Hundreds of smiling faces gathered on Zoom for the second year in a row for the annual College Women’s Association of Japan (CWAJ) meeting and scholarship announcement on May 19, 2021. Last year might have caught all of us by surprise, but in 2021 CWAJ managed to conduct almost everything online — from scholarship interviews to the selection committee members’ meetings. While there certainly were limitations to working online, the committee members noted that it also opened the door to people around the globe to participate in the process. 

Between the two annual meetings, the association has responded to the pandemic in significant ways. As well as moving events and lessons online, CWAJ volunteers sewed face masks during Tokyo’s first state of emergency in 2020. 

They also launched a new scholarship in their line-up — the CWAJ Pandemic Response Nursing Scholarship. 

This scholarship is just part of the association’s efforts to help the community and those in need. CWAJ had a scholarship for those enrolled in nursing schools in areas of Fukushima Prefecture that were affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Furthermore, they also have a scholarship for visually impaired students.

CWAJ 2021

In 2021, the CWAJ awarded two graduate scholarships for Japanese women to study abroad and two scholarships for the visually impaired to study in Japan. Additionally, there are six pandemic response nursing scholarships. This was all made possible thanks to generous sponsors, most notably NBA star Rui Hachimura, who made a donation with Taisho Pharmaceutical Co., and the support of the Japan Foundation.

The athlete greeted the scholars in a video message. He expressed his understanding of the challenges people face when studying and working abroad. The Washington Wizards player hopes the new scholarship awardees will go abroad as new pioneers as the world emerges from a horrible pandemic.


CWAJ Graduate Scholarships for Japanese Women to Study Abroad

Study Abroad Scholarship coordinators Joanna Chinen and Kyoko Okuda announced that they received a record number of applications. Additionally, there were more international committee members than ever before. Also, the process was conducted online and was, therefore, completely paperless.

Mari Sone, an International Christian University graduate, was the 2021 recipient of the Cultural Exchange Graduate Scholarship. She will pursue an MSC in Psychology in Belgium. Her research field is neuroscience and she’s aiming to discover methods for improving mental health.

Moe Suemura, meanwhile, was the other graduate scholarship recipient this year. She holds a BA in Mechanical Engineering from the School of Science and Engineering at Aoyama Gakuin University. Suemura will study abroad in the field of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder (USA). She’s already done extensive research in the field of robotics and hopes her future work will accelerate space development by utilizing robots to create a world where people can travel to space safely and inexpensively.

CWAJ Pandemic Response Nursing Scholarship

This one-year scholarship is open to women who are studying nursing either in the Kanto region or at Fukushima Medical University. It takes into account not only academic merit but also economic hardship. “We were very concerned about the economic impact (of the pandemic) and people who might not be able to continue nursing school due to the ongoing state of emergency,” the president of CWAJ Jane Grimes told TW in a recent interview.

CWAJ president Jane Grimes

CWAJ president Jane Grimes

This year, the recipients of the Pandemic Response Nursing Scholarship were Meika Hayakawa, Manaka Kakimoto, Remi Komuku, Ramu Matsushita, Takara Oyama and Yu Yamaguchi. All of them are in their third year of studies. The only exception is Yamaguchi, who is currently in her fourth year. Their areas of interest vary, from maternal care to elderly care. All, however, are supporting those in need.

Asako Owada and Yuka Watanabe were the coordinators for the nursing scholarship.

CWAJ Scholarships for the Visually Impaired to Study in Japan

This scholarship, established in 1978, is inclusive to all visually impaired people of all ages and all fields of study. What matters is their potential to contribute to society. This year’s committee for this scholarship was led by Carol Iwanaga and Fukuko Takahashi.

Rika Sugata was one of the two 2021 recipients of the scholarship. A 3rd-year student at the University of Tokyo’s Department of Integrated Educational Sciences, Sugata wants to contribute to the realization of a world where everyone can learn fully wherever they are, regardless of their circumstances.

Shoto Yamada, meanwhile, was the other recipient. He’s a 4th-year law student at Doshisha University. Yamada hopes to use his law education to help create a better society for everyone.

Read more about all current scholars here: CWAJ website

College Women's Association of Japan

Photo by Zoria Petkoska in front of Tsuda University

The Legacy of Umeko Tsuda

We’ve come a long way since the first women were sent to study abroad with the Iwakura Mission in 1902. They were just little girls who were volunteered by their families to be shipped to a strange unknown world. The women of today who study abroad are more akin to one of those first girls when she came back to Japan — Umeko Tsuda. She founded Tsuda University, one of the oldest and most prestigious higher educational institutions for women in Japan. Come 2024, her face will be on one of the new Japanese banknotes.

A pioneer in promoting female leadership in Japan, the CWAJ has worked to help female academic mobility and cross-cultural exchanges for more than seven decades. They have provided scholarships to more than 800 women from 35 countries.

Read more about their endeavors:

*Featured image by Anna Petek