The Mike Mansfield Fellowship Program

REMINDER: The deadline for applications for the 21st Class of Mansfield Fellows is November 2, 2015. Visit the application page to apply or read below for more information.

Program Overview | Program Objectives and Benefits | The Fellowship YearPost-Fellowship Return to U.S. Agencies

Program Overview

The Mansfield Fellowship Program—named after Mike Mansfield, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, U.S. Senate majority leader, and U.S. congressman from Montana—is a first-of-its-kind program for the United States and Japan.

The Mansfield Fellowship Program has been restructured for the upcoming year to allow ten Fellows to participate in a one-year program in Japan.  The shorter program duration is expected to increase the number of Fellows who are able to participate and preserves the principles behind the program and the features that make it a unique professional career development opportunity for U.S. federal government employees.  Please click here to see more detailed information in the Mansfield Fellowship Program brochure.

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Ambassador Mike Mansfield greets the Mansfield Fellows.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greets a Mansfield Fellow from the nineteenth group.

The restructured Mansfield Fellowship Program includes a seven-week homestay and intensive Japanese language program in Ishikawa Prefecture and ten months of professional placements in Tokyo. During the year in Japan, Fellows will develop an in-depth understanding of the Government of Japan (GOJ) and its policymaking process and establish relationships with their counterparts in GOJ and the business, professional and academic communities.  After completing the program, the Fellows are required to serve at least two additional years in the federal government, where it is anticipated they will continue to work on projects involving Japan issues.

The Mansfield Fellowship Program is administered by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, with the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, as grantor.  The program receives significant in-kind support from the government of Japan and the Ishikawa Prefectural Government.  Additional support comes from corporate sponsors and foundations.

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Before leaving for the year in Japan, Mansfield Fellows in the fifth group discussed U.S.-Japan issues with former Ambassador Mike Mansfield in his office in Washington, D.C.

Since the program was established, 100 Fellows
have been selected, representing 22 agencies of the U.S. government.
Shown here, the fourteenth group of Mansfield Fellows in front of the Japanese Diet.

Program Objectives and Benefits

The Mansfield Fellowship Program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1994 to build a corps of U.S. federal government employees with proficiency in the Japanese language and practical, firsthand knowledge about Japan and its government.  Through their placements, Fellows develop networks of contacts in Japan and an understanding of the political, economic and strategic dimensions of the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Mansfield Fellowship Program alumni have skills, contacts and expertise that facilitate their agencies’ work on Japan-related programs and policies. They return to federal service with a deep, practical understanding of Japan, including knowledge of:

  • the Japanese language;
  • Government of Japan policies, including how the government addresses issues in Fellows’ professional fields;
  • Japanese decision making, including how their counterpart agencies in Japan are organized and make decisions; and
  • Japanese society and culture.

Alumni Fellows have direct responsibility for a wide variety of Japan issues, provide counsel to their agencies on Japan-related matters and help expedite the resolution of issues involving Japan.
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The Fellowship Year

Homestay and Language Training
Fellows begin the program with a seven-week course of intensive Japanese language study in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.   This immersion program—which includes a homestay, cultural activities, and professional site visits—improves the Fellows’ Japanese speaking and listening skills and builds their confidence in using Japanese.  It also introduces the Fellows to Japanese culture outside Tokyo and helps them adjust to living in Japan. At the conclusion of the homestay, Fellows move to Tokyo to begin their placements.

Following the Ishikawa Prefecture language training, Fellows travel to Tokyo to begin ten months of placements, further language training, and supplemental education programs and study tours.  In their placements, Fellows work full-time with their Japanese colleagues on issues relevant to their professional expertise and provide their perspective while learning from their Japanese counterparts.  Given that ministries and agencies have overlapping jurisdiction over certain issues, some Fellows may work in more than one government office during the year in Japan. In addition, Fellows have benefited from the perspective gained by working in the offices of Japanese National Diet (parliament) members and private companies and may participate in a two-week administrative training program provided for Japanese mid-career level civil servants.  Placement details are negotiated with the government of Japan prior to moving to Tokyo and begin with a detailed placement plan included in the program application.  This plan will be tailored to the interests of Fellows and their agencies and will be considered by Embassy of Japan attaches in Washington, D.C., Japan’s National Personnel Authority, and the agencies where Fellows request to be placed.  In addition to their placements, Fellows participate in a morning language class provided once a week and funded by the government of Japan.

Continuing Education Program
To broaden their perspectives on Japan, expand their network of contacts and establish a context for their professional work, the Fellows are required to participate in a continuing education program that includes monthly meetings and small group discussions (kenkyukai) with Japanese leaders and Japan experts.


Fellows broaden their perspectives on Japan by participating in a program of continuing education that includes discussions with Japanese government officials and Japan specialists.


GOJ-Provided Activities
Fellows may attend a mandatory two-week administrative training program, which the National Personnel Authority provides for
mid-level civil servants and makes available for the Fellows. While in Japan, Fellows also must attend language training classes once each week and participate in a GOJ study tour to locations outside of Tokyo.
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Post-Fellowship Return to U.S. Agencies

Following the year in Japan, Fellows are required to return to U.S. federal government service for a minimum of two years. It is expected that agencies sending officials to the program will use Fellows’ expertise and network of contacts to benefit the agency in Japan-related work.  As alumni, Fellows participate in Foundation-sponsored professional development activities and programs and are expected to participate in educational outreach programs and assist the Foundation in the recruiting, training and orientation of new Fellows.


Following the year in Japan, Fellows return to U.S. federal government service and participate in a variety of outreach activities to share what they have learned.

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