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2016 TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Japanese Students Find Friends in America [VIDEO]

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2016 TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program participants at the Rose Parade

2016 TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program participants at the Rose Parade

When you hear “Tomodachi,” the Japanese word for “friends,” you may think of a surprisingly addictive Nintendo 3DS game. But it’s also the basis of the 2016 TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program, which over the holidays, sent 20 Japanese high school students to Southern California to form bonds with their American counterparts and participate in the 2016 Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.

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Today Honda released a brief video documenting the students’ life-changing journey from Japan’s Iwate Prefecture to America’s Pacific Coast:

The US and Japanese governments created the TOMODACHI program following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This year’s participating Japanese students were directly impacted by the natural disaster.

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“The hope for the TOMODACHI generation is that they have a good understanding of why relationships between the United State and Japan are so important,” said US-Japan Council director Henry Ota.

Though the main focus of the student’s journey was riding the Honda float, “Nature’s Hope,” during the 2016 Rose Parade, their journey also took them to local schools, hospitals, and cultural institutions.

“The TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Initiative is an extension of our belief in The Power of Dreams,” said Steve Morikawa, vice president of Corporate Relations & Social Responsibility for American Honda. “Not only will these students experience cultural exchange while they’re here in the United States, but they will carry forward what they’ve learned back to Japan and throughout the rest of their lives.”