Gary Mukai, director of the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), was awarded the Foreign Minister's Commendation at the official residence of the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco on Oct. 5. The commendation recognizes Mukai for "greatly contribut[ing] to the promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the United States, especially in the field of education...[and] lend[ing] his energy and expertise to actively supporting and implementing the goals and objectives of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) and the activities of the JET Alumni Association of Northern California."
Mukai has been developing curricula on Japan and U.S.-Japan relations for secondary school students since he joined SPICE in 1988. As part of his leadership of SPICE, he helps oversee the Reischauer Scholars Program, a distance-learning course co-sponsored by SPICE and the Center for Global Partnership at the Japan Foundation. Each year the program selects 25 exceptional high school juniors and seniors from the United States to engage in an intensive study of Japan. Though his own experience teaching English in Japan, from 1977 to 1980, predated JET, Mukai has been closely involved with the 20-year-old program. He has been an interviewer since 1989 and has also spoken at JET orientations and panel discussions.
In bestowing the commendation, Consul General Yasumasa Nagamine called Mukai a "bridge between our two countries."
Mukai accepted the commendation with characteristic graciousness, thanking the foreign minister and crediting his SPICE and FSI colleagues for the honor. "I am very humbled by this honor from the Japanese Foreign Minister," said Mukai. "I would like to say that none of my work at SPICE would be possible without my SPICE colleagues. Also, I truly feel indebted to my colleagues at FSI. Without them, SPICE wouldn't be what it is today and SPICE wouldn't have such an embracing home."
With regards to promoting cross-cultural understanding, Mukai said, "Since joining SPICE nearly 20 years ago, one of the highlights of my work has been working with Stanford faculty and the Consulate General of Japan, San Francisco, on helping young American and Japanese students better understand one another and appreciate the importance of U.S.-Japan relations."
Retired Stanford professor Daniel I. Okimoto, who recently received a medal of honor from the Japanese government for his role in U.S.-Japan relations, praised Mukai in a short speech. "No one deserves this honor more than Gary Mukai," Okimoto said. "I think Gary is a remarkable leader, mentor, entrepreneur, and friend."
Since 1976 SPICE has supported efforts to internationalize elementary and secondary school curricula by linking the research and teaching at Stanford University to the schools through the production of high-quality curriculum materials on international and cross-cultural topics. Housed in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, SPICE has produced over 100 supplementary curriculum units on Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the global environment, and international political economy. SPICE draws upon the diverse faculty and programmatic interests of Stanford University to link knowledge, inquiry, and practice in exemplary curriculum materials.