Ishinomaki Friendship Program

The Japan America Society of St. Louis received grants from the NAJAS/Tomodachi Grassroots Exchange Program for 2013, 2014, 2015, and again for 2016. Tomodachi ( is an organization that was created to support Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. The goal of this grant is to invest in the next generation of Japanese and American people and deepen relations between the two countries through grassroots level people to people exchanges. Tomodachi is sponsored by the U.S.-Japan by the U.S.-Japan Council The U.S.-Japan Council is an educational non-profit organization dedicated to promoting people-to-people connections as crucial to a strong U.S.-Japan relationship. The Council brings together diverse leadership, engages stakeholders in the bilateral relationship and explores issues that benefit communities, businesses and government entities on both sides of the Pacific.

Photos of the St. Louis-Ishinomaki TOMODACHI Program


The American high-school students are currently in Ishinomaki  for a two-week study and cultural exchange experience, including more than a week of homestay with a Japanese family. The students have worked hard to prepare, studying Japanese, practicing a traditional dance (Tairyo-bushi) from Ishinomaki, creating presentations to share with the people they meet, and learning about Japanese customs and culture.

In addition, they participated in tea ceremony, cultural programs in St. Louis, and have read lots of background material - all in an effort to make the most of their experience. We can't wait to see what they learn from this experience and how they share it with the friends, families, and communities in St. Louis!


In 2015, JAS welcomed visitors from Ishinomaki: six students ages 13 to 18 and two adults who have assisted in recovery efforts in Ishinomaki as volunteers. During their nine-day visit to St. Louis, they stayed with American host families, visited local schools, experienced St. Louis attractions and culture (The Arch, City Museum, Ted Drewes), and participated in several programs at the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MBG) over the Labor Day holiday weekend. They held a panel discussion with the St. Louis Japanese Language School, performed in music, dancing, and fashion programs, participated in the opening procession and ceremony, and more. The program was a great success, meeting four main goals...

  • provided better understanding of the current re-construction process in Japan four years after the March 2011 mega disaster.
  • provided high-quality educational exchanges between the Ishinomaki students and St. Louis students. This offered opportunities for young people to expand their worldview and seriously reflect on their places in the world.
  • forged new friendships between the people of Ishinomaki and the people of St. Louis.
  • gave unique experiences to both the visitors and the host families.


In 2014, JAS-St. Louis completed the reciprocal visit of 7 American students (plus chaperones) to Japan. These remarkable young people traveled first to Tokyo, where they stayed in the old Olympic village athletic complex. Then, they traveled to Ishinomaki to learn about the devastation faced by residents there from the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Staying in temporary housing provided by the Lion’s Club, the students experienced both the spare accommodations and the overwhelming generosity of volunteers. They made daily excursions to specific locations to meet individuals impacted by the disaster: destroyed schools, a temple that offered sanctuary, a young volunteer working to rebuild her community, a fishing family rebounding from the destruction of their livelihood, a fish market working to ensure the safety of the food supply, the mayor of Ishinomaki responsible for guiding the way forward, and much  more. The Japanese students who had visited St. Louis the year before joined the American visitors daily, and together they participated in a Japanese street festival, complete with Bon Odori dancing. These students were truly able to appreciate both the challenge facing the people of Ishinomaki and their perseverance, determination, and friendship. Toward the end of their visit, the students traveled to Sendai, where they stayed with a host family for two nights and experienced daily Japanese life and culture, and forged still more friendships.


The St. Louis Ishinomaki Friendship Program brought 11 Japanese to St. Louis for one week from August 28 to September 4, 2013. The Japanese visitors included five (5) students age 12-15 and three (3) adults from Ishinomaki, near Sendai, and three (3) adults from Tokyo who have assisted the recovery efforts of Ishinomaki as volunteers. Ishinomaki is one of the most affected areas of Tohoku from the March 11 Earthquake/Tsunami in 2011. During their one week visit to St. Louis, the Japanese visitors stayed with American host families and participated in the Japanesee Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MBG). The Annual Japanese Festival in St. Louis is held over the Labor Day weekend holiday and attracts 35,000-45,000 visitors every year. It is one of the oldest and largest Japanese festivals in the U.S. The Japanese Garden* opened to public in 1977 and it is the largest Japanese garden in North America.

"Japan America Society of St. Louis" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
University of Missouri - St. Louis
362 SSB
1 University Boulevard
St. Louis MO 63121-4400

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