Honoring the next generation of U.S.–Japan scholars

Professor Emeritus Daniel Okimoto poses a question following a research presentation by one of the student honorees. Rylan Sekiguchi

“What do you think about the financial feasibility of building a shinkansen in California?”

“Should the U.S. have relied only on economic sanctions against Japan leading up to Pearl Harbor, or should it have done something on the military front and not relied solely on the economic instrument?”

“If the tsunami had not caused the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, or if the nuclear meltdown had been contained at a much lower level, would the ‘nuclear village’ in Japan even be a problem in Japan?” 

Three outstanding high school scholars—all honorees of the 2014 Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP)—expertly responded to these challenging questions posed by some of the leading scholars in the field of Japan studies at Stanford University. The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) honored Roma Forest (San Luis Obispo, CA), Jonathan Klein (Los Angeles, CA), and John McHugh (Winnetka, IL) at a Japan Day event on August 7, 2014 that was highlighted by presentations based on their RSP research essays on an intriguing range of Japan-related topics: lessons from Japan’s shinkansen for California’s high speed rail project; a critical analysis of U.S. economic policy leading up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor; and Japan’s nuclear energy policies in post-Fukushima Japan. 

Japan Day featured thoughtful and encouraging opening remarks by Consul General Masato Watanabe, Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, as he shared his reflections on the role of youth in the bilateral relationship between Japan and the United States. “The RSP offers young people an opportunity not only to learn about another country, but to think critically from multiple perspectives,” he noted. “In doing so, this program plays a vital role in training future leaders in the U.S.–Japan field. Your successful completion of this program is not the end, but just the beginning of your journey. 

Naomi Funahashi, RSP Manager and Instructor, gave an overview of the RSP to members of the Stanford community, family members of the honorees, and others who are involved in U.S.–Japan relations. Named in honor of former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer, a leading educator and noted scholar of Japanese history and culture, the RSP annually selects 25–30 talented sophomores, juniors, and seniors from throughout the United States to engage in an intensive study of Japan. Entering its twelfth year in 2015, the RSP presents an innovative approach to engaging high school students in the online study of Japan and U.S.–Japan relations. Prominent scholars affiliated with Stanford University, the University of Tokyo, the University of Hawaii, and other institutions provide lectures and engage students in online dialogue, and students develop a community of peers with a shared interest in Japan. The 2015 RSP will feature comments by Ambassadors Caroline Kennedy and Kenichiro Sasae.


Professor Emeritus Daniel Okimoto poses a question following a research presentation by one of the student honorees.

Dr. Rie Kijima, the interim instructor of the 2014 RSP, also gave an insightful presentation on the findings of an RSP alumni tracer study that was conducted in 2013 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the program. The study reflected the significant and lasting impact of the RSP upon its alumni, with 81 percent of the respondents noting that the RSP helped them to think critically and to become better scholars, and that it ignited added interest to conduct further research on Japan. Dr. Kijima also noted that the study showed that RSP participation positively impacted high school students’ academic records, strengthened students’ desire to learn more about Japan and about Asia, and provided a unique opportunity for inquisitive learners to pursue their academic interests.


Following Japan Day, Jonathan, John, and Roma offered reflections upon their experiences in the RSP. “The RSP provided an opportunity to interact with outstanding students from around the country in an intense and interactive online environment,” remarked Jonathan Klein. “I felt very lucky to have weekly lectures by the exact scholars that write the books we read for assignments, and who are the very people that research and write papers on issues in modern day Japan.” John McHugh was also struck by the direct access to top scholars in the Japan studies field, commenting that he “actually sat next to a researcher from Stanford whose work I had used in my paper!” The challenging nature of the RSP coursework appealed to Roma, who observed, “I’m so glad to have participated in such a rigorous program with highly motivated peers and I look forward to seeing how RSP affects our lives and career choices.”

The distinguished RSP advisory committee members are Consul General Watanabe; Professor Emeritus Nisuke Ando, Doshisha University; and Ambassador Michael Armacost, Professor Phillip Lipscy (principal investigator), Dr. Gary Mukai, and Professor Emeritus Daniel Okimoto of Stanford University.

The RSP received funding for the first three years (2004–06) of the program from the United States-Japan Foundation. The program is currently funded by a grant from the Center for Global Partnership, the Japan Foundation, and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.

The RSP will be accepting applications for the 2015 program in September and October 2014. For more information about the RSP, visit www.reischauerscholars.org or contact Naomi Funahashi, RSP Manager and Instructor, at nfunahashi@stanford.edu.