On the evening of March 8, members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) community gathered at the HyLife Pork Table restaurant in Daikanyama to celebrate 14 very special students — eight girls and six boys — from Takata Senior High School in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, who had just finished a week-long internship and homestay program called the Tohoku Youth Project.
The project is organized by the CCCJ and the NPO Ganbatte 365, and gives high schoolers the opportunity to gain work experience in a variety of settings, ranging from recruiting and real estate companies to government agencies and airlines. The tight bonds the young people had formed with their host families were evident from the easy familiarity and happy chatting during the evening. A similar closeness could be seen between the students and the representatives of the companies that had hosted them.
After everyone had feasted on a plentiful buffet dinner of delicious food, ranging from ribs and pizza to poutine and pasta, it was time for the students to give presentations. During their speeches — mostly in English — the students talked about their interning experiences, and it was impressive to hear how much insight they had gained about the organizations where they had spent only a week. They also shared touching stories about having been warmly welcomed into their host families’ lives. After the speeches, there was more time for the students, host families and company representatives to mingle and chat.
The project … gives high schoolers the opportunity to gain work experience
The students had a free day on Saturday to spend in Tokyo with each other or their host families, and on Sunday they said their farewells — tearfully in some cases — at Tokyo Station before they boarded the Shinkansen bullet train to head back home.
This is the seventh year that the internship project has been held, and everybody involved is already looking forward to the next one. Planning meetings in preparation for the 2020 program will be held in the months to come, and anyone who is interested in getting involved next year — as a sponsor, a hosting company, or a host family — is invited to contact the CCCJ office.