Honoring High School Students from Japan and the United States: A Glow for Global Peace

High school student honorees with Japanese Consul General at Stanford Japan Day Consul General Tomohiko Uyama (front row, third from left) with Japan Day honorees and their teachers

On August 9, 2019, six students from SPICE’s Stanford e-Japan online course and three students from the Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) were recognized during the 13th annual Japan Day at Stanford University. The nine honorees had the chance to share presentations of their research papers with an audience that included Consul General Tomohiko Uyama (Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco), Ambassador Michael Armacost (former U.S. ambassador to Japan), SPICE supporter Amanda Minami Chao, and Stanford Professor and SPICE advisor Indra Levy.

The program began with opening remarks by Consul General Uyama and his words resonated in me as I grappled with the fact that the celebratory Japan Day was being held on a solemn occasion, the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Consul General Uyama stated:

The Japan–U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of security, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. As we look at the global challenges we face today, I believe that we must strive to ensure that our special relationship remains strong and vital. One way to accomplish this is by preparing the best and brightest of our young people with the kind of learning opportunities that will deepen mutual understanding. The RSP and the Stanford e-Japan are admirably working toward this goal by providing the knowledge and expertise our young people will need as future leaders in Japan–U.S. relations.

After hearing Consul General Uyama’s comments, I came to the realization that honoring young future leaders from both countries on the 74th anniversary can symbolize the ray of hope for global peace that I feel with programs like the RSP and Stanford e-Japan. The presentations that the nine students made confirmed this feeling. Though the topics of their presentations were varied—ranging from historical topics like post-World War II art in Japan to contemporary social issues in Japan—a common thread among all was the significance of the U.S.–Japan relationship to the security of the world. Their presentations were followed by the awarding of plaques and lunch. During the program and a tour of campus, one could witness the budding relationships between the Japanese and American students.

SPICE students and instructors at Stanford Japan Day SPICE student honorees and instructors at Stanford Japan Day 2019
Stanford e-Japan is an online course, which focuses on U.S. society and culture and U.S.–Japan relations, that SPICE has offered to high school students in Japan for five years. The current supporter of the course is Mr. Tadashi Yanai, President of the Yanai Tadashi Foundation, Tokyo. “Carving a brighter future” is at the core of the Foundation’s mission and I hope that all RSP and Stanford e-Japan alumni keep this mission close to their hearts. One of the key programs of the Foundation is the Yanai Tadashi Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to Japanese students who enroll at select universities in the United States. Several Stanford e-Japan alumni and Stanford students are recipients of the Scholarship.

The 2018 spring and fall Stanford e-Japan course instructors were Elin Matsumae and Waka Takahashi Brown, respectively. Key themes like interdependence, multiple perspectives, and diversity were emphasized in their online courses. Naoya Chonan, Waseda University Senior High School, Tokyo, reflected, “The Stanford e-Japan program was different from any classes at my school in terms of diversity. It prepared an opportunity to compare diverse ideas from all over Japan and the U.S. Collaborative coursework with excellent students taught me the importance of realizing and embracing differences of viewpoints and opinions among people.”

This comment resonated in Brown who noted that the annual Japan Day celebration is so rewarding not only for the students, but also for the instructors. “The students always amaze me with their extraordinary scholarship and poise during their presentations. Perhaps what is most gratifying, however, is the campus tour that we end our day with in which the students are relaxed and happy. It’s during this time they talk with each other about their dreams and future plans. I have no doubt these are the future leaders of the next generation.”

The RSP is an online course that SPICE has offered to high school students in the United States for 16 years. The course introduces Japanese society and culture and U.S.–Japan relations and has enrolled students from most states. Since the inception of Stanford e-Japan, RSP Instructor Naomi Funahashi and Brown have facilitated joint online classes with RSP and Stanford e-Japan students. Funahashi reflected, “It is so rewarding to see the RSP and e-Japan honorees be recognized for their tremendous efforts in their respective courses. Japan Day is a unique opportunity to bring these remarkable students physically together, and it really gives them a chance to learn from one another and deepen the meaningful ways in which these courses connect young leaders across the U.S. and Japan.”

Japan Day was clearly meaningful to the students as well. Sandi Khine, Arcadia High School, Arcadia, California, commented in a follow-up note to Funahashi, “Thank you so much! I’m still kind of in shock that today happened, it feels like such a dream! I had so much fun today meeting Jaimie and Mei and all the other Stanford e-Japan students. I’ll definitely look back on this with lots of love.”

Lantern with the word “heiwa” (peace) in Nagasaki, 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing Lantern with the word “heiwa” (peace) in Nagasaki, 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing

Following the Japan Day ceremony, I read about the 74th anniversary ceremonial events that took place in Nagasaki. One of the traditional ceremonial events on the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been the lighting of lanterns. While watching the American and Japanese students receive plaques from their instructors, one could definitely see a glow in each one of them and also in their instructors. I felt a surge of pride in the students, of course, but also in their teachers—Funahashi, Brown, and Matsumae—for empowering their students with such incredible learning experiences and recognition that most certainly brightened their students’ futures.

(Image at right: Lantern with the word “heiwa” (peace) in Nagasaki, 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing; photo credit: Jiji Press.)

Stanford e-Japan and the Reischauer Scholars Program are two of several online courses for high school students offered by SPICE, Stanford University, including the Sejong Scholars Program (on Korea), the China Scholars Program, and Stanford e-China.

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