TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program (TOMODACHI-UJYEP)

On May 2, 2013, Mr. Hakubun Shimomura, Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) was invited to a reception party that took place at Capitol Hill and reached an agreement with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to double the number of Japanese students studying in the U.S. and U.S. students studying in Japan.[1] In the meantime, Akira Foundation (AFJ) has been working on an upcoming Youth Exchange Program with American Councils for International Education (ACIE), in line with the ambitious new steps to follow through on their foregoing commitments to a transformative change in how the Japanese educational system relate to internationalization which makes it more accessible for foreign students and nurtures individuals equipped with ingenuity and expertise to solve shared problems across borders.

To date, the TOMODACHI INITIATIVE, the bilateral public-private partnership launched in 2011 by the U.S. Embassy and the U.S.-Japan Council, strongly supports the program, financially, through the “TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges” funded by Toyota Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hitachi, Ltd., and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.[2]  As with the funding from TOMODACHI, the program has been dubbed “TOMODACHI [3] U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program (TOMODACHI-UJYEP).” At present, ACIE and AFJ are working collaboratively to develop their own three-week programs in both Washington, D.C. (plus the New York trip) and Tokyo (plus the Tohoku trip).*

*As of June 17, 2013

For TOMODACHI website, please click here

[1] The Mainichi, Minister eyes scholarship for short-term overseas study (2 May 2013) [Online]. Available at: 9 June 2013)

[2] Embassy of the United States Tokyo, Japan, HP:Press Releases: Five Major Japanese Companies Join as Key Partners in the TOMODACHI Initiative (18 April 2012) [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 9 June 2013)

[3] The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership forged after the Great East Japan Earthquake and led by the U.S. Government, the Japanese Government and the U.S.-Japan Council, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. (


  • To leverage youth’s innovative and creative characteristics
  • To nurture them to find their own, authentic meaningful lives
  • To inspire them to become engaged global citizens who commit themselves to “sustaining creative, collective and cooperative (3Cs) development”[4] in our global village


  • To enable students to experience one another’s cultures first-hand and develop understanding, appreciation and tolerance for differences
  • To provide the students with the opportunity to have a close look and compare business, community, academic, and governmental institutions in both countries
  • To provide students with the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of disaster response and recovery in both countries
  • To enable students to explore particular issues in both countries
  • To involve Japanese and American institutions and resources in participants’ education
  • To provide cross-cultural team building and problem-solving experience through joint social action project efforts
  • To encourage students to explore educational opportunities in one another’s countries, particularly college in the U.S. for Japanese students
  • To help students to understand the role of service and social entrepreneurship as an important tool for improving communities, both at home and abroad
  • To provide students with the skills and resources needed to start social ventures at home and abroad

Strategic Map on TOMODACHI-UJYEP
Strategic Map on TOMODACHI-UJYEP (In Japanese)

Contents of the Program
A group of high school students and accompanying teacher from schools in D.C. and Tokyo will participate in a reciprocal exchange program. Through the social innovation and civic engagement program, students will engage in a service trip to the Tohoku region to engage with peers in a community service project.

For the U.S. Program:

A variety of institutional supporters including US-Japan Council, Grameen Foundation, United Way, Ashoka, and Architecture for Humanity, will help the Japanese students gain a sense of social responsibility and global awareness through unique service-based learning at firsthand. The students will also have a chance to meet and discuss topics of U.S.-Japan history and relations with U.S. congressmen at Capitol Hill, while engaging in the team-building workshop of ‘Sustainability Projects’ related to built environment, food/nature or water, through their video production.

For the Japan Program:

AFJ is carefully reviewing the balance of program partners and contents between cultural immersion and social entrepreneurship which is phenomenally emerging around the Tohoku region where the massive earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School and Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus will provide educational and cultural exchange programs to American students, and in parallel, the students will be asked to form a group to present their own ideas or thoughts to address social and cultural issues in Japan through the entire three weeks. For the service project, J-Seed Ventures will host the three sessions every Friday to teach the practical, creative way of crafting and improving a business model, ‘Business Model Generation.’ In the final week, American students will move to the Tohoku region and visit volunteer organizations involved in relief and sustainable recovery work through farm stay.

Main Partners

Program Partners:

  • American Councils for International Education (ACIE)
  • Akira Foundation (AFJ)

Institutional Supporters:

  • The Center for Global Education and Leadership
  • Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC)
  • United Way Worldwide
  • U.S. Embassy in Japan
  • U.S.- Japan Council Japan
  • The World We Want Foundation


  • The TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private initiative led by the COUNCIL and the U.S. Embassy in Japan with support from the Government of Japan (through TOMODACHI’s Fund for Exchanges, supported by Toyota, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Hitachi Ltd, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.)

Local Supporters:

In the U.S.
  • Architecture for Humanity
  • Ashoka
  • Capital Hill (w/Congressmen)
  • George Washington University
  • Grameen Foundation
  • Thomas Jefferson High School
  • United Nations
  • University of Maryland
  • U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • U.S.-Japan Research Institute, etc.
In Japan
  • American Field Service, Japan (AFS Japan)
  • Common Earth Co.
  • J-Seed Ventures, Inc.
  • Keio Shonan Fujisawa Junior and Senior High School
  • Kid’s Door
  • “Soup” association
  • Tokyo Volunteer Action Center (TVAC)
  • Tohoku University
  • Watalis