A group of university students visited Washington D.C. last month through a government-sponsored program that promotes youth exchanges between Japan and the United States. The program, called the Kakehashi Project, helped the students better understand U.S. politics while providing food for thought on what they might want to do after graduation.
The nine participating students visited the Japanese Embassy, local universities and other locations in Washington from Feb. 11 to 17. They also visited the regional office of a major Japanese automaker, which employs dozens of staff members engaged in lobbying activities. Yutaro Takamori, a student at Hitotsubashi University, said, “I realized how important lobbying activities are for companies and Washington’s political influence over the private sector.”
The students had several opportunities to talk to officials from both public and private sector organizations. Yaame Iseki of Sophia University said she learned many Americans obtain master’s or doctoral degrees after working for several years as a means of advancing their careers, which is not common in Japan. “I’m thinking about what to do after graduation, and the trip to Washington gave me some ideas,” she said.
As part of the program, the students made presentations on origami, traditional soranbushi dancing and other Japanese cultural practices. Some of the students had difficulty folding origami paper cranes, and when asked about the origin of origami, none knew the answer, according to Taihei Nakamura of Waseda University. “It’s important that we have a deep understanding of our own culture,” Nakamura said.
The students belong to the Japan National Student Association (JNSA) Fund, which organizes the annual H.I.H. Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest with the Yomiuri Shimbun.