TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program: Learn How Tohoku Recovered through the Lens of Sustainability, Culture, Business & Leadership

Learning Resilience from the Great East Japan Earthquake Recovery-
Maui Students Build Strength after Wildfire Disaster

Former TOMODACHI Program participant who experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake gives back: her new organization dedicated to recovery efforts in Miyagi co-leads new TOMODACHI Program

The TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership led by the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) (HQ: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; President: Suzanne Basalla), in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, is organizing a leadership development program for high school students from Maui, Hawaii. The program will take place in Higashi-Matsushima City in Miyagi Prefecture and other areas in Tohoku. The TOMODACHI Kibou For Maui Program is scheduled to take place from Sunday, March 17 to Sunday, March 24, 2024. The recovery of Maui is expected to be lengthy and a similar program is planned for the summer of 2024 to further assist the long-term development and support of the community.

Remembering the support of “Operation Tomodachi” in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we would like to return the favor to the United States.

The TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program is a leadership development program designed to offer holistic support for high school students from Maui who have been impacted by the devastating wildfire. Reflecting on the assistance Japan received during Operation Tomodachi from the U.S. government after the earthquake in Tohoku, the U.S.-Japan Council, as the administrating organization of the TOMODACHI Initiative, is excited to plan and implement the program to be part of the Maui’s recovery process and efforts. The program is made possible with support by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

With nearly 3,000 students evacuated from public schools on Maui and many families still living in shelters on remote islands, the program aims to provide participants with new hope by offering various learning opportunities and fostering interactions with local people in the Tohoku region, which has been recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.


The program will highlight Higashi-Matsushima City, which was selected as one of the Top 100 Green Destinations by “Green Destinations”, an international certification organization for sustainable tourism destinations in Tohoku. The program plans to offer workshops for participants to learn about Tohoku’s recovery as a tourist destination and its resilience in the face of natural disasters, as well as workshops that showcase Tohoku’s nature including its agriculture and fishing industries. On the final day, each participant will give a presentation to share their reflections and insights gained throughout the program and how they will demonstrate leadership upon returning to Maui.

TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program

  • Activities: Workshops for Maui high school students, leadership development, cultural and local exchange, socializing
  • Location: Higashi-Matsushima City, Ishinomaki City, Matsushima Town, Miyagi County, and Onagawa Town, Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture
  • Date: Sunday, March 17 – Sunday, March 24, 2024
  • Participants: 11 high school students from Maui
  • Operated by: U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative
  • Cooperation: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, Odyssey Nature Japan
  • URL:

Program Activities

  • Welcome ceremony
  • Workshop
  • Critical Thinking and Design Thinking by Odyssey Nature Japan
  • Nature and Ethics: Leadership in the Face of Natural Disasters
  • History of Japanese Fisheries and Climate Change
  • Forest Experience based on the concept of “Satoumi”
  • Action Mapping
  • Leadership
  • Visit Onagawa
  • Conversation with TOMODACHI alumni
  • Exchange with high school students from Tohoku
  • Presentation
  • Other social gatherings, food culture experience

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, a TOMODACHI program participant returned to her hometown to become a leader in the recovery effort. Now she is organizing this program.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, the TOMODACHI Initiative was born, and one of the first TOMODACHI programs, “Rainbow for Japan Kids,” was implemented in Hawaii. The first group of 22 participants arrived in Hawaii in July 2011- just 4 months after the disaster. During their time in Hawaii, these children created lasting memories. This experience inspired one student who later pursued a degree in Hawaii. Also, many participants returned to Tohoku to become part of the future generation who actively participates in the recovery efforts. Miku Narisawa, the founder of ODYSSEY, a general incorporated association that supports Tohoku recovery, has returned to the TOMODACHI Initiative after 13 years, this time as a key implementer of this new program.

Miku Narisawa


Miku received her M.A. in Peace and Environment from Meiji University in Tokyo and her B.A. in Peace and Conflict Resolution from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Miku is currently a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Tohoku University, where she focuses on marine environmental anthropology and environmental ethics of coastal resource management. She also served as an Ocean Advisor to the Republic of Palau at COP28. During her undergraduate years, she worked on international peace education projects at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial with the federal government and the U.S. National Park Service. After personally experiencing the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, she has dedicated herself to nature-based education in various parts of the world and founded Odyssey Nature Japan after returning to Japan.

Odyssey Nature Japan

Odyssey Nature Japan is a new environmental education organization started with the hope that the children of the next generation will fully experience the “vitality” provided by the rich nature of Higashi-Matsushima City. The organization offers a variety of programs for children using the Satoumi concept, training programs for students in actual natural environment fields, and corporate training focused on climate change and energy issues – led by local fishermen, researchers and farmers.

About the TOMODACHI Initiative

The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, with support from the Government of Japan. Born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, TOMODACHI invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The initiative seeks to foster a “TOMODACHI Generation” of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, appreciate each other’s countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous and secure world. Visit us at