In July and early August of 2016, MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) welcomed a group of 20 middle and high school students to Southern California to experience a cultural exchange as part of the TOMODACHI-MUFG International Exchange Program. The term TOMODACHI means “friends” in Japanese. For the past five years, MUFG has supported this student exchange program, which operates under the auspices of the U.S.-Japan Council. The group of Japanese youth were from Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, areas that were particularly hard-hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
While in California, the students enjoyed life-changing experiences. As part of the program, the students attended a financial education program at the MUFG Los Angeles Headquarters. They learned basic banking knowledge and explored the differences between the U.S. and Japanese banking systems. The students also visited the Japanese American National Museum, the residence of Consul General Chiba of Japan in Los Angeles, third generation Japanese American owned Tanaka Farms, and deepened their understanding of U.S.-Japan Relations.
“This experience has opened my perspective and expanded my interest in International Relations,” said Hiyori Takano.
The participants also had opportunities to embrace American culture through volunteer activities at the MA Center LA, where they prepared meals for the homeless with their host families, many of those families are employees of MUFG Union Bank.
“Staying with my host family made me realize how many truly warm people there are in the world,” said Suzuna Ogata.
Next year, MUFG will send a group of American students to Japan.