democracy center building front with blue overlay

Watanabe Democracy Fellowship

2024 Watanabe Democracy Fellowship

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2024 Watanabe Democracy Fellowship!


  • Fellowship Orientation: June 7, 2024
  • Fellowship Delegation Visit: July 14 – 26, 2024
  • Post-Delegation Programs: September – December

Visit the Fellows page to learn about the recipients.


Watanabe Democracy Fellowship

The Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship promotes global democracy and strengthens the ties between Japan and the US by promoting democratic values, and bilateral cultural understanding and collaboration. With the generous support of Toshizo Watanabe, the Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship focuses on building the knowledge base and expertise of future Japanese leaders across multiple sectors including government, the arts, media, education, nonprofits/NGOs, and the corporate world.

By fostering greater understanding, cooperation, and shared values, we build a stronger and more resilient partnership that benefits not only Japan and the US but also contributes to global stability and prosperity.


Toshizo Watanabe smiling and wearing a suit

Toshizo Watanabe

Inspired by those who mentored and sponsored him at an early age, Toshizo “Tom” Watanabe has a strong passion to “pay it forward” by supporting numerous international scholarship and exchange programs.


Photo courtesy Toshizo Watanabe Foundation


Democracy Fellowship Program

Starting in 2024, annual cohorts of future leaders from Japan will be selected for a professional development program that will include an orientation in Tokyo; a two-week, multiple city delegation visit to the US; and ongoing virtual and in-person gatherings. Watanabe Fellows will visit Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. to engage with US and international leaders from government, industry, and civil society. A pilot project will be launched in 2024 with a cohort of eight Fellows and in subsequent years, there will be 10–12 Fellows in each cohort.

In 2024, the Fellows will visit Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. In Los Angeles, they will experience a series of site visits, seminars, and workshops on Japanese American history and democracy at the Daniel K. Inouye National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (Democracy Center) at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). They will also have an opportunity to experience the rich role that media and the arts play in Los Angeles, and to visit Manzanar National Historic Site, a Japanese American World War II incarceration camp. On the second leg of the visit, the Watanabe Fellows will visit Washington, D.C. to meet with leaders in government, private sector, and grassroots organizations, and to enjoy cultural experiences to better understand the unique history of democracy in the US.


Post-Delegation Programs

The Democracy Center will host additional virtual and in-person speaker series and programs throughout the year to support continuing education and foster networking among the fellows and the overall network of Japanese leaders with an interest in democracy-building and US-Japan relations. Going forward, alumni will form a global cohort of proponents for a stable and secure democracy for future generations.




Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a center for civil rights, ensuring that the hard-fought lessons of the World War II incarceration are not forgotten. A Smithsonian Affiliate and one of America’s Cultural Treasures, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories. JANM is a center for the arts as well as history. It provides a voice for Japanese Americans and a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture.

The Democracy Center is a place where visitors can examine the Asian American experience, past and present, and talk about race, identity, social justice, and the shaping of democracy. It convenes and educates people of all ages about democracy to transform attitudes, celebrate culture, and promote civic engagement; educates and informs the public and public officials about important issues; creates strength within and among communities to advocate for positive change; and explores the values that shape American democracy. The Democracy Center looks for solutions that engage communities in self-advocacy, explore the evolving idea of what it means to be an American, and result in actions that bring everyone together.


The Democracy Center explores the rights, freedoms, and fragility of democracy, helping to build bridges, and find common ground between people of diverse backgrounds and opinions.

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