Upon seeing the printed agenda for the “Inaugural Stanford e-Tottori Day” on August 23, 2019, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Takeshi Homma, whose hometown is in Tottori Prefecture, remarked that he never thought that he would see Tottori high school students at a ceremony at Stanford University. This prompted me to recall the initiative that Homma took several years ago to introduce me to Tottori Prefecture, the least populated in all of Japan. His vision was to bridge his ancestral home with his current home, the United States, through the establishment of an online class on U.S. society and culture for high school students in Tottori. Through Homma’s vision and the support of Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai and the Tottori Prefectural Board of Education, Stanford e-Tottori was established over three years ago. Jonas Edman has been the Instructor of Stanford e-Tottori since its inception.
The inaugural Stanford e-Tottori Day honored Ayaka Ikei of Seishokaichi High School and Yua Kodani of Tottori Nishi High School for achieving at the highest levels in the course. It began with remarks by Takuya Fukushima, Office Director of the English Education Advancement Office, Tottori Prefectural Board of Education. Fukushima commented on the significance of Stanford e-Tottori to the students who have participated, noting their growth not only in terms of their English communication skills but also their understanding of U.S. society and culture. Fukushima, as a graduate of Hiroshima University and also someone who has studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Ohio State University, knows well the significance of the U.S.–Japan relationship. During his remarks and much to the delight of the audience, he shared a television news program that featured a class that Edman taught in person in Tottori in July.
Fukushima’s comments were followed by remarks by Rie Kusakiyo, Advisor for Educational Affairs at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Her words were not only inspiring to the students but she is also someone to whom Ayaka and Yua can aspire, as both students expressed an interest in studying and living in the United States, as Kusakiyo has done.
The highlight of the program was Edman’s introduction of his student honorees, Ayaka and Yua, and their heartfelt presentations, which included their aspirations for the future. During the question and answer period, their passion for helping others surfaced. Ayaka would like to go into the field of education and Yua into the field of medicine. Edman expressed how proud he is of their accomplishments and presented them with plaques.
Visiting Scholar Kenichirou Oyama, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, noted, “I was very impressed by the presentations of the two young high school students. In addition, as I am from a provincial town myself, I feel strongly that this program offers hope for young students who live in provincial areas.” By “hope,” Oyama was referring to the fact that students in more rural areas generally have fewer educational opportunities than students in metropolitan areas like Tokyo.
Edman shares a similar sentiment. “The fact that Tottori is quite isolated is what makes the teaching of Stanford e-Tottori so rewarding for me. Making Stanford scholarship accessible to them really captures the heart of SPICE’s mission.” Earlier this year, Edman facilitated a joint online class between his students in Tottori and Japanese language students at Nueva School in Hillsborough, California, whose teacher is Yoko Sase. It was remarkable for Edman to observe how much the students shared and learned from each other. During their trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, Ayaka, Yua, and Fukushima had the chance to visit Nueva and met several of the students with whom they had previously met only virtually. Through Stanford e-Tottori, more students, entrepreneurs, and scholars in the United States are also learning about Tottori.
The fourth Stanford e-Tottori course will commence this fall with the highest enrollment to date.