Takahashi Fellows reflect on time spent in Japan


GOING OLD SCHOOL — The Fellows transitioned from Modern Tokyo to rural Kisen Waiwai Mura (above). There, they prepared and ate a home cooked meal (upper right). Later, they went to the Nagata Kodomo Home to visit children in Kobe (lower right). courtesy of JCCCNC

Ten youth recently returned to San Francisco following their trip to Japan, through the inaugural Takahashi Ambassador Youth Fellowship Program, organized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) and sponsored by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation.

The students are: Mina Han, Owen Iwamasa Angeline Junaedy, Grant Kawahatsu, Yumi Kobayashi, Kristen Koyama, Danny Souza, Whitney Tamaki, Colin Wong and Laura Kim Yee.

While in Tokyo, the Fellows went shopping in the Asakusa area, tasted monja-yaki (a Japanese pancake that’s similar to okonomiyaki) and explored the Tokyo Edo Museum. Other highlights included: visits to the University of Tokyo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Diet and the famous Shibuya district.

GOING OLD SCHOOL — The Fellows at rural Kisen Waiwai Mura. photo courtesy of JCCCNC

The next stop on their trip was to Kisen Waiwai Mura, a traditional Japanese farming village built by the city of Osaka and managed by the Osaka YMCA. The youth spent two days and two nights living in the village, which replicates farm life in the early 1800s. The Fellows learned basic farming techniques, including plowing the land and harvesting ripened fruits and vegetables that they used to cook their meals over an open fire. They were also given the opportunity to pound mochi and make their own straw slippers.

“The meals took around three hours to prepare and from the collective preparation of meals to delegating farming duties, the Fellows walked away with a once in a lifetime experience in a traditional Japanese setting. Many of the Fellows enjoyed the Waiwai Mura village because it brought them closer to their ancestors, but also created strong bonds within the group,” said Ryan Kimura, director of programs for the JCCCNC.

Next, the Fellows visited the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution in Kobe, where they saw the destruction that struck the area in the 1995 earthquake.

The JCCCNC contributed to the rebuilding of the Nagata Kodomo Home orphanage, at its current location, after the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.

“The time at the Nagata Kodomo Home really made me reflect on the family that I have and see things from the children’s point of view,” said Yee.

The following day, the Fellows spent a day at the Kobe City College of Technology (KCCT), where they spoke with students there about school life, club (after-school) activities and hobbies.

The Takahashi Program officially ended with a graduation ceremony on July 30 at the Kobe YMCA. All of the Fellows spoke and thanked their host family.

After spending a couple of days sightseeing in Kyoto, the group returned home on July 31.

The JCCCNC will encourage the Fellows to “stay actively involved with the JCCCNC and their own communities, as leaders and advocates,” said Lori Matoba, deputy director of the JCCCNC. “The Takahashi Fellows already have plans to continue to support the children at the Nagata Kodomo Home and are looking at ways to share what they learned about Japan with others, especially youth their age.”

For more information about the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program, call the JCCCNC at (415) 567-5505 or visit www.jcccnc.org.


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