Stanford e-Fukuoka is an online course that SPICE offers to high school students in Fukuoka Prefecture. Taught by Kasumi Yamashita, Stanford e-Fukuoka was launched this year with the support of the Fukuoka Prefectural Government and the U.S. Consulate Fukuoka. SPICE is grateful to Governor Seitaro Hattori and Principal Officer John C. Taylor for their vision and leadership. SPICE is grateful to Yuki Kondo-Shah, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate Fukuoka for her initiative and dedication to make this course a reality. SPICE is also appreciative of Chie Inuzuka, Director, Fukuoka American Center, who serves as a liaison between Fukuoka and SPICE for her unwavering support.
The Japanese proverb, 見ぬが花 (minu ga hana) or “Not seeing is a flower,” is sometimes translated as “Reality is never as good as one’s imagination.” This proverb crossed my mind during the lead-up to the opening ceremony for Stanford e-Fukuoka because the synergy leading up to the opening ceremony seemed almost too ideal.
Since 2019, Yuki Kondo-Shah has served as a guest speaker for SPICE’s Stanford e-Japan, a national online course for Japanese high school students that is supported by the Yanai Tadashi Foundation. When Kondo-Shah and I spoke a year ago about the possibility of launching Stanford e-Fukuoka, we spoke not only about Fukuoka as a breeding ground of new startups and innovation with ties to Silicon Valley, but also about the fact that many thousands of early immigrants to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries trace their roots to the prefecture—thus, establishing a unique historical link between Fukuoka and the Japanese American community.
As Kondo-Shah and I spoke about the possibility of launching Stanford e-Fukuoka, my colleague, Kasumi Yamashita, was the instructor whom I had in mind from the outset. Yamashita had been on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in Fukuoka Prefecture for several years and I knew of her strong emotional ties to the prefecture. Once the course was approved by Governor Seitaro Hattori, Yamashita immediately accepted the position as instructor.
The opening ceremony was held on March 4, 2022 and moderated by Kondo Shah, and three dignitaries made welcoming remarks. First, Governor Hattori stated, “As Governor of Fukuoka, I take on the challenge set before me to foster the next generation of Fukuoka’s leaders who can compete in the global marketplace and be called upon by the international community. To ensure Fukuoka’s engagement in the global arena, we must gain multicultural competence and exchange ideas with people of diverse backgrounds. We must nurture our students to become global citizens.”
Second, Principal Officer Taylor noted the vision to make Fukuoka “an international hub” and how Stanford e-Fukuoka students “will become young leaders who will contribute to the growth and internationalization of the city… I believe that this Stanford program is a wonderful investment of your time and a way to gain those important skills.”
Third, Ambassador Emanuel expressed that “Throughout the last two and a half years, many of you have faced incredible challenges. But, here you are today, taking advantage of this exceptional international exchange program with one of America’s greatest universities that’s known worldwide… Through this program, you will learn about how important the United States and Japan are to each other. My hope is that you become future leaders to bridge our countries and build bridges of friendship.”
Following these comments, Yamashita shared fond remembrances of her JET Program years in Fukuoka and as she mentioned the schools with which she worked, one could see many nodding heads and smiles among the 30 students. She mapped out her vision for Stanford e-Fukuoka. This was followed by each student sharing his or her ambitions with the course and these prompted nodding heads and smiles among the adults in attendance.
In reality, seeing the ceremony unfold turned out to be even better than I had imagined. The proverb, “Not seeing is a flower,” was disproven on this occasion. In fact, taking part in the ceremony was like seeing 30 cherry blossoms begin to bloom—just as cherry blossom season begins in Fukuoka. With Yamashita’s mentorship and the continued support of the Fukuoka Prefectural Government and U.S. Consulate Fukuoka, I trust that each one will fully bloom during the course itself.