On June 12, the TOMODACHI RISE Leadership Program Welcome Event titled “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Exploring Opportunities for Social Impact Across Japan” was held online. Nearly 100 attendees, including TOMODACHI Alumni, speakers, regional representatives, guests and supporters from Japan and the United States were present.
In recognition of the tenth year of the launch of the TOMODACHI Initiative, the event focused on reflecting on the impact generated by the TOMODACHI Generation and connecting both Japanese and American alumni. This virtual event was hosted by the new 2021 Regional Leaders as part of the TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Impact for Social Empowerment (RISE) Leadership Program.
Suzanne Basalla, President and CEO of the U.S.-Japan Council opened the event and Yoshiaki Hirayama, Senior Officer at Prudential Holdings of Japan welcomed the participants. During the first half of the event, three former Regional Leaders, Koh Matsuki, Miyu Sugita, and Toshinobu Sasazu, who are all currently actively working to address and solve regional issues, shared their experiences in a panel discussion.
In the latter half, each of the seven Regional Leaders representing the seven regions of Japan proposed a regional issue that they plan to tackle this year. Participants then joined breakout sessions to discuss those issues and connect with alumni in each region.
The Hokkaido Region discussed Ainu culture and the natural landscape of Hokkaido. They welcomed the globally renowned performers from the Ainu Art Project and took participants on a virtual nature tour of Hokkaido.
The Tohoku Region focused on depopulation – specifically the depopulation of shopping districts in Tohoku, using Iwate Prefecture as an example. Mr. Shinichi Yanagawa from Ichinoseki Machizukuri Co, Ltd. delivered a lecture on how best to approach the issue. Participants also devised slogans for the produce.
The Kanto Region focused on immigration, Japan’s aging population and the declining birthrate. They discussed what could be done to tackle this issue through lively exchanges with alumni from the U.S. and the Kanto area.
The Chubu-Hokuriku Region focused on relocation and the depopulation that leads to population outflow in the region. The discussion highlighted “U-turn jinzai,” a term for individuals who leave the region to study or work and return to their communities after their time abroad is concluded. The Regional Mentor, herself a “U-turn jinzai,” shared her own experiences working abroad, coming back to the area, the challenges she encountered and the existing opportunities for work in the region.
The Kansai-Chugoku-Shikoku Region focused on the consumption of local products, local industries and food distribution networks. Participants discussed what could be done to market local products to the consumer more effectively.
The Kyushu Region focused on career support for junior high school students in Fukuoka. The participants discussed how they could support junior high school students by brainstorming with whiteboards.
The Okinawa Region focused on sex education in Okinawa, specifically on the opportunities to learn and how to increase more awareness of the issue. Willing participants shared their sex education experiences with the help of guided questions. A diverse group of students representing various age ranges and backgrounds participated in the discussion, including some from the United States.
The RISE Welcome Event was an opportunity for TOMODACHI Alumni and fellow like-minded youth in Japan and the United States to reconnect, identify local issues and work together to find ways to create a better society. This event was made possible through the generous support of The Prudential Foundation as part of the TOMODACHI Alumni Leadership Program.