Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program

  • Shinzen 2005 in Osaka
  • Shinzen 2004 - McCovey Cove, San Francisco
  • Shinzen 2003
  • Shinzen 2007 at Families Osaka Castle
  • Shinzen 2007 with Host Families
  • Shinzen 2017 at Kobe Orphanage
  • Shinzen 2017 with Sendai Teams
  • Learning about 3.11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami from Priest Katayama of Jifukuji Temple, Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture
  • Handmaking Udon at the Sendai YMCA Culinary School

Shinzen in Japanese means international goodwill or amity. This cross-cultural exchange program promotes the values of fair play and competition while fostering ties between the Japanese and Japanese American communities.


The Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program has been able to provide unique opportunities for not only the exchange of friendly competition but also for building a foundation for the exchange of ideas and important values of our young people today, ensuring a strong future for our U.S.-Japan relations.



• To promote international goodwill and exchange between the youth of Japan and the youth of the Japanese American community.

• To provide meaningful and thoughtful dialogue and discussion on youth issues related to each other’s culture and heritage.

• To develop and nurture young ambassadors between the U.S. and Japan.

• To provide an opportunity for friendship and spirited competition.

• To promote U.S.-Japan bilateral interests and responsibilities amongst young people.

• To engage with and encourage Japanese American youth and their families to learn about their personal family history as well as that of our San Francisco Japantown and broader community history. 


Applications are now available for the 2023 Shinzen Program

The Center is seeking youth and their families that are interested in participating in the  Shinzen Program to apply. The Shinzen Program brings youth from the San Francisco Bay Area and youth from Japan together for an international exchange of culture and camaraderie. Youth participants in the 2023 Shinzen Program will be provided the opportunity to learn about their culture and heritage here in the Bay Area through pre-trip workshops and first-hand experience traveling to Japan as a team in late July 2023.  Through spirited basketball games, youth exchanges and unique experiences, our young ambassadors begin to build stronger relationships with the people of Japan.


2023 Shinzen Program Application

2023 Shinzen outreach EMAIL

2023 Shinzen Program Overview and FAQ

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE on December 23, 2022.

For additional information, please email



In 1997, the JCCCNC and the office of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco agreed that although there were a substantial number of traditional, cultural and intellectual exchanges between the U.S. and Japan, there existed a greater need for meaningful dialogue between youth in Japan and Japanese American youth.  Through these discussions, the Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Basketball Program was born to create a more dynamic and meaningful exchange between the youth and to provide unique opportunities for building a foundation for the exchange of ideas and important values among young people.  The Shinzen players work to achieve these goals by creating friendships at a local level to help reinforce a future of global peace and goodwill.


Since the inaugural visit to Japan in 1997, over 1,400 participants (players and their families) have visited Japan or hosted a Japanese youth in their home for the Shinzen Program.  Over the years, Shinzen alums have continued to stay involved in the Japanese American community as coaches, volunteers and community interns. Many have returned to Japan to continue to build and foster international relations and stay connected to their cultural heritage.  After the 2009 trip to Japan, the JCCCNC replaced the Shinzen Program with the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program (TYAFP), choosing many of the successful components of the Shinzen Program and focusing on the leadership development of the youth in our community.  Takahashi Fellows have continued to build connections and friendships with those in Japan by traveling to Sendai, Kesennuma, Osaka and Kobe in 2011, 2013 and 2015.  


For the 110th Anniversary of Japantown, the Center felt it was essential to relaunch the Shinzen Program for 2016-17 to encourage youth and their families to learn about their heritage and be active participants in the community.  Nearly 90 participants visited the cities of Sendai, Kesennuma and Kobe to share the Shinzen spirit of goodwill.  In 2019, the Shinzen Program traveled to Osaka and Kobe to celebrate 25 years of friendship with the Osaka YMCA.

2019 Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program Team 

We are excited to announce the 15 youth members selected for the 2019 Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program (Shinzen Program).  This cross-cultural exchange program, which launched in 1997, promotes the values of fair play and competition while fostering ties between the U.S. and Japan and our Japanese and Japanese American communities. Through sports, youth exchanges and homestays, our young ambassadors build stronger relationships with the people of Japan while learning about their cultural heritage, traditions and identity.

The Shinzen team will be traveling to Japan with family members this July to celebrate the 25 Years of Friendship shared between the Center and the Osaka YMCA (1994-2019) and the Kobe YMCA (1995-2020). 

Coach Danielle Mizuiri
Madeline Bader, Fremont
Julia Hirahara, Walnut Creek
Kayla Ikuma, South San Francisco
Jordyn Owyoung, San Francisco
Reina Shimomura, Fremont
Tara Ushiro, Fremont
Camille Yabu, Moraga 

Coach Jon Burroughs
Miles Chan, Burlingame
Aaron Fujimoto, San Mateo
Kaiji Koga, San Leandro
Tatsu Koga, San Leandro
Luke Kuroda, Belmont
Kenshin Nakamura, San Francisco
Koji Wong, San Ramon
Dru Yonemura, Millbrae

2019 Shinzen Reunion Video

2016-17 Shinzen Program

The JCCCNC coordinated a special (two-year) 2016-17 Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program, after celebrating the 110th Anniversary of San Francisco's Japantown  and commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2016, culminating with a trip to Japan in the summer of 2017.


The selected participants for the 2016-17 Shinzen Program were:

Girls Team: Coach Rachelle Hata (Shinzen 2002-03) and players, Miya Chan, Charlene Tonai Din, Tomi Eijima, Alyssa Ikuma, Kristin Katayama, Taylor Matoba, Izumi Murase, Lauren Noguchi, Taylor Noguchi and Olivia Yoshii. 

Boys Team: Coach Ryan Baba (Shinzen 2004-05) and players, Aiden Fujimoto, Ryan Kawamura, Connor Nakamura, Stephen Nakamura, Tyler Tsudama, Jake Tsutaoka, Josh Tsutaoka and Kellen Uyeda.

Click here to view a slideshow from the 2016-17 Program and Trip to Japan.


Shinzen 2017 Goodwill Trip to Japan

Team at SF Int'l Airport - Video Slideshow

3.11 Offering in Tohoku (Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture)

 As members of the Shinzen USA Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program Tour took their first steps off the Japan Airlines flight on July 25, the excitement and a little bit of anxiety began. This was no ordinary tour to Japan, it was a culmination of 14-months of learning, sharing and working together to better understand our Japanese American culture, history and heritage, raise funds for the program and prepare for our activities in Japan. We were also traveling as goodwill ambassadors to meet new friends and strengthen relationships that were built after two devastating events, the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku and the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in Kobe and Osaka.

After a brief stop in Tokyo to get a night’s rest, we boarded the Shinkansen to Sendai. The group visited one of the three most beautiful sights in Japan, Matsushima Bay. Our welcome lunch was one of only two times our whole group would gather, so it was great to see all 94 of us together - many three generation families, ranging in age from 8-86, from the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose and also Georgia and Hawaii.  See photo highlights of the rest of our trip.

Our final farewell reception in Kobe truly tied our theme “Obon: a Gathering of Joy” together.  Although our relationships began from disasters, this farewell was more a celebration of 20+ years of friendship with the people and organizations who helped build the Shinzen Program over the years. Former staff, coaches and friends from Kobe and Osaka came together after the program’s eight-year absence as if we had not missed a day or year - that is the true spirit of Shinzen. It is our hope that the new bonds created by our Shinzen USA players and families continue to grow and endure.

Shinzen and Keimei Gakuin (Kobe) Teams

Shinzen Tour Photos and Quotes from Participants

“This trip was a lifetime of experiences in a few days. It really showed me how different everyone is and how we should accept and respect what we have and to not take it for granted.”
– Lauren Noguchi, Girls Team Member

“I enjoyed this trip.  It made me aware of the tsunami that affected the Kesennuma region.  As a survivor of two tsunami that hit Hilo, Hawaii (1946, 1960), I can relate to the citizens of the Tohoku region.”
– Alice Fujimoto, Grandparent  


 “The highlight of my trip was definitely spending time with the homestay family.  At the Sendai YMCA, I was greeted by a bright-faced grandmother, a mom and her three children.  Every evening I came home to an enthusiastic family and an amazing meal.  The dad always sat with us and we talked about popular trends in America, his job, and Japan life in general.  The mom made delicious food and we always enjoyed breakfast together.  All three kids were energetic and the grandparents were friendly and helpful.  Even until the very end, the grandma waved to us while our bus left the hotel.  I am extremely grateful for the time they dedicated towards our cultural enrichment.”Connor Nakamura, Shinzen Boys Team Member

"The tree planting project in Kesennuma and the speech from Priest Katayama impressed me most.  The strength of human relationships is something that I value and feel that in this time of internet and electronic communication, the value of person to person interaction is sometimes lost.  His speech was one that touched me and hope that our younger generations will hold what they have learned close to their heart.” – Sandra Suzaki, Parent


Sawoko and Wataru Yoshimura were first time host parents (Sendai) who prepared thank you statements, here are excerpts: Sawoko, “I was worried about English, especially speaking, but Tomi and Taylor listened to me carefully…there turned out to be no worry. They also shared their family history.  It was the most impressive for me.  I knew about the concentration camps during the war but I felt their experiences were more real.”  Wataru: “They gave us pretty photobooks.  It makes us feel humble to imagine how intensively they have prepared for this trip.  I watched today's games; Tomi was one of the best players; we didn't miss Taylor helping her teammates with fans in both hands.  Though it might not be in the near future, when raising kids, we hope they grow up to become youths like Tomi and Taylor.  Thank you for giving us this opportunity.”

“On our last night in Sendai, we had a farewell reception where I was able to meet players from the Tohoku Gakuin teams.  It was really fascinating to see how excited they all were to meet Americans.  We exchanged each other's emails, Instagrams and took many selfies.  It was touching to see how close we became within such a short time. This night made me realize that this is why we went on this trip--to create cross-cultural relationships with the youth of Japan.  Although we may never cross paths with the Japanese students again, I left Sendai knowing that we brought joy and friendship to this city.” – Tomi Eijima, Girls Team Member

“What touched me was the camaraderie amongst all the players, especially during the games.  We could see the bond that they all share.  It was great to see them take responsibility for their time, their schedule and to work together if they were unsure of things.  We were also very thankful for the homestay families that opened their homes to our kids, it was a huge commitment on their part, especially with the early morning schedules and not using cars the way we do, they were so gracious and kind.”                     - Leann Katayama, Parent

 “Through the Shinzen program, it pushed me to try new things and allowed me the opportunity to meet new people such as my Kobe host family.  They showed me around the small town they lived in and taught me many interesting things about Japan.  We participated in cultural activities together such as folding origami, Japanese calligraphy, and fireworks at night.”       – Alyssa Ikuma, Girls Team Member

(traveled to Japan for the first time with her family, three generations, including her paternal grandparents Mas and Kay Ikuma, pictured standing on right side)


“The Shinzen Youth Goodwill Program brought great pleasure to us.  We are really thankful for our longtime friendship.”  - MIchiko Matsuda, Executive Director, The Center for Global and Community Services, Kobe YMCA

(L to R: Matt Okada, JCCCNC Director of Programs, Kobe Y Staff – Aiko Nakamichi, Michiko Matsuda, Lori Matoba, JCCCNC Deputy Director, Hikaru Tamura, Director)

Shinzen 2009

The thirteenth year of the Shinzen USA Nikkei Youth Goodwill Sports Program saw nearly 80 participants from the Bay Area - 21 youth basketball players, their families and staff - traveled to Japan for a week-long grassroots exchange trip.

The 2009 program theme “Shinzen Forever,” was a reminder that although the program in its current state is ending, the friendships and bonds created by the spirit of Shinzen will always remain.

“When we first started, I didn’t understand the meaning of goodwill and friendship, I just thought, basketball and Japan - that sounds like fun, but it was way more than that. We volunteered, went to events, we learned about the bomb in Hiroshima and played with the kids at the Kodomo Home (orphanage)...I learned that friendships can spread and maintain for probably my whole life. These friendships that I made in Japan will always be remembered.”

- Amada Joo, Santa Clara

Highlights of the 2009 Program included: youth homestays in Osaka and Kobe, participating in the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Relationship (2007) Plaque Unveiling, creating crafts and dancing with the children of Nagata Kodomo Home and being the guest of Toyosaki Jr. High School in Osaka, getting a tour the school, playing goodwill games and being treating to a mini-concert by their band.  Click here to view some highlights of the trip.

Shinzen 2007

2007 was an exciting year for the Shinzen Program - 22 players and their families traveled to Hiroshima, Osaka and Kobe, Japan from July 27-August 5, 2007. The highlight was the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City relationship, which included a visit with Osaka Mayor Seki at City Hall.

Press Release:  2007 Shinzen POST Press Release

Participant Quotes:

Jared Wong (Moraga), whose family originated from Hiroshima, was overwhelmed by the visit to Hiroshima stating that, “Going to the Hiroshima Peace Museum and the Sadako Memorial Statue was life-changing. The museum showed me how devastating a single act could be and how it could have been prevented. Those two monuments taught me that the relationships we were building with the Japanese kids are actually really important as we grow up and take more control of our surroundings.”

“When I met my Osaka host family for the first time, I was nervous. I was worried that I would do the wrong thing and insult them or embarrass myself. They welcomed me into their home and made it clear that I could feel comfortable because I was now a part of their family. They were sweet and generous, and we had a lot of fun. Even though it was hard to communicate at times, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life, and I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to see my host family again.”

- Katie Gong, San Francisco



Shinzen 2005

Shinzen 2003

Shinzen 2001

Shinzen 1999

Shinzen 1997



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The JCCCNC a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the State of California

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