The Government of Japan is sponsoring a short-term youth exchange programme involving 150 graduate students from major universities in Europe and Central Asia, studying in the areas of politics, international relations, economics, Asian studies.  The programme is named “MIRAI”, the Japanese word for “future”. MIRAI stands for Mutual understanding, Intellectual Relations and Academic Exchange Initiative. Aim of the programme is to foster a solid foundation of Japan-Europe relations in the future by promoting mutual understanding, enhancing intellectual discussions and building networks among future leaders of Japan and Europe.

To manage and implement the programme, the Government of Japan has appointed secretariats in Japan (AFS Japan) and Europe (EFIL). Among other things, AFS Japan is in charge of the travel arrangements (through a Tokyo based travel agency) and the local coordination, while EFIL takes care of the communication with the participants, the financial management of the programme, and the reporting. Both AFS Japan and EFIL share the administrative work.

A targeted call for participants has been distributed in September/October by Japanese Embassies across Europe and Central Asia, and in the meantime 150 students have been recruited by the universities and selected by the Japanese Embassies and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Participants are currently taking part in a training course in Intercultural Learning, facilitated by EFIL.  The training follows the licensed “Global Competence Certificate” course from Sentio.   This course is a combination of self-guided online learning and in-person training. It is designed to meet key learning goals, helping learners develop intercultural competence. It provides flexibility as learners complete online sessions at their own pace.  Currently 90 minute webinars are taking place, conducted by EFIL staff, involving all participants in groups of 8-10. Two in-person training sessions will take place in Tokyo, facilitated by EFIL staff, during the visit to Japan.

The students will visit Japan from 15 to 22 December 2015. One of the highlights of the days in Tokyo will be a seminar with Japanese students at one of the most prestigious universities in Tokyo (Keio University). Three groups will be formed (topics: politics, economy, culture and society) and each group will receive a special lecture. Participants will have the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas with Japanese students, while enjoying Japanese bento-box for lunch and Japanese cuisine for dinner.

Further highlights in Tokyo will include a visit to Meiji Jingu Shrine, a visit to the Mori Building Company, and to a Japanese Mega Corporation, one of several companies in Tokyo with world-wide fame, to learn about the methods of management and working styles that help spread Japanese brands globally . Options include ITOCHU Corporation, one of the world’s biggest trading companies, and Rakuten Inc., an IT-related E-commerce company. For the tours in Tokyo several options are offered: Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation), Edo-Tokyo Museum, JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency), Haneda Chronogate, and Fuji Manufacturing.

After the Tokyo activities, students go on a trip to a distant provincial region for a weekend-long local home-stay programme. Three students compose one group and spread across Japan. This visit to local areas offers a courtesy visit to the local government, a guided tour of the local featured industry, and a traditional culture experience and exchange with local people. Students will experience authentic Japanese family life.

EFIL is honoured to have been chosen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Japan to be the European partner in this exciting programme, and we thank AFS Japan for recommending EFIL for this role.  EFIL also wants to thank Sentio for cooperating with us on this programme.