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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 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). It aims to heighten the potential interest in Japan and increase 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) which are aimed at the U.S. During the two years from fiscal 2013, a total of 4,574 (2,251 invited to Japan, 2,323 sent to U.S.) Japanese and American youths (middle school to age 35) experienced short-stay exchanges in each other's country. It was to deepen the 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 the program's planning and implementation, emphasis was placed on spotlighting Japan's provincial areas. The program was designed to spread the American invitees to as many provincial areas as possible. Also, many of the young Japanese adults sent to the U.S. were recruited from Japan's provincial areas so that they could promote their lesser-known areas.

In fiscal 2014, 1,242 young Americans were invited to Japan and 1,300 young Japanese were sent to the U.S.

Japan Invitation Program

The basic program invited students across the U.S. studying the Japanese-language for a ten-day visit to Japan. The 220 middle and high school students and 275 college students arrived in groups according to each school.

During their stay, they visited institutions and specialists to increase their understanding of traditional culture such as Japanese buyo dances and traditional fine arts, Cool Japan pop culture like anime and fashion, and science and technology. Also, during their stay in a provincial area (five days and four nights), they had homestays and visited local schools and experienced the daily life of Japanese students their age. Their understanding of Japanese people and society thereby deepened. The students had comments like, "I now want to further study the Japanese-language and the Japanese culture" and "I want to recommend visiting Japan to my family and friends."

For thematic invitation programs, 153 young researchers from 16 think tanks based in Washington, D.C. were invited to Japan. Their main objectives were to increase their understanding of Japan's current policies and to establish a network with the intellectual community. Also, 19 young American creators working in the fields of design, fashion, art, and anime were invited to Japan to increase their understanding of Cool Japan and to promote it. In addition, 93 Japanese-American college students were invited to foster next-generation networking in Japan. One young working adult commented, "I was really impressed by how close Japan and the U.S. are." In these ways, next-generation networking advanced in diverse fields in Japan.

Photo of Invited Japanese-American youth group try taiko drumming at Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai
Invited Japanese-American youth group try taiko drumming at Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai

U.S. Visitation Program

The basic program sent a total of 547 junior high and high school students selected by prefectural boards of education and from the general public. Also, 275 university students were selected from the general public. The students visited the U.S. for 10 days and went in groups according to their school or organization. In addition, the Student Creators Exchange Program sent 50 art-major college students in two groups.

Before the trip, under the guidance of their teachers, the students practiced making English presentations on Japanese culture, nature, industries, and other good things about Japan.

Besides touring major cities like Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles, they also visited smaller cities all over the U.S. 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 age, church congregations, and other local people. By introducing the diversity of Japanese culture, everyday life of Japanese students, and modern culture like Cool Japan, they deepened people's understanding of Japan.

Students' comments included, "It would make me happy to serve as a bridge between Japan and America even in a small way through this program" and "It was a very valuable experience to visit all those universities and talk about Japanese culture."

Thematic visitation programs were also held. Fifteen young Japanese leaders doing unique projects to revitalize their provincial areas visited the U.S. to promote their areas. They helped people in the U.S. better understand the culture, attractions, and revitalization efforts of Japan's provincial areas.

Also, 31 young researchers in five groups from major think tanks in Japan and 20 young professional creators visited the U.S. To increase the understanding of Okinawa in America, 250 high school students from Okinawa were sent to the U.S. Many of the participants remarked that the visits spawned long-term connections. The visitation program promoted the good things about Japan and further expanded next-generation networking in diverse fields.

Photo of A high school group giving a presentation in the U.S.
A high school group giving a presentation in the U.S.