: Wesleyan University

Jennie is a sophomore double majoring in the College of Social Studies and Economics at Wesleyan University. Due to her childhood moving from Hong Kong to Seoul to Tokyo and experiencing many cultures and life transitions, Jennie has always appreciated and benefited from a more dynamic and liberal environment. Following this spirit, pursuing higher education in a liberal arts college in the United States allows her to take her time to fully explore the realm of the social sciences while surrounding herself in an international and diverse environment. Jennie’s current interests lie in the regulation and minimization of financial inequality. She is using her time at Wesleyan to explore her core interests through different pathways, including economic and political theory, antitrust law, and finance. She is grateful to the U.S.-Japan Council for giving her this opportunity to study abroad, as well as join a community of Japanese and American scholars.

Home Institution: Williams College

Yuichi is a junior at Williams College with majors in psychology and neuroscience. After dropping out of Keio University in 2018, he worked as an intern in the technology and healthcare industries and pursued academic activities (i.e. TEDxYouth@Tokyo). His professional career started to steer towards healthcare since he found preventative medicine, neuropharmacology, and neurophysiology intriguing. The liberal arts curriculum also introduced other academic disciplines such as music theory, music cognition, translation theory, and mathematics. At Williams and beyond, he visions himself as a researcher and an entrepreneur, bridging the gap between research and business and taking an interdisciplinary approach to advance his professional career. In addition to academics, Yuichi is interested in boxing and jazz vocal.

Home Institution: Middlebury College

Ai is a sophomore at Middlebury College in Vermont. After growing up in Japan for sixteen years, she moved to New Mexico to study abroad at an international boarding school and has since remained in the United States Thanks to liberal arts education at Middlebury College, Ai found her interest in Mathematics, Education Studies, and Sociolinguistics and hopes to deepen her knowledge in these subjects in the next three years. Outside the classroom, she will be an event coordinator for the 2021 International Students Organization, so she looks forward to cooperating with her peers from different backgrounds and bringing diversity to the college community. After graduation, she aims to reduce the socioeconomic achievement gap and improve English language education in her home country, Japan. Ai is very grateful for the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship because she would not be able to explore different areas of studies and interact with people from all over the world.

Home Institution: John Jay College

Ai (Aila) is a senior Cell and Molecular Biology student with a minor in Chemistry. Her childhood curiosity in the life sciences was instilled by her grandfather, a physician-scientist in neurosurgery, when we spent summer nights observing molting cicadas with him. The molting cicada was slightly glowing, white-greenish, and transparent, gradually changing to brown as it matured. She was fascinated and impressed by this process, wondering how such colors could be possible in an organism. In college, she learned about viruses and extremophiles for the first time and was amazed by their lifecycle, structure, obligate-intracellular nature, and abilities to survive in extreme environments. Later she learned about Zika virus and strongly felt that she needed to study virology to find a solution as a scientist. She is also interested in astrobiology hoping to be exposed to research in the field. Her experiences in the U.S. broadened her perspectives and gave her the opportunities to be a part of the scientific community and to learn how research can make a positive impact on society. She hopes to become a university professor to conduct her own research and mentor minority students including women, mothers, and international students.

Home Institution: Harvard University

Sara is a master’s student at Harvard University majoring in Educational Psychology. She was raised in a family of English teachers and was always interested in education and second language acquisition. For the past seven years, she has been a teacher at a private English language academy run by her family. During this time, she witnessed firsthand the mannerisms and study habits enforced by regular Japanese school education. During her time at Harvard University, Sara will focus on researching how students build motivation and self-efficacy. Harvard University will be a challenging environment in which Sara hopes to thrive. She looks forward to the challenge of studying in an environment that encourages logical, independent thinking and risk-taking. Sara is truly grateful for Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship for making her study abroad possible.

Home Institution: Grinnell College

Sakura is a rising junior at Grinnell College. The Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship allow her to complete her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Anthropology and will help her prepare for the Masters of Public Health. During her time abroad, she hopes to widen her perspectives by interacting with students from a variety of backgrounds and learn about medicine from the molecular level through Biochemistry, and the macro level through Anthropology. She aspires to become an epidemiologist who can act as a bridge for researchers in Japan and the U.S. to build a tight-knit U.S.-Japan relationship. Also, she looks forward to making connections with other Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholars and the TOMODACHI alumni. She is excited to learn about their interests, opinions, and sense of values because she believes getting to know more people will stimulate and widen her perspectives.

Home Institution: University of Hawaii – West Oahu

Mei is a junior bachelor’s degree-seeking student at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu. She was born and raised in Onagawa, Miyagi, which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Her connection to the United States began when she first visited Hawaii in 2013 which was supported by the Rainbow for Japan Kids Executive Committee. Motivated by her lifetime goal; “to contribute to the business and the economic system to return a favor to the U.S-Japan societies,” she is currently majoring in Business Administration with a focus on accounting. She strongly believes that ensuring fair business activities of companies and protecting investors and creditors with appropriate accounting flows can contribute to the development of the economy. This scholarship means a lot to her. With this financial support from the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, she will be able to dedicate more time and resources that are related to her goal, and the goal itself will be attainable.

Home Institution: The George Washington University

Yosei Izumi is a recent graduate from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, with a Magna Cum Laude for B.A. in Economics and International Affairs. Hailing from Yokohama, Japan, Yosei has lived in China for six years and is fluent in Mandarin. For his time abroad, he looked forward the most to having experiences beyond the courses at Washington, DC. To that extent, Yosei served as the Vice President of the Japanese Cultural Association at GWU, where he helped pull off JapanFest 2022. For his time off, Yosei could be found every weekend participating in a recreational soccer league, competing against teams in the DMV area. Yosei did not have a personal connection to his interest in studying abroad, carrying only the passion of studying International Relations at the heart of the United States, where prominent international figures and events would come and go just a few blocks away. In a time when studying abroad was challenging in many corners of the world, the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship Program was both a source of motivation and support that helped pave the path toward studying in the United States.

Home Institution: Keio University
Host Institution: University of Notre Dame

Haruki Kadotani is a junior, majoring in Constitutional Law Studies at Keio University. He will study American Constitutional Law and politics at the University of Notre Dame as a visiting student. Due to his experiences attending YKLF 2019 (Yonsei-Keio-Rikkyo-Fudan Leadership Program), working for NPO, and participating in business contests, he became interested in political economy and environmental affairs. He believes that theories of constitutional law, the fundamental rules of our society, can provide solutions to address those problems and improve our community. To achieve his academic goal of studying constitutional law thoroughly, he hopes to study the history and practice of the American Constitution from a comparative perspective. He is also excited to immerse into the close-knit community of Notre Dame. Meeting people around the United States and the world will open his horizons. He is thankful for the U.S.-Japan Council and Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship because it provides him with a valuable opportunity for academic and personal development without financial concern.

Home Institution: University of California, Los Angeles

Choran Kamijo graduated from UCLA, and she was majoring in Economics back then. She was born and raised in Japan but soaked up in Chinese culture because of her family’s heritage background. Due to this mixed-up education background, she realized there is a deep financial inequality between Japan and China. She started to have a desire to pursue her study in economic inequality while studying in the first community college. She was working three part-time jobs in college due to her family’s financial hardship. It was a hard time for her, but she encountered many energetic friends who all pursued their dream, even though they are under crucial financial hardship. This experience pushed her eager to gain an even deeper knowledge of the studies in the area of economic inequality. It also inspired her to dream of having her own company and utilize her knowledge to help people who are facing financial burdens in the future. Thanks to the generous support from the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, she could focus on her studies and graduate on time, even under the financial burden. Throughout all her experience in study abroad, she earned her long-life friends and also a great passion for her dream.

Sara KIM
Home Institution: The George Washington University

Sara is a senior at George Washington University majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in International Economics. Growing up in Tokyo as a South Korean immigrant, she had the privilege of understanding both cultures and languages, which stemmed her interest in the relationship between the two countries. Observing the distinct political perspectives of Korea and Japan and the role of the United States in the relationship, Sara was motivated to learn International Relations at an American institution to find a more neutral approach toward peaceful diplomacy. Sara is now studying in Washington D.C., the center of world politics, with access to valuable opportunities to gain insights that could help her achieve her goals. After graduation, she is planning to take part in research on the U.S. and East Asian geopolitics and ultimately work as an international lawyer. In light of Sara’s motivation and goals, the Toshizo Watanabe Scholarship is not only a life-changing award that enabled her to continue her studies, but also a contribution to building a strong relationship between U.S.-Japan-South Korea.

Home Institution: University of North Carolina Wilmington

Miho is a passionate transfer student in Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with 5+year working experience in Japan. After the internship experience at the United Nations Information Center Tokyo, she decided to contribute to raising awareness of global topics by using media technologies. She strongly believes that media technologies’ power is a great tool for reaching people’s recognition Beyond Distance Barriers and can create a lasting impact on and more in-depth understanding of audiences. Her main focus is on human rights issues, specifically refugees. She wants to advocate for human equality and wants to take part in building a fair society where all human beings are treated appropriately. The Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship certainly empowers her to pursue her goals and enhance her leadership ability while finishing her final year at the university. She is motivated to enlighten people on global topics and work for a stronger relationship between nations. She looks forward to taking advanced technical classes under professional filmmakers’ guidance at the university program. She is heartily grateful to the Scholarship Program and the U.S.-Japan Council for supporting her journey.

Home Institution: Georgetown University

Kana is a graduate student at Georgetown University (degree: Master of Science in Foreign Service with a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.) She worked as a consular assistant at Afghan Embassy in Tokyo before starting graduate school. Through this experience, she gained a strong interest in the nexus of humanitarian assistance and development. Thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship’s generous support, she can continue studying at Georgetown University amid the global pandemic. Throughout her study at Georgetown, she will focus on building a solid rapport with real-world practitioners in the relevant fields, deepening her expertise in humanitarian response/ post-conflict development/ social protection.

Home Institution: University of Washington – Seattle Campus

Kei is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Informatics at the University of Washington Seattle (UW). He has manifested a strong interest in promoting smart cities using the concept of User-Centered Design. He hopes to play a critical role in developing social infrastructure through the utilization of ICT in the future, including the creation and development of efficient industries, energy use, and service provision. Kei once transferred from a community college in the U.S. to The University of British Columbia (UBC), however, he could not complete his degree due to financial constraints. He is immensely grateful to the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship for facilitating his successful re-transfer to UW. The scholarship gave him an opportunity to continue his study abroad education and explore other subjects such as urban design and planning. He believes that being chosen as one of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship motivates him to rise from the low points in his life and focus on being successful in his education and career. He intends to spend his last year at UW pursuing his passion for studying the psychology behind effective user experience and its application in urban planning.

Home Institution: Bates College

Ayano Nakamura is a sophomore at Bates College, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Chinese. The Scholarship allowed her to discover her true passion for contributing to the community she is in. During her time at Bates, she noticed that there were not a lot of business-related resources available. Thus, she founded the Women in Business club. Additionally, she observed that many students face difficulty in expanding their social group. There, she established the Humans of Bates club, where she would interview students about their life stories in the hope to unite the student body. Now, she has a dream to become somebody who can quickly see the demands in society and contribute. Not only did the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship allow her to attend her dream college, but she was also able to have the USJC community she could rely on. When she attended the 2019 Annual Conference, she was truly inspired by the professionals that deeply believe in the Japan-U.S. alliance. In her second year at Bates, she is determined to find clues from her studies to expand on her experiences and knowledge to keep on finding what she can do to help the community she belongs to and beyond.

Sayaka OJIMA
Home Institution: Chatham University

Sayaka is a senior student at Chatham University. She studies Political Science and History. After studying for one year as an exchange student, she decided to transfer to the university to pursue a bachelor’s degree there. She is interested especially in East Asian and Middle Eastern politics and national security issues. Her career goal is to be a researcher or scholar in National Security Studies. She would love to contribute to strengthening U.S. and Japan’s national security through research. During her time in the U.S., she seeks to enhance her knowledge of international relations and world politics. She also wants to learn more about different cultures by interacting with people from other countries. She is eager to improve her English as well as Spanish. Receiving the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship enable her to finish her senior year and earn her degree. She is grateful to the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship for helping her dream come true.

Home Institution: University of Nebraska at Kearney

Rina is a senior majoring in Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Being born to a Japanese mother and a Nepali father she was exposed to two different cultures and traditions of each of these countries from an early age. Her unique background has led her to become very keen on learning about various different cultures and also learning different languages making her able to communicate in Japanese, Nepali, English, Hindi, Spanish, and Korean. The same enthusiasm for wanting to explore and learn new things has led her to study abroad in the U.S. Through this study abroad she hopes to deepen her knowledge regarding entrepreneurship while also practically applying that knowledge through different activities. As someone raised by a single mother, Rina is very grateful to Mr. Watanabe and the US-Japan council for giving her this opportunity to continue her study. After graduation, Rina hopes to go to graduate school to further continue her education in Business. In the future, she hopes to have her own company targeting to solve the labor shortage that is happening in Japan by collaborating with different countries that are facing labor surpluses.

Home Institution: UC Berkeley

Kana grew up in the United States, moved to Japan when she was 13, spent her junior year at UC Berkeley, and currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Physics, with a minor in Education and a designated emphasis in New Media Studies.  She hopes to support students with similar backgrounds and hardships, by becoming a role model for underrepresented students, and by volunteering and mentoring as well.  Her ultimate goal is to become a professor of an international research group, acting as a bridge between U.S.-Japan relationships as well as a role model figure in science education and academia.  Kana wants to apply my experience as a bilingual, bicultural minority to restructuring education in both Japan and the US.  She hopes that by becoming a successful researcher and leader in education, she can foster an inclusive, diverse, and intersectional society through her research and contributions to teaching and mentoring. 

Home Institution: Mount Holyoke College

Mao is a sophomore student majoring in Computer Science and Physics at Mount Holyoke College. She has been interested in computational neuroscience, using computational data analysis as a tool to shed light on the new approaches to psychiatric disorders. Liberal arts education at MHC let her deepen her interest in human cognition from various perspectives, including anthropology and philosophy. She aspires to become a well-rounded researcher aware of both ethics and science. She truly appreciates generous financial support and tight community support from the U.S.-Japan Council to allow herself to immerse in her academic studies.