As Stacy Shimanuki delivered her presentation about the Pacific War (1941–45), I was reflective of the fact that the 73rd anniversary of the surrender of Japan, August 15, 1945, was five days away. Stacy was one of several American and Japanese high school students who were honored by SPICE during an annual event called “Japan Day” at Stanford University on August 10, 2018. The top three students of Stanford e-Japan (fall 2017 cohort) and three students of the Reischauer Scholars Program (2018 cohort) gave presentations on their course research papers. The Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) is a distance-learning course on Japan and U.S.–Japan relations that is offered annually to high school students in the United States, and Stanford e-Japan is a distance-learning course on the United States and U.S.–Japan relations that is offered twice annually to high school students in Japan.
For me, Japan Day is not only a day of recognition of students but is also symbolic of the close friendship between the United States and Japan that has evolved from a once-bitter rivalry. Though the six students had met their instructors Naomi Funahashi (RSP instructor; Dr. Rie Kijima taught the latter part of the 2018 RSP course) and Waka Takahashi Brown (Stanford e-Japan instructor) in online “virtual classrooms,” it was their first time meeting face-to-face. Although they had never met before, it was remarkable to me how the students on both sides of the Pacific seemed almost like old friends by the end of the day.
Japan Day opened with comments by the Honorable Tomochika Uyama, Consul General of Japan in San Francisco. He 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. It is my belief that the Reischauer Scholars Program and 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.
Before the student presentations, Consul General Uyama took the time to speak with each of the honorees.
Stanford e-Japan honorees
Grace Rembert, Bozeman High School, Bozeman, Montana
Stacy Shimanuki, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, California
Valerie Wu, Presentation High School, San Jose, California
Amane Kishimoto, Kyoto Prefectural Rakuhoku Senior High School, Kyoto
Yurika Matsushima, Keio Girls Senior High School, Tokyo
Jun Yamasaki, Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen Senior High School, Tokyo
The students presented on topics ranging from open innovation, employment and people with disabilities, and the U.S. and Japanese educational systems to language and nationalism, literature on the atomic bombing of Japan, and urbanization in Japan. Brown and Funahashi had high praise for their students. “I’m always so proud of our e-Japan award winners,” stated Brown. “Their level of research is at such a high level, and to be able to conduct their presentations in English and with such poise is an amazing achievement for students at such a young age.” During the presentations by her students, Funahashi reminded the audience, “These are high school students!” Without fail on Japan Day, Funahashi hears audience members complimenting the intellect of her students and how articulate they are.
Attendees represented people from the Stanford community and the U.S.–Japan community in the Bay Area, including Dr. Takeo Hoshi, Director, Japan Program, and Junichiro Hirata, Visiting Scholar, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, FSI; and Dr. Kazuhiko Hasegawa, Executive Director, San Francisco Office, Osaka University, Kathleen Kimura, Japan Society of Northern California, and Dr. Yoichi Aizawa, Executive Director, San Francisco Office, Waseda University. Amanda Minami Chao and David Chao were recognized for their many years of support to SPICE.
Following the formal program, the students enjoyed a tour of Stanford University. The SPICE staff and I were left hoping that someday we would see them again as undergraduate or graduate students on campus and more importantly, hoping that they will remain friends to further strengthen the decades of friendship between Japan and the United States.
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Funding for SPICE’s distance-learning courses is generously provided by Amanda Minami Chao and David Chao, and Jean Mou and Yoshiaki Fujimori. Funding for the 2018 RSP was generously provided by Gen Isayama, the Center for Global Partnership/The Japan Foundation, and The Japan Fund, FSI. Funding for the Stanford e-Japan 2017 courses was generously provided by the United States-Japan Foundation, and for the Stanford e-Japan spring 2018 course by Noriko Honda Chen, Harry Gunji, Akira Horiguchi, Paul Li, Tomonori Tani, and the Capital Group Companies.