The United States-Japan Bridging Foundation (USJBF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the connection between American and Japanese students through foreign exchange programs. Its leadership, which includes current chairman Thierry G. Porté, is dedicated to creating and supporting cross-cultural educational opportunities.
The USJBF was formed in 1998 at the suggestion of the Japan-US Friendship Commission. At the time, few students were traveling to Japan, and the USJBF offered a chance to encourage understanding and cooperation between the two countries.
The USJBF thrives today, creating programs for undergraduates in Japan, developing faculty and curriculum for US colleges, and curating information that helps recruit more students to get involved with foreign exchange programs. The USJBF also funds scholarships and helps prepare students to take on international leadership roles by being exposed to their Japanese counterparts’ policies, academics, and businesses.
Another big part of the USJBF’s work is soliciting and organizing donations. Those who donate to the organization—primarily US and Japanese businesses—have the opportunity to provide mentoring and directly see the impact of their generosity. Based on these donations, the USJBF currently awards 100 scholarships a year—a total of $350,000 to support students in their studies.
The USJBF supports intercultural cooperation and friendship in other ways, too. The Friendship Blossoms Initiative, for instance, is a collaborative partnership created in response to the 1912 gift to the US from Japan of 3,000 cherry trees. The trees, planted in Washington, D.C., have become an iconic part of that city, inspiring the inhabitants to want to return the favor. In 2012, The Friendship Blossoms Initiative sent a gift of 3,000 dogwood trees to Tokyo. The trees will be planted both within the city and around Japan, including the Tohoku region, which is still recovering from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Trees will be planted throughout 2015.