Recently, a 9-person delegation of U.S. professionals led by the East-West Center in Washington, DC and a 21-person delegation from the Masters of Asian Studies Program in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service took part in the Japan Foundation’s Kakehashi Project – The Bridge for Tomorrow. Promoted by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kakehashi Project aims to increase the amount of overseas visitors to Japan, increase interest in Japan, and, most importantly, enhance international understanding of Japan. In particular, emphasis is placed on exposing those who have little or no experience with Japan, travel or otherwise, to all that the country has to offer. Over 10 days, U.S. students and young professionals are able to travel Japan to experience the local culture, talk to high level officials in a variety of fields, and participate in school exchange programs.
During their tour, participants on the trip led by the East-West Center had an opportunity to meet with representatives and organizational leaders from a wide range of private, government, and academic institutions. Site visits included the Tokyo Foundation, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), the Ministry of Defense, the National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), Dokkyo and Kyoto Universities, as well cultural visits to museums, temples and religious shrines.
Cultural visits also dominated the trip taken by Georgetown University, whose site visits included Asakusa, the Tokyo National Museum, Akihabara, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Due to the large group, half of the Georgetown students went to Kyoto while the other half journeyed to Hiroshima to visit Miyajima Island and the Peace Memorial and Museum. While in Tokyo, the students attended and participated in discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japan Center for Economic Research, and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
In addition to these planned discussions and visits, each participant also had one full day in Tokyo to conduct independent research relating to their own specific area of specialization, ranging from business and private sector development in Asia, to NGO cooperation, and security and policy advocacy across the Asia-Pacific. The Independent Research Day provided a means by which the students and young professionals could expand their contacts with Japanese experts in their chosen fields.
Sarah Batiuk is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.