Global Fund for Education Assistance

BEYOND Tomorrow Tohoku Future Leaders Summit 2012


Report (PDF)


BEYOND Tomorrow hosted the Tohoku Future Leaders Summit 2012, the second time this leadership program has been held. This summit targets young people who, despite facing great adversity, maintain a global outlook and have aspirations to actively work on both domestic and international platforms. Together with 60 high school students who were selected on an application basis, 15 university students were also selected to attend, based on their active contribution to society and other BEYOND Tomorrow programs after having experienced the disaster first-hand in Iwate, Miyagi, or Fukushima prefectures. The students divided into groups, and as a group created proposals under the guidance of established leaders in various fields. We believe that precisely because they have experienced the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami, these students are able to become empathetic activists and serve a larger society. At this summit the students, as survivors of the disaster, reflected on what roles in society they must fulfill and how to convert these ideas into action.


    • To create Proposals to the Future of Tohoku Based on personal experiences as well as the opinions of locals, students will discuss how Tohoku should work towards recovery, create a proposal, and present it
    • Each student to define a specific vision for him/ her future upon interacting with leaders active in different fields Upon speaking with various leaders, students will reflect on what role in society they would like to fulfill, in particular as someone who has first-hand experience of the earthquake and tsunami
    • To build strong bonds among the students through discussion of their shared ambitions and exchange of opinions The students will establish a sense of camaraderie among themselves as they jointly embark on a journey towards realizing their dreams

Dates and location

October 12-14, 2012 National Olympic Memorial Youth Center(Shibuya, Tokyo)



60 High school students from the disaster-affected regions, selected on an application basis

60 High school students from the disaster-affected regions, selected on an application basis – Must have been living in Iwate, Miyagi, or Fukushima prefectures during the time of the earthquake and tsunami – Must have a global perspective and exhibit strong aspirations of become a leader in both domestic and international platforms, overcoming the adversity of the disaster

University students from the disaster-affected regions

15 University students from the disaster-affected regions – Must have been living in Iwate, Miyagi, or Fukushima prefectures during the time of the earthquake and tsunami – Must have participated in at least one previous BEYOND Tomorrow program – Must have displayed active contribution to society after the disaster, working towards a brighter future


An advisor was assigned to each student group, and the advisor offered support for the students in their discussions. Each student also received guidance when thinking about his or her future path in the context of Tohoku’s recovery.
Yutaka Arai
Senior managing director, Great East Japan Earthquake Recovery Initiatives Foundation
Daisuke Iwase
Co-Founder and Representative Director Lifenet Insurance Company Japan
Etsuko May Okajima
President & CEO, ProNova Inc.
Koji Kagoshima
Planner/Copywriter, Social Innovation & Solutions Division, Dentsu Inc.
Takashi Tachibana
President, SHIEN,co.,Ltd.; Representative Director, Sweet Treat 311; Director,Eat, and Energize the East; Founder, OH! GUTS!; Executive Director, Cultural and Sports Support Organization for the Great East Japan Earthquake Orphans
Tomoko Teruya
CEO, NGO Yuimar
Seigo Hara
McKinsey & Company
Kumi Fujisawa
Vice President, SophiaBank; Vice President, Japan Social Entrepreneur Forum
Hanako Fujita
Faculty of Medicine, Gunma University
Chikara Funabashi
Will Seed Co.,Ltd. Founder & Chairman, Kawaijuku Educational Institution, Advisor
Mayo Hotta
CSE’s Office, Recovery Initiatives Group, SOFTBANK CORP.
Nami Matsuko
Head of Corporate Citizenship Department, Managing Director Nomura Holdings, Attorney at Law (New York)
Hideki Matsunaga
Chief Representative, Egypt & Yemen JICA Ofice


When discussing Tohoku’s recovery, students received input from a specialist from each field. There were three fields represented: (1) entrepreneurship; (2) tourism and local revitalisation; (3) disaster prevention and city planning.


Students heard presentations from guest speakers who represented a diverse array of backgrounds. They spoke about their career paths and how to most effectively contribute to society. Engaging in dialogue with these guest speakers was an eye-opening experience for the students, and served as an important first step in their own path to becoming future leaders.

Program summary

Sharing disaster experiences

What happened on March 11, 2011? What was lost during the disaster, and what was gained? How did I change during the year after the earthquake? Students spoke on these topics in their own words and listened closely to their peers’ stories. Building friendships after the disaster — through sharing their personal experiences, the students formed a strong bond with each other.

March 11, 2011. Amidst the persistent, biting cold weather, I lost everything.

Minoro Endo Ishinomaki Sensyu University, School of Business administration(Ishinomaki Kita High School graduate)

My name is Minori Endo, and I am from Ishinomaki city. March 11, 2011. Amidst the persistent, biting cold weather, I lost everything. My beloved hometown. My house that I grew up in. My father whom I adored. In just one moment the tsunami swept away everything. Before the tsunami, I called my father, and miraculously the call went through. My father told me that he was on his way home, and I heard the car engine start on the other side of the phone. This was to be my last conversation with him.

I had evacuated to high ground, and from there I watched as my house disintegrated under the ravaging tsunami. The black waters engulfed the entire town, and I could hear cries for help everywhere. But there was nothing I could do. At that moment I realized just how helpless I was. I was the only daughter, and as such, I was always daddy’s little girl. For a long time I was unable to accept my father’s death. Until we found my father’s body, I was in denial and called his cell phone every day. I knew that no one would pick up, but every time I called I was terrified, making sure no one picked up, and when I did, I would just put down the phone and cry. While people were speaking about “recovery,” I was stuck in time, unable to move forward. I wanted to be strong, but I didn’t know what inside of me could give me any strength. I wanted to be strong, but I didn’t know what I could do. The days passed. It was during this dark time that I came across BEYOND Tomorrow. At a time when I did not know what I could do, I was introduced to a place where I could start thinking about what I can do. Until then I felt all alone, but through BEYOND Tomorrow I met life-long friends. Together we have had such meaningful experiences, and through this, we have created a lasting bond. On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake disaster, I made a promise to myself: I want to become someone who supports others in achieving their dreams through empathy and compassion. In times of despair, what saved me was my connection with people. That’s why I would like to connect with many people, be useful, challenge myself, and after one year, meet a better version of myself. This past summer I went to the United States and decided I would like to become a journalist. Through words I would like to connect people to each other. By realizing this new dream, I believe I am giving back to my beloved father. The past cannot change the present, but the present can change the future into something that shines brilliantly. This is something I have come to believe in strongly, after experiencing the earthquake disaster, forging new friendships, and taking action towards my dreams — and something that I would like to bring me with me into the future.

I am still here, that I am still living, is that I want to contribute something to my hometown and its recovery — for my mother and my grandmother’s sake, for my family’s sake. Masahide Chiba Utsunomiya University, Faculty of Engineering(Ofunato High School graduate)

It is strange to think back on the day before the earthquake disaster and tsunami. Even though it was only 4pm, the sky above the school courtyard turned a deep crimson, and a large flock of birds flew overhead. If only I knew at that point that something was different. I still think of that moment often.

March 11, 2011, 2:46:18pm. When the earthquake hit, I was playing club sports at school. The students were getting agitated because we had never felt the ground shake so much before. We were even smiling a bit — secretly, we were excited that something out of the ordinary was happening. Little did we know then how much grief was actually awaiting us.
That day I was not able to get in contact with my family who lived 50m from the ocean, but assuming that they safely evacuated to the back hills, I spent the night at the school without much worry. The next morning I walked home, through Sanriku Railway tunnel for about an hour. When I came out of the other side of the tunnel, I was met by a landscape with no buildings. But based on reports I heard that morning, I was prepared to see this level of destruction. What I was not prepared for, however, was the reality that lay within this destruction. My mother and my grandmother were dead. When I heard that they died, I did not know what to think. I went to the hill next to my house, and when I saw my mother’s leg in our car, images of her face flooded my mind — memories of her from the day before, of my childhood — and thinking how much she must have struggled, I could not help but cry in agony. Even when I put my hands on her face, the warmth of my hands just dissipated; there was nothing I could do to ever bring back the warmth. The cremation was very painful. I was heartbroken because I knew that we needed to have the cremation, but every fiber within me did not want to have it. I could not bear to have my mother’s body turn into ash in the flames. The days afterwards I struggled to find meaning in life. People would ask me if I was “alright;” I had no idea what being “alright” even meant — so I just smiled and said yes. Everyday I furiously cleaned away the rubble. I heard that my mother was swept away by the tsunami because she was trying to save my brothers’ and my school materials by bringing it to the second floor. I couldn’t sleep at night, blaming myself for my mother’s death. If only something were different about that morning. The reason I am still here, that I am still living, is that I want to contribute something to my hometown and its recovery — for my mother and my grandmother’s sake, for my family’s sake. I now believe that joining the recovery efforts is my life mission; it’s why I survived. My hometown of Ofunato thrived on its fishing business, and as such, I think that it is necessary to improve the traffic network of fish and manufactured goods. With a better network, Ofunato can become not just what it used to be, but even better — a town that is better prepared for disaster, a town that is easier to live in. Having this goal in mind, I want to study construction engineering at college. As a survivor, there are many things I feel that I must do. But it is just as important for others to continue to remember the Great East Japan Earthquake, and to not let it fade away in their memories. Currently it is expected that an even larger earthquake will hit Japan in the near future. This is why it is essential that we learn from this past earthquake and tsunami. By sharing our experiences widely, we may not be able to prevent an earthquake from occurring, but we will be able to ensure measures for quick evacuation, appropriate reactions to earthquakes, and minimized damage. If we are able to accomplish this, we will have truly learned our lessons from the past. With my mother’s memory beating strongly in my heart, I want to create a world where no child has to ever experience the grief that I have.

Discussion topic

The discussion topic, to be worked on over two days, was presented to each team on the morning of the second day.
“Creating a manifesto for Tohoku’s future” You are the executives of a political party for young people. You are currently campaigning to win the next election. As such, you must decide on a policy that will benefit Tohoku’s future. You, the survivors, know the realities of the affected region — that is why you have the facts to accomplish this task. You, the young people, are the future of the Tohoku region and of Japan — that is why you have the vision to accomplish this task. In this way, you are to create a manifesto to be presented to current and future leaders, who will then vote in the election.


  1.  Tohoku recovery through entrepreneurship
  2. Disaster prevention and safety-based city planning that is of global caliber
  3. Tohoku recovery through tourism


  • Create a name for your political party
  • Decide the members and positions for your cabinet if elected
  • Establish a catchphrase that encompasses the ethos of your party’s manifesto

Understanding the needs of the affected region

As a first step of creating the manifesto, student participants researched the current needs of the affected region. Based on the needs, what is the most appropriate policy for this region? Students gathered information from their own experiences, as well as from opinions of locals.

Shared needs of the region

 “The issue at hand is that people have not returned to the region. The financial aspect may be one of the most difficult obstacles: even if they come back, there is no work, and as such it is not possible to sustain a living. Also, as the public transportation has not fully recovered, it is difficult to modify work spaces and schools.” “The recovery of commerce is what is needed. These days, there are many terms thrown around with the word ‘recovery’ in it, such as ‘recovery of business areas.’ It would be great to see progress in these areas without having to label the efforts as ‘recovery.’”
 “My house was damaged by the tsunami, and just like my house, there are many others that have yet to be repaired because the workers are too busy. In fact, they are finally starting construction on my cousin’s house next month. Demand is far exceeding supply at this point, and even if one were to get his house repaired, people are asking for a lot more money for the job compared to before the disaster.”

Interviews with specialists

Entrepreneurship Haruo Miyagi President, ETIC.
There are people who say that the government and its policymakers are moving too slowly. But even if things on the policy end were to move faster and money were distributed appropriately, if people don’t have a reason to live, there is no point. People become revitalised when they have a reason to live. You, as high school students, have the potential to create a miracle.
Disaster prevention and safe city planning Satoru Nishikawa Director General of Audit, Japan Water Agency
What is necessary for safe city planning? There are many people who say ‘You have to do this’ or ‘You have to do that.’ The problem is in determining who the decision-maker is, how we are creating a vision for the future, and how we convince the locals of this new vision. What everyone is facing is this reality.
Tourism and revitalisation of the region Kazuhiko Tada Representative, Tono Magokoro Net
In a place where everything was lost, we have no other option but to take this opportunity to create something new. There is no such thing as failures from things that we shouldn’t have tried. But there are many failures from things that were good ideas.

Dialogue with leaders

John V. Roos U.S. Amebassador to Japan
I want to reassure the Tohoku region that its future is in good hands because of young people like you. The future of Tohoku depends on you.

Motoatsu Sakurai President,Japan Society
One thing I would like to implore upon you is that you will all be making critical decisions at different crossroads in your career. At that point, be sure that you take a step back to get a good perspective and think about what significance your decision has in the world — and choose the direction that is more challenging and difficult. You may fail, but there will always be other chances. Keeping this in mind, please pursue a challenging, difficult career.

Final presentation of proposals

 The 75 participants created their manifestos for Tohoku’s future over the course of three days, during which they collaborated and challenged each other’s opinions. The manifestos displayed an earnestness that could have only stemmed from students who truly understand the region’s needs, and the presentations were filled with hope for the future.

 Tohoku’s recovery that targets students. After listening to and reflecting on the presented manifestos, each member of the audience placed a vote for the one that was most compelling for a bright future for Tohoku.

The winning team

“Recovery through Tourism and revitalisation”

(Please click on the Picture)

Student speeches

We would like to share with you the experiences of the representative students who spoke at the closing ceremony. (Please click on the photograph to read the speech.)
There were days that I cannot even begin to count the number of times I cried thinking about my family.Sayaka Sugawara

My destiny is to communicate to the world my experiences and disaster prevention measures in Japan.Rin Yamane

the Self-Defence Forces were going through the wreckage on land, and the Coast Guard was relentlessly searching the sea. When I realized what they were doing, I knew I wanted to be like them — I wanted to join the Coast Guard. Keisuke Kisara

I have come to strongly believe this. Just as many people have given me opportunities to thrive, I want to be someone who gives others such opportunities.Ayaka Ogawa

Media Coverage

News Papers(Japanese only)

  • Tokaishimpo (August 31, 2012)
  • Kahokushimpo(August 31, 2012)
  • Sanrikushimpo(September 7, 2012)
  • Iwatenippo(September 8, 2012)
  • Fukushimamimpo(September 8, 2012)
  • Tokaishimpo(September 12, 2012)
  • Iwatenippo(October 16, 2012)
  • Yomiurishimbun(October 27, 2012)


 Japan Society


Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

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