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Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange

Youth Exchange Programs with the United States

KAKEHASHI Project —The Bridge for Tomorrow—

The KAKEHASHI Project is a youth exchange program promoted by the Japanese government (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). It aims to heighten potential interest in Japan and enhance international understanding of the "Japan brand" that includes Japanese-style values, Japan's strengths and attractiveness known as "Cool Japan." The Japan Foundation organizes the programs commissioned by the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (Fulbright Japan).

During two years from fiscal 2013, a total of 4,600 young people (junior high school to age 35) will experience short-stay exchanges in each other's country. Some 2,300 of them will be invited to Japan, and 2,300 will be sent to the U.S. It is to deepen mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S., enable networking for future exchanges, and help young people develop wider perspectives to encourage active roles at the global level in the future.

In fiscal 2013, 1,009 young Americans were invited to Japan and 1,023 young Japanese were sent to the U.S.

Junior High School, High School, and University Students Invitation Program

From all over the U.S., 686 junior high and high school students from 30 schools and 225 students from nine universities were invited to a 10-day stay in Japan. Most of them were studying Japanese and they came in groups according to school.

The participants visited facilities and specialists to learn about traditional Japanese culture including Nihon buyo dance, traditional fine arts, "Cool Japan" like anime and fashion, and state-of-the-art science and technologies.

On their visits to the local cities, the students had homestays and met Japanese students in school. They experienced the everyday life of Japanese students in same generation and increased their understanding of the Japanese people and society. The students learned Japan's diverse local cultures and expanded their networking with the local communities in 39 prefectures they visited.

Welcomed wherever they went, the students were impressed by the Japanese-style omotenashi hospitality culture, solidarity in the local communities, efficiency and cleanliness of the towns.

The participants discovered a variety of attractiveness of Japan that can only be understood by coming in person. Their comments included "I want to study Japanese language and culture more", "I want to share my experience with my family and friends." We found their growing interest in Japan and Japanese language. Their experiences would help the two countries in deepening ties.

Photo of KAKEHASHI Project1
At an English Rakugo performance in Kansai.

Young Researchers Invitation Program

Ninety eight young researchers from 10 think tanks based in Washington, D.C. were invited to an eight- or ten-day stay in Japan. They strived to better understand the current state of Japan's policies and to network with the intellectual community. They were firstly briefed on security, economy, and social issues of Japan. Then they split up to visit government ministries, think tanks, universities, companies, NPOs, etc., according to their field of interest. They thereby increased their understanding of Japan's policies.

Their comments included, "As someone involved in formulating U.S. policy, I want to apply what I've learned here about Japan's role and importance in international society," "I had limited understanding of Japan before coming here, but after talking with many people, my knowledge about Japan has increased a lot," and "I think many more exchange visits like this are necessary to understand aspects of a country not reported by the media."

Their visit to Japan increased their interest in Japan and we hope it will be useful in their research activities.

Junior High School, High School, and University Students Dispatch Program

Total 627 students from 25 high schools based on the recommendation of the prefectural boards of education, 99 junior high and high school students selected from four organizations, and 236 students from ten universities visited to the U.S. for 10 days. At the same time, the student creators exchange by sending 61 art-major college students from three schools were implemented. The students went in groups according to school.

Before the trip, the students practiced making English presentations about Japanese culture, nature, industries, and other attractiveness of Japan. Besides touring major cities like Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles, they also visited local cities for homestays and/or school exchanges. The students made their presentations about Japan to a wide range of Americans including U.S. Congress members, government officials, students of the same generation, and community members. They introduced the diversity of Japanese culture, everyday life of Japanese students, and modern culture like "Cool Japan".

Students' comments included, "As we talked with each other on a personal level, I felt that we were building kakehashi bridges between our two countries" and "As we Japanese become more active abroad, I realized how important it is to explain the best things about Japan."

Photo of KAKEHASHI Project2
Student Creators Exchange at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.