Japan: Creating a "Tomodachi Generation"

Posted by Suzanne Basalla
October 8, 2011
Couple Pushes Bicycles As They Cross a Tokyo Intersection

"There's nothing as beautiful as dedicating one's life for a cause."

These are the words of Japanese poet Shiba Ryotaro translated from Japanese to English on the morning of March 11 by Monty Dickson, an American who taught English at Yonesaki Elementary School. Tragically, Monty was one of two Americans who perished that day as a result of the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Yesterday, Secretary Clinton spoke those words and honored the memory of Monty Dickson during her remarks at the Second Annual Conference of the U.S.-Japan Council. These words have served as a meaningful reminder to all of us working to rebuild the disaster-affected areas of Japan.

Immediately after March 11, Japan and the United States together mounted one of the largest overseas humanitarian relief operations in American history, and the largest U.S.-Japan joint military operation ever. More than 20,000 Americans from our military and other U.S. agencies took part in what we called Operation TOMODACHI -- which means "friends" in Japanese.

It is because of the close ties between the United States and Japan that we were able to react and respond so swiftly and collaboratively to this unprecedented tragedy. But it is because of our deep friendship and commitment to one another that we felt compelled to do so.

Throughout the last six months, we have seen countless examples of how people-to-people connections solidified the bonds between the United States and Japan and enabled the unparalleled cooperation of Operation Tomodachi. On April 17, 2011, Secretary of State Clinton and then-former Foreign Minister Matsumoto announced the U.S.-Japan Partnership for Reconstruction to show U.S. solidarity and support for Japan's recovery and reconstruction efforts. It's in this spirit that the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo developed the Tomodachi Initiative, a pillar of the Partnership for Reconstruction and a public-private partnership with the U.S.-Japan Council, focused on investing in people.

With generous support from donors, including foundations and businesses in both the United States and Japan, the Tomodachi Initiative will sponsor programs and activities to invest in people to empower Japan's next generation of thinkers, leaders, and entrepreneurs in order to:

• contribute to the longer-term recovery of Tohoku, the region hardest hit by the tsunami, and help Japan more broadly;
• connect people in Japan, and in particular Tohoku, with U.S. government sponsored exchange programs ;
• improve knowledge and research related to disaster risk reduction, health, science, technology, and other fields;
• promote cross-cultural exchange; and,
• provide opportunities for young people that they would not have otherwise.

One example of this approach is to "turbo-charge" ongoing efforts. For example, the Tomodachi Initiative has provided funding to separate exchange programs organized by American Field Service, Japan America Society of Hawaii, and Knowledge Investment Program so that each program can include Tohoku students in their programs.

Another approach is to match needs to donors and donors to needs. The Tomodachi Initiative is partnering now with Major League Baseball to provide youth baseball teams with equipment and uniforms to replace those lost in the tsunami. As teams in need are identified, we are working to line up donations.

Yet another approach is to encourage events that increase awareness of the continued need to support Tohoku and Japan, as well as to spread the message that Japan is open for business and tourism.

Over the last six months we've encountered numerous Americans and Japanese who have discovered that there is nothing more beautiful than to dedicate their time and effort to the cause of rebuilding Japan, and in the process they have rediscovered the close bonds between our two nations. We call this the Tomodachi generation.



District Of Columbia, USA
October 10, 2011

Anna in Washington, D.C. writes:

Thank you for providing this update on efforts to help the Japanese after the earthquake. Even though it is no longer front page news, we should not forget what happened there. We should also continue to make others aware of efforts to help the Japanese recover and rebuild. They are our true friends and allies! Sadly, the events in Japan also remind us why the world needs to find an alternative to nuclear energy.

South Korea
October 10, 2011

Palgye in South Korea writes:


Who are bridge between South-Korea to Iran?


Gwen O.
North Carolina, USA
October 11, 2011

Gwen O. in North Carolina writes:

This is a really beautiful article. I think you should post it in it's entirety on your FB page, so that the many who can not navigate from their phones or other simpler devices can also read it. We could all use some Tomodachi! Thank you....


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