Japanese students at Cal for leadership conference

300 high school students are in the Bay Area, visiting from the area of Japan hit by last year's deadly earthquake and tsunami. They're participating in the Tomodachi Summer 2012 SoftBank Leadership Program at UC Berkeley.
July 24, 2012 6:15:38 PM PDT
300 high school students are in the Bay Area visiting from the area of Japan hit by last year's deadly earthquake and tsunami. They're participating in the Tomodachi Summer 2012 SoftBank Leadership Program at UC Berkeley.

Many of the students lost homes and some lost family members following those two events -- an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and 23-foot tsunami.

After the disaster the US Embassy in Japan and the US-Japan Council decided to help support the recovery of the area. That's how the Tomodachi initiative began. Tomodachi means 'friendship' in Japanese.

As part of the program, the students will stay in several dorms on the Cal campus for three weeks. Then the group will visit Sacramento, attend an Oakland Athletics game, meet Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, and experience Bay Area life by staying with a local family for a weekend.

Officials say this is all part of the recovery of that hard-hit northeastern area of Japan, "We thought one way was to invest in the younger generation and give them experiences such as the experience that these 300 kids are going to have," US Ambassador to Japan John Roos said.

Of the program, student Natsumi Oikawa commented, "When I get back to Japan, I'm going to make good relationships between America and Japan."

SoftBank Corporation, a large telecommunications company in Japan, is paying for the entire program. The CEO of the company is a 1980 Cal graduate.

The conference on the UC Berkeley campus continues through August 10th.


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