Japan's MIRAI Programme - Youth Exchange Scheme

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) invited 150 undergraduate and postgraduate students from Europe, Russian Central Asia and the Caucasus to take part in a short-term youth exchange scheme, the MIRAI Programme, in Japan from 15 to 22 December. 
The participants’ fields of study include politics, security policies, economics, international relations, Asian Studies and Japanese Studies. The Japanese word “MIRAI”, which gives the programme its title, means “future,” and reflects the Ministry’s aim of providing opportunities for participants to promote mutual understanding, to engage in intellectual discussions, and to build strong networks among the future leaders of Japan and the relevant countries and regions based on a  solid foundation of mutual respect and friendship.
Ten of the people taking part in the programme were from the UK. They started their visit in Tokyo, attending lectures held at Keio University on Japanese politics, the economy and society as well as taking part in discussions with Japanese students and visiting museums, JICA and high-tech and traditional industries.  They then travelled outside Tokyo in small groups to regional towns and cities and enjoyed homestays with Japanese families, which they all found relaxing and stimulating.

The scheme concluded with a wrap-up session at the MOFA on the last day, 22 December. Ms Miki Yamada, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, welcomed the students and expressed her confidence that their experience of the MIRAI Programme would help them contribute to friendly relations between Japan and their home countries. Ms Maud Rowell, who is an undergraduate in Japanese Studies at Cambridge, responded on behalf of the group, saying they all appreciated the opportunity afforded by the Programme and would certainly maintain their interest in Japan and work towards building strong bilateral ties thereafter.

Although the students only spent a week in Japan, we believe they will cherish their memories of their stay.  One can gain a flavour of what they experienced from the blog  maintained by AFS Japan, the organisation that implemented the Programme.  Ms Rowell probably spoke for many on the programme when she said: “I’ve made such close friends on this trip, learnt so much about Japanese culture, improved my Japanese language skills, and even had new thoughts about my future plans.”