Japanese students create a peace mural to commemorate the events of World War II as part of the two week Global Youth Leadership Program (GYLP) in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Image: East-West Center

East-West Center Program Trains Japanese Students in Leadership


Students from Hiroshima, Japan were given opportunities to develop personal and academic skills after participating in a two week Global Youth Leadership Program (GYLP) in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Twenty-three Japanese students traveled to the state to take part in a program, which ran from July 29 until August 12, designed to develop leadership and civic skills and give students the opportunity to explore Hawai‘i’s ties with Hiroshima and Japan.

Sponsored by the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education and organized by the East-West Center, the program provided an international experience for Japanese students and gave participants the global knowledge and skills necessary to better promote peace and sustainability in their community, country, and world. A number of local students from Hawai‘i also participated in the program and together they explored each other’s cultures, history, and unique connections with one another.

The messages of peace and sustainability for the future were central themes of the two week training and were particularly relevant since the month of August marks the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As part of the program, students created a peace mural to commemorate the tragic events of World War II.

Participants in the program also explored the several economic and societal ties that exist between Honolulu and Hiroshima as well as between the state of Hawai‘i and Japan. In fact, an estimated one-third of Japanese emigrants to Hawai‘i in the late 1800s came from the Hiroshima area. In total, more than 312,000 Japanese Americans make Hawai‘i their home, the second highest Asian American ethnicity in the state behind Filipino Americans. Hiroshima was also Honolulu’s first sister city, with the partnership established on June 15, 1959. The deep relationship between cities is demonstrated through various programs like the GYLP.

In addition to cultural exchange, Hawai‘i ships over $130 million worth of goods exports to Japan, its second largest export destination after Australia. In total, more than $464 million goods and services exports go to Japan from Hawai‘i, creating nearly 3,700 American jobs. Japanese students studying in the state contribute $24 million to the economy and the 35 Japanese majority-owned firms located in the state employ nearly 15,000 local workers.

Nate Schlabach is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.