TOMODACHI Creates Leaders, Dreamers

Twenty students from Japan got up close and personal with the Power of Dreams during a two-week visit to the U.S. for the TOMODACHI Honda Global Leadership Program.

The three-year program, building on the success of the TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program, gave students a chance to visit Honda operations in California and Ohio while focusing on leadership and how the Power of Dreams factors into both. “This reimagined program focuses on leadership, what it takes to be a good leader and the important role dreams play in that,” said Erik Wedin, manager, Corporate Relations, American Honda. “This program is more about what kind of leaders these kids can be. It’s about realizing your dreams and how to help others achieve their dreams.”

TOMODACHI is a Japanese word that means friend and Wedin said the program has long created friendships and connections. As part of this trip, students stayed with families in Dublin, Ohio, spent time with American Honda associates and their families in California, and attended a local Ohio high school to learn about the culture. A trip to Ohio Honda facilities, including the Marysville Auto Plant (MAP) and the Honda Heritage Center Museum, gave students a chance to learn about Honda and see how people use their dreams to inspire action.

For student Masaki Taniguchi, the visit to MAP was inspiring. “Before I came over to the U.S. for the program, I studied a lot about Honda and its state-of-the-art factories,” he said. “It turned out to be everything I imagined. I also saw the passion of the associates and hope to take that back with me.”

In California, students had a chance to visit American Honda, tour the Honda Museum, participate in generational connectivity activities with local seniors via the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, meet American Honda Senior Executive Vice President Shinji Aoyama and Auto Division Senior Vice President Hideto Yamasaki and even experience a few Honda products. For Taniguchi, those products are what makes Honda unique. “Honda in my mind is very different from other car companies; it makes more than cars,” he said. “They make motorcycles, lawn mowers and even a jet. And that really shows the challenging spirit and that is something I would like to acquire.”

California activities also included a meeting with Honda IndyCar driver and 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato, a Japanese native. From Sato, students learned about perseverance in achieving one’s dreams.

The TOMODACHI program is organized through the U.S.-Japan Council that provides several opportunities for Japanese students and young professionals to expand their horizons. “It’s inspiring to see students go through the program; they begin to be more communicative and self-confident,” said Irene Hirano Inouye, president, U.S.-Japan Council. “We want them to think about how they can impact the world and be innovative. This will let them grow personally and take knowledge back to their own communities.”

With more than 6,700 TOMODACHI alumni, Inouye said it also gives the students connections. And Wedin said that is something that lasts. Students from previous TOMODACHI programs are still in touch with their host families, while others have made return trips to the United States or traveled to other parts of the world.

The TOMODACHI program has created friendships in the past, and the new version will work to create leaders and dreamers.

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