[PRESS RELEASE] TOMODACHI Initiative and The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation Launch New Exchange Program for Japanese High School Students

New $10 Million Dollar Endowment to Fund Japanese Students Training Program in California

June 30, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S.-Japan Council and The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation have established the TOMODACHI Toshizo Watanabe Leadership Program, a training program in the United States for Japanese high school students. Made possible by a $10 million dollar endowment from The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation, this program has selected fourteen students for participation in its inaugural year. 

As the newest program of the TOMODACHI Initiative, the TOMODACHI Toshizo Watanabe Leadership Program aims to promote a greater understanding between the United States and Japan and to foster an international mindset within the next generation leaders of both countries. Through a rigorous selection process, participants from all over Japan have been chosen to travel to the United States to take part in the program’s 12-day training sessions this August. During their stay in California, they will engage with the local community, visit the Japanese American National Museum,  learn more about American history and its diverse cultures, visit educational institutions, and acquire different perspectives and leadership skills through homestays and site visits. 

“Being exposed to other countries and broadening horizons in their youth is such a valuable experience,” said Mr. Toshizo (“Tom”) Watanabe, Chairman of The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation. “I expect this program to provide promising Japanese high school students with discovery and opportunities.” 

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Toshizo Watanabe for his support to the U.S.-Japan Council and the TOMODACHI Initiative over the years,” said Suzanne Basalla, President and CEO of the U.S.-Japan Council. “Since its inception, the TOMODACHI Initiative has aimed to develop next-generation leaders who will lead the future of Japan and the United States. I expect that the high school students who will participate in the newly established program will lead U.S.-Japan relations in the future.” 

This program is made possible by Mr. Watanabe’s generous gift of a $10,000,000 endowment, which the U.S.-Japan Council received in March of this year. This follows a previous gift of $10,000,000, which created and continues to fund the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, a financial aid opportunity supporting high school, graduate and undergraduate students to study abroad across Japan and the United States. Since its inception in 2016, it has supported 140 students to participate in exchange programs. The U.S.-Japan Council is deeply grateful for Mr. Watanabe’s incredible support for the mission of strengthening bilateral bonds and empowering the next generation.

About the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) and the TOMODACHI Initiative

The U.S.-Japan Council develops and connects global leaders to create a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship. It is an organization whose members believe people-to-people relationships are a powerful way to bring together leaders in the U.S. and Japan to address and create solutions to mutual concerns. The Council is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit educational organization that was founded by a group of Japanese American leaders in 2008, and in 2012, the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) was created and in 2013, it became a Public Interest Corporation (koeki zaidan hojin).

The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership, born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The U.S.-Japan Council (U.S.) and the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) work in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to implement the TOMODACHI Initiative as a public-private partnership.  Implementation includes program development and oversight, communications and outreach, marketing, fundraising, donor relations and management and operations.

Washington, DC Headquarters
Alison Aadland
Senior Communications Manager
[email protected]

Japan Office
Junko Tsuda
Executive Director of U.S.-Japan Council (Japan)
[email protected]