The Center For Professional Exchange

Yujo no Niwa

Great Falls Elementary School held a special tree planting ceremony in their Yujo no Niwa (Friendship Garden) on Thursday, April 30. Mrs. Akie Abe had requested the chance to plant a cherry blossom tree, called sakura, in the garden. Her husband, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had attended the opening ceremony for the garden in 2010. Unfortunately the tree ceremony could not take place when Mrs. Abe and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the school on April 28 and Mrs. Abe requested Mr. Yukio Tada participate in the tree planting as her representative.

Tada Kuribayashi PTA and First Ladies

Current and former PTA members, Japanese teacher Mamiya Worland, Ken Kuribayashi and Yukio Tada

Lonnett and Special Guests

GFES Principal Lonnett spoke to the students about the tree planting and recognized the special guests in attendance. Mr. Lonnett acknowledged Mr. Tada’s long-time support for the Japanese Immersion Program at the school and  his efforts to further U.S.-Japan ties. Mr. Tada gave an uplifting speech about the significance of cherry blossom trees to Mrs. Abe. “Every April, when the Sakura bloom, people across Japan hold special parties to celebrate their beauty and friendship with others. They sit beneath the trees, and enjoy their time with their family and friends. Cherry trees are also a symbol of friendship between Japan and the United States. One hundred years ago, Japan gave a gift of cherry trees to the United States, and they were planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC.” “Today, I am pleased to help you plant this Cherry Tree in honor of the continued friendship between Japan and the United States, especially as demonstrated by the visit this week by Mrs. Abe and Mrs. Obama. Yūjo No Niwa means “Friendship Garden”, and Sakura is indeed at Yujo No Ki, which means “Friendship Tree”.” He asked the students “when you look at this cherry tree – when it is in bloom or not – please think of the friendship between Japan and the United States, between your school and your sister school in Japan and this special week when Mrs. Abe and Mrs. Obama came to visit.”

Students Digging

The GFES JIP students enjoyed taking turns digging the hole for the cherry blossom tree.


Students posed by the Friendship Garden with photos created by the PTA to commemorate the special visit by the two First Ladies earlier in the week.
Uehara So

CEPEX Director Nicole Uehara and Japanese professor Sufumi So joined the tree planting ceremony.

Kuribayashi Tada PTA

The Friendship Garden and newly planted cherry tree will require continued care and support over the years. The families involved in the Japanese Immersion Program at Great Falls Elementary School are an integral element for providing the care for the garden and supporting the U.S.-Japan people-to-people relationship.

Arrival Ceremony 

Crowds of American and Japanese individuals arrived early in the morning on Tuesday, April 28, to pass the security gauntlet and find the perfect spot for the Arrival Ceremony of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and First Lady Akie Abe. While hundreds were invited, not everyone made it onto the South Lawn, with a number of hopeful attendees turned away at the gates after waiting an hour to 90 minutes in line. Welcoming visiting heads of Government with a military Arrival Ceremony held on the South Lawn of the White House has been a tradition since the Kennedy Administration.

Arrival Ceremony invitation

The Golden Ticket

The Arrival Ceremony included a 19 Gun Salute; performances of the National Anthem of Japan and the National Anthem of the United States; Review of the Troops; and speeches by President Obama and Prime Minister Abe. Media coverage of the event includes video by C-SPAN.

Arrival Ceremony

 Members of the U.S. military were dressed in their uniforms. Following the conclusion of the ceremony, the lucky attendees snapped photos of the White House and South Lawn on their cameras and phones.

Arrival Ceremony flags

The parade of American and Japanese flagbearers in front of the fountain, with the Washington Monument in the background, was a stirring visual as the State Visit commenced.



The First Ladies of the U.S. and Japan Visit Great Falls Elementary School

GFES Immersion Classroom Visit

First Lady Michelle Obama and First Lady of Japan Akie Abe visited Great Falls Elementary School (GFES) on April 28, 2015. GFES is one of two public elementary schools with a Japanese Immersion Program (JIP) in Fairfax County, Virginia. Since 1989 students in Grades 1-6 have had the option to spend half of the day learning science, math and health in Japanese and the other half of the day learning subjects in English. The First Ladies’ visit included observation of a Japanese Immersion Program classroom and a school assembly with speeches, Taiko drumming and vocal performances.


Taiko drumming performance by GFES students

Mrs. Obama told the students that “building friendships between people is how we truly build friendships between entire countries.” She was also impressed with the “powerful” performance by the taiko drumming students.  

GFES SingingSinging songs in Japanese

While this was the first visit to the school by Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Abe and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have been long-time supporters of the Japanese immersion program. Mr. and Mrs. Abe were instrumental in establishing a sister school relationship between Great Falls Elementary School and the Kake Educational Institution in the Fukuyama area of Hiroshima. In 2010 the友情の庭 (Friendship Garden) was created at GFES with funding from a Japan Foundation grant, and then former Prime Minister Abe attended the ceremony. Unfortunately, Mrs. Abe was unable to attend the ceremony in 2010 and wanted to plant a cherry tree at the Friendship Garden during her time in Washington in 2015. The Abes have also welcomed students from GFES during their annual 6th Grade trip to Japan to the Prime Minister’s residence.

GFES First Ladies and Tada-san

CEPEX President Yukio Tada (right) and his wife, Hiroko, also attended the special visit to Great Falls Elementary School, along with Sojitz Washington, DC General Manager Ken Kuribayashi (pictured on the left). This school visit by Mrs. Abe and Mrs. Obama comes at an important time for public schools with language immersion programs as budgetary pressures and declining interest in Japanese places immersion programs such as GFES at risk. The continued support and friendship from high profile education advocates such as Mrs. Abe and Mrs. Obama is truly appreciated by supporters of the U.S.-Japan community.

Graduate School Scholarship Opportunity for JET Program Alumni


Graduate School:       Showa Women’s University; located in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.

Eligibility:                   JET Program alumni (as of October 2015); men and women may apply

Japanese Ability:        Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N1, or equivalent language  ability. If applicant has not passed JLPT N1, a separate entrance qualification examination is required; application due May 7-15, 2015.

JET Scholarship:       Qualified applicants can receive financial support for graduate school in exchange for work as an office and Teaching Assistant up to 28 hours per week. Scholarship covers enrollment fee, facilities and equipment fee, tuition, housing and training materials costs.

Awards Available:     (2) scholarships for JET Alumni are available for 2015.

Award Duration:       2 years for Master’s Programs; 3 years for PhD (Doctoral Programs)

How to Apply:            Applicants must submit all documents June 1-16, 2015 to the Showa Women’s University Admission Center. Applicants will be required to take the Graduate School of International Students Entrance Exam and have an in-person or Skype interview (duration of 15-20 minutes).

Required Documents:          

             Completed JET Scholarship Application form <Word>  or <PDF>

            Certificate of Eligibility application <PDF>

            Copy of Passport Photo Page <PDF>

            Curriculum Vitae Page 1 <PDF>

            Curriculum Vitae Page 2 <PDF>

            Graduation thesis summary <Word> or <PDF>

            Research Plan <Word> or <PDF>

            Graduate Studies Major <PDF>

            Financial Statement <PDF>

            University Transcripts

            Proof of Graduation

            Certificate of JET Program participation from contracting organization in Japan

            Recommendation Letter from office where applicant worked on JET          

            Copy of JLPT N1 certificate (or take separate qualification exam) 

Selection Criteria:      Evaluation of documents, essay and interview, which includes a presentation and question-answer session about candidate’s research plan. Interview may be conducted in person or via Skype. You will need to ensure good voice and video quality for Skype interviews.

Entrance Exam:         Applicants must take the Showa Women’s University Graduate School of International Students Entrance Exam on Friday, July 3, 2015. (Attention Date Correction)

Exam Schedule:         For Literature/Linguistics Majors: Arrive by 9:30 am; Essay 10:00-11:00 am; Oral Examination from 1:00 pm.

                                      For Life Sciences Majors: Arrive by 10:30 am; no essay; Oral Examination from 11:00 am.

                                     JET Special Scholarship applications will conduct an additional separate interview following the Oral Examination.

Exam Location:          Showa Women’s University, Taishido 1-7-57, Setagaya-ku

Announcement:         July 11, 2015 at 10 am at the announcement site, and acceptance letters will be mailed to successful candidates.

Enrollment:                Late enrollment to begin October 2015.

Questions/Contact:   Showa Women’s University Student Services Center Student Office; Tel: 03-3411-5118; Email: shougakukin@swu.ac.jp

For more information, please see:        



Graduate School Scholarship Opportunity for JET Program Alumni

Graduate School:     Showa Women’s University; located in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.

Eligibility:                  JET Program alumni (as of March 2015); men/women may apply.

Japanese Ability:     Must have passed Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N1.

Scholarship:              Qualified applicants can receive financial support for graduate school in exchange for work as an office and Teaching Assistant up to 28 hours per week. Scholarship covers enrollment fee, facilities and equipment fee, tuition, housing and training materials costs.

Awards Available:    (2) scholarships for JET Alumni are available for 2015.

Award Duration:      2 years for Master’s Programs; 3 years for PhD (Doctoral Programs)

How to Apply:           Applicants must submit all documents January 6-January 27, 2015; and take Graduate School of International Students Entrance Exam.

Required Documents:              

Completed JET Scholarship Application form <Word>  or <PDF>

Certificate of Eligibility application <PDF>

Copy of Passport Photo Page <PDF>

Curriculum Vitae Page 1 <PDF>

Curriculum Vitae Page 2 <PDF>

Graduation thesis summary <Word> or <PDF>

Research Plan <Word> or <PDF>

Graduate Studies Major <PDF>

Financial Statement <PDF>

University transcripts

Proof of graduation

Certificate of JET participation from local contracting organization

Letter of Recommendation from office participant worked at during JET Program

Copy of JLPT N1 certificate

Selection Criteria:      Evaluation of documents, essay and oral examination, which includes an oral presentation and question-answer session about research plan.

Entrance Exam:         Applicants must take the Showa Women’s University Graduate School of International Students Entrance Exam on February 14, 2015.

Selection:                    Announcement of test results and selection February 21, 2015.

Enrollment:                February 27-March 5, 2015.

Semester Starts:       April 2, 2015.

Questions/Contact:   Showa Women’s University Student Services Center Student Office;   Tel: 03-3411-5118; Email: shougakukin@swu.ac.jp

For more information please see:        




Important Information for the 2015 Japan Studies Award Application

 Desired Candidate Qualities Include

  • Interest in Japan
  • Open to learning and trying new things
  • Positive attitude
  • Organized
  • Motivated
  • Self-starter and independent
  • Able to work with minimal supervision
  • Research skills a plus
  • Able to work in a professional environment
  • Willing to participate in speaking engagements about the award
  • Flexible

Please click here to download the application and submit by the deadline: 

CEPEX 2015 Japan Studies Award Application Packet

 Application Timeline

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Friday, March 20, 2015, 5:00 pm (EST)

Application Review: March 21-31, 2015

Applications will be reviewed by CEPEX staff March 21-31, 2015.


Candidates will be selected for in-person interviews and announced via email on April 1, 2015.


Applicants who passed the initial screening will be interviewed by the CEPEX staff in Washington, DC. Interview dates and other details will be sent to interviewees by email.  All transportation costs and other expenses to and from the interview site are to be borne by the applicant.
Note about interviews: If you make it to the interview stage and are unable to come to the DC office, alternative arrangements may be made on a case-by-case basis.

RESULTS ANNOUNCED: Monday, April 13, 2015

Interview results will be announced to successful and alternate candidates by April 13, 2015. Alternate candidate will be upgraded when deemed necessary.

In-Person Pre-Internship Meeting: April 20-May 1, 2015 (Meeting date TBD)

Award winner will be required to have one meeting with CEPEX staff at the Washington, DC office to discuss the interest areas, goals and objectives of the internship, and any mentorship-related requests.

2-Week DC Internship: May 18-29, 2015

Award winner will intern for two weeks in the Washington, DC office of a Japanese trading company.

10-Day Japan Trip: June 2-11, 2015 (tentative dates)

Award winner will have an opportunity to travel to Tokyo for ten days. Activities will include research projects and first-hand look at the Japanese business world in the headquarters of a Japanese trading company. 

CEPEX header

The 2015 CEPEX Japan Studies Award

CEPEX is proud to be sponsoring the 6th Annual Japan Studies Award in 2015. The goals of this program are to support young future American professionals interested in Japan and to strengthen the overall U.S.-Japan relationship.

The 2015 Japan Studies Award is open to undergraduate students in good standing currently enrolled in the degree programs at American University, George Mason University, and George Washington University. There is no restriction on the major or field of study that the student is pursuing. Enrollment in a Japanese language course is not a requirement for consideration.

For consideration for the award, potential candidates will submit a completed application packet by March 20, 2015, which will include a variety of short answer questions and two essay questions. Select candidates will be asked to participate in a brief interview at CEPEX headquarters in Washington, D.C. The final winner will be chosen based on the quality of the submitted application packet and successful interview.

The winner of the 2015 Japan Studies Award will be granted a two-week internship at the Washington D.C. branch office of Sojitz Corporation of America, a company with strong ties to Japan, beginning late May. During the internship, the student will have the opportunity attend events at think-tanks, write event summaries and conduct targeted research. The winner will also be able to experience working with Japanese speakers, networking with professionals in their future field of interest, and gain first-hand understanding of working for a Japanese-related corporation located in the U.S.

After completing the internship in Washington, the 2015 Japan Studies Award winner will travel to Japan. The student will be able to further their interest in Japanese language, culture and international business through a short internship in Tokyo. For more information about CEPEX and last year’s award, please visit http://www.cepex.org/. The full application packet and a timeline for the 2015 Award will be available in December 2014 on the CEPEX website.

Best of luck,

Nicole Uehara, CEPEX Director, Washington, DC office

Andrea Wert, CEPEX Assistant Director, Washington, DC office


The Center for Professional Exchange (CEPEX) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the U.S.-Japan relationship and cultivating the next generation of Japan experts.

Many thanks to the Sojitz Foundation and All Nippon Airways for their support of CEPEX and the Japan Studies Award. http://www.sojitz.com/en/csr/contribute/nci.html and http://www.ana.co.jp/eng

Sojitz Foundation logoSojitz-Foundation-logo


ANA Vertical

Sojitz-Foundation-logoSojitz Foundation logo

The JET Program

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program began with 800 participants in 1987 with the lofty aim to increase grassroots internationalization. Young college graduates were selected to live and work in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) or Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The JET Program peaked in size in 2003 with 6,226 participants from 41 countries, and has decreased to around 4,400 participants.[1] A number of cities have stopped accepting JET Program ALTs and directly hire their own ALTs or use ALT dispatch companies such as Interac, BorderLink, and Altia Central.[2] In 2014 there were 4,101 ALTs, 364 CIRs and 11 SEAs from the JET Program working in Japan. While there are representatives from 42 countries, over 54% are Americans. Combined with participants from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, these five countries comprise over 87% of the JET Program.[3] In addition to the JET Program, around 8,000 ALTs hired directly or through dispatch companies are working in Japanese schools.[4]

JET as a Public Diplomacy Tool

In the past 27 years over 60,000 people have lived and worked in Japan through the JET Program. While improvements in English ability in Japan have been mixed, the program has significant soft power attributes and helped cultivate a new generation of Japan hands. A 2011 study by Indiana University Associate Professor Emily Metzgar (Shimane 1993-1995) focused on how the JET Program is a “effective public diplomacy program yielding benefits to Japan well after alumni have moved on to new chapters in their lives.”  Former participants in the JET Program can be found in varying stages of their careers in academia, public service, nonprofits, and the corporate sector. Out of the estimated 20,000 American alumni of the JET Program, Metzgar’s study received 518 responses, 86% of whom were ALTs. Survey results clearly showed the impact of participation on the JET Program for the respondents. 85% strongly agreed that the JET Program gave them a deeper understanding of Japan, 77% strongly agreed that the experience on the JET Program had been valuable, 84% had a positive impression of Japan, 96% said their experience in Japan influenced the views of their family and friends of Japan, and 97% encouraged friends and family to visit Japan.[5]

The Future of the JET Program

In September 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans to increase the ranks of ALTs in Japan by 2,300 over five years. The government is targeting JET Program and privately hired ALTs to reach 20,000 by 2019.[6] In 2014 over 12,000 ALTs are working in Japanese schools, including 4,101 from the JET Program and 8,000 hired directly by individual Board of Education offices or through dispatch companies. According to Harry Hill, CULCON (Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange) Chairman and JET Program CIR in Gifu 1987-1988, “JET is part of the solution to the diversity problem facing Japan.” “JET has been tremendously successful in developing Japan hands over the last 27 years, but Japan needs our expertise even more today.”[7]

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the JET Program alumni collectively and individually responded to support Japan. JETAA USA, the national alumni organization for the JET Program in the U.S., raised over $88,000 for the relief fund which supported  Hope for TomorrowE-Pa+chTaylor Anderson Memorial FundLive Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson StoryvolunteerAKITA, and Rikuzentakata City. Other JET alumni volunteered in Tohoku with the cleanup efforts, or created new projects to continue assisting with rebuilding.[8] JET alum Wesley Julian (Miyagi 2008-2010) created a documentary film, Tohoku Tomo, which highlighted the “story of true friendship and commitment to Japan’s recovery by the international community following the Great East Japan Earthquake.”[9] Former JET Program USA Coordinator Ayako Smethurst and Shanti Shoji (Kagawa 2002-2004) created the nonprofit Kizuna Across Cultures (KAC) in June 2011, to inspire youth in Japan and the United States to become active global citizens by fostering international friendship through exchange of culture and collaborative learning of foreign language.[10] 

Keizai Doyukai Raising Awareness of JET

With the numbers of foreigners working in Japanese schools set to increase in the short to medium-term, Keizai Doyukai (Doyukai), the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, has begun to investigate ways to harness this growing talent pool. While some former JET Program ALTs continue to live and work in Japan after completing their contracts, the majority return to their home countries to pursue graduate degrees or other employment opportunities. Only a small number of companies in Japan have former JET Program participants working for them such as Latham and Watkins LLP, Sojitz Corporation, and Mitsubishi Corporation. A 2013 survey of Doyukai members revealed only 16 percent of the 207 responding Japanese companies knew about the JET Program and only ten companies had hired a former JET Program participant. Doyukai is working with the business community and other organizations to highlight the JET Program and alumni as a talented pool of foreigners with both an understanding of Japan and Japanese language ability. In May 2014 Doyukai organized a special roundtable in Tokyo with business leaders, JET Program participants and alumni and special guests including First Lady of Japan Akie Abe and Minister Hakubun Shimomura. In November 2014 Doyukai held another special event in Nagasaki with members of Nagasaki University, Doyukai members, and current and former JET Program participants in Nagasaki.

Akie 05162014a

(Tokyo Event with First Lady Akie Abe)


  (Nagasaki Event)

Additionally, scholarship opportunities for JET Program alumni are being encouraged and promoted by Keizai Doyukai members. In 2015 Showa Women’s University, located in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, offered two (2) graduate school scholarships for JET Program alumni who have passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level N1. Qualified applicants were eligible to receive financial support for graduate school in exchange for work as an office and Teaching Assistant up to 28 hours per week. The JET Scholarship would cover enrollment fee, facilities and equipment fee, tuition, housing and training materials costs.

CEPEX Support for JET

A key mission of CEPEX is to support the cultural and interpersonal exchange and study between the U.S. and Japan at the professional level. Throughout the years CEPEX has endeavored to assist Americans who return from Japan in maintaining and strengthening their ties to Japan. CEPEX has coordinated a number of events to connect members of the JET Program alumni association in Washington, DC with visiting Japanese professionals from Keizai Doyukai as well as a special dinner with then-former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2010. In 2006, CEPEX cooperated with Teikyo University Graduate School to provide an innovative teaching fellowship program available only for JET Program alumni. The fellowship provided full tuition and housing benefits, as well as an opportunity to conduct language teaching assistance or lecturer duties in Japan. Walter Tsushima (Ishikawa 2002-2005) became the first CEPEX fellow and graduated with a Master’s degree in Japanese Studies from Teikyo University in 2008. Mr. Tsushima is currently working as an Assistant Professor at Fukui University.

graduation 3

 (Walter Tsushima graduation 2008)

graduation 1
For more information about the 2006 CEPEX Fellowship please see: CEPEX English Press Release

CEPEX hosted a dinner on September 24, 2014, with special guest Mr. Yukio Tada, Chairman of Keizai Doyukai’s Project Team for Empowerment of Japan Hands. Mr. Tada visited DC to discuss Empowerment of the JET Program following his delivery of a keynote speech at the JETAA National Conference in Seattle, Washington.

Tada September 2014

Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) has initiated a number of activities in 2014 to promote and expand employment opportunities for former JET Program participants. A survey distributed to Doyukai members revealed only 16 percent of the 207 responding Japanese companies knew about the JET Program, and only nine companies had hired former JET personnel. Doyukai would like to highlight this talented pool of foreigners who have gained an understanding about Japan and Japanese language ability through their participation on the JET Program as a possible resource for the 90% of responding Japanese companies that intend to hire more foreigners.

Mr. Tada spoke to a group of former JET Program participants, JETAADC officers and other U.S.-Japan related attendees at the dinner on September 24. Key talking points highlighted a number of initiatives that exist for JET Program participants in Japan that have not been widely publicized.

⇒ Max 180 days stay after JET (JET在職証明書 法務省入国管理局)

⇒ Post-JET program in Universities (長崎大学版学内JET 旧六国際連携機構)

⇒ Special Teaching License for ALT (特別免許状 実習600時間、有効10年)

This discussion was extremely timely as Japan prepares for hiring greater numbers of JET Program participants to work as Assistant Language Teachers in public schools throughout Japan. The language skills and cultural understanding JET Program participants learn throughout their experiences in Japan create a unique potential workforce.

Sojitz Corporation


Management Trainee

Tokyo, Japan

Sojitz Corporation is a highly diversified Japanese business conglomerate operating in a wide variety of industries, with a group network which encompasses over 400 subsidiaries and affiliates in more than 50 countries across the globe.

We are now looking for highly motivated and talented students or graduates who wish to develop a career in international business. As a Tokyo Headquarters employee, successful applicants will initially work in Tokyo, with possible overseas assignments to affiliated companies or overseas branches. Management Trainees work with our global-minded business professionals and are offered unrivalled career and personal development opportunities including Japanese language training.

Position         : Management Trainee (Permanent)

Major             : Any

Language      : Business-Level English (Japanese fluency not required as training is provided)

Start Date     : October 2014 / April 2015 / October 2015

(Depending on your graduation date)

We will be attending and holding interviews at the Boston Career Forum on November 7th (Fri.) – 9th (Sun.), 2014 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, as well as visiting Universities in the Washington DC, New York and Boston area (schedule to be announced).

For further information please send your resume to: Sojitz HR

Note: The Boston Career Forum is the largest Japanese-English bilingual job fair held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center at 415 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210.  (http://www.careerforum.net/event/bos/?lang=E)