May 21, 2014
A season of new growth has begun, and I would very much like to express my wishes for your continued health and prosperity.
Perhaps thanks to the prolonged winter weather, the cherry blossoms bloomed later than usual, and this year’s Street Festival which marked the end of the National Cherry Blossom Festival was blessed with blue skies and took place beneath the fully opened cherry blossoms for the first time in years. With this fortuitous weather, I believe the festival was a memorable event for many people.
On April 6th, we held the Lantern Lighting Ceremony for the first time at the “Japanese Stone Lantern Plaza” arranged in the style of a Japanese garden during the Tidal Basin Landscape Enhancement Project completed last November. Moving forward, I sincerely hope that this place will forever play the role of a symbol of Japanese-American cultural exchange.
And now, this Cherry Blossom Centennial Commemoration Projects newsletter is the fifth and final volume. I am pleased to submit this progress report regarding the Cherry Blossom Centennial Commemorative Projects as of the end of April. Also, among these projects, we will continue to be active in our Japanese Language Education and Cultural Exchange Projects. We will of course report the progress of these events as appropriate from now on through our JCAWF website.
I would like to express my appreciation for your understanding and cooperation heretofore in accomplishing these Cherry Blossom Centennial Commemorative Projects, and I would also like to ask for your continued support for the JCAWF’s coming projects.
President, JCAW Foundation
REPORTS ON INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS
The education of Japanese-speaking Americans is an extremely important issue for nurturing the next generation of individuals who will take on the responsibility for U.S.-Japan relations and for strengthening the foundation of the U.S.-Japan partnership. With this in mind, the JCAWF decided to establish multiple projects which, by supporting Japanese education in the U.S. in various ways, together provide opportunities for young Americans to learn about Japan and its culture, fostering interest in Japanese language study, and ultimately providing these youths with opportunities to consider careers that utilize their Japanese language skills. We will now report on the current status of these projects.
① Sakura Grant
The Sakura Grant program was established to support Japanese language education and Japanese cultural education in public, private, charter, and magnet schools at the K-12 level in the Washington, DC area (Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware) and in the New York area (New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey). From the spring of 2013 and on, based on the applications from relevant area schools and consideration by the Grant Committee, the following 31 schools were identified as award recipients, and we have sent the funds to them starting in October as you can see in the chart below. In May of 2014 as well, we intend to send grant information to relevant area schools with an application deadline of June, and after consideration by the Grant Committee in September, we will identify award recipients and send the funds to the schools.
Now, of those high schools which were awarded the Grant, we would like to report on the use which Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Roosevelt High School below) is currently making of the Grant.
- Since 1982, Roosevelt High School has been the sister school of the prefectural Yokohama Suiran High School in Kanagawa, the sister prefecture of Maryland, and has utilized the Sakura Grant for cultural exchange projects with Suiran High School. These cultural exchange projects include 20 to 30 students and teachers from each school taking turns attending their sister school and spending approximately one week participating in classes and field trips, as well as home-stays.
- In March of 2014, the JCAWF was invited to the welcoming ceremony held at Roosevelt High School. About 300 students gathered in the Roosevelt High School auditorium, and students from both schools performed drama, dance and music. According to Roosevelt High School’s vice principal and the foreign language teachers, Japanese is a popular choice among their foreign language curricula. In addition, the exchange programs with Yokohama Suiran High School have come to be traditional events at Roosevelt High School, and the Roosevelt High School students are always excited to prepare for the welcoming event.
- A great significance lies in these U.S.-Japan cultural exchanges for these high school students during this crucial period of personality development. While watching the welcoming ceremony, we could see that the Sakura Grant had provided effective support for such development.
The Sakura Grant program began in 2012 and we intend to continue accepting applications for five years through 2016. The program has received much attention from the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ), and we have received many thanks from Japanese teachers. In the future, through the JCAWF website, we intend to include feedback from grant recipient schools and teachers regarding specific uses of the funds.
② Japan-America Society of Washington DC “Sakura Matsuri” Language Tent
We again set up a “Let’s Learn Japanese – Nihongo Dekimasu!” tent as part of the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC (JASW) Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Street Festival on April 12 this year. As in previous years, volunteers in the tent wearing t-shirts reading “Nihongo Dekimasu (I Can Speak Japanese)” will teach visitors about the origins of hiragana, katakana and kanji, calligraphy and Japanese games, letting visitors experience first-hand the fascinating aspects of the Japanese language.
③ Japanese Language Education Symposium, Seminar
We continue to consider holding events such as symposiums and seminars to create opportunities for information exchange and networking between Japanese language students, Japanese language teachers and Japanese corporations. Though such events were not held last year, we hope to do so this year.
In concert with the initiative of the Government of Japan and the Japanese Embassy in the U.S., the JCAWF has extended substantial financial support to the Tidal Basin Landscape Enhancement Project. We previously reported that this project was successfully concluded with the completion of the Japanese Lantern Plaza at the end of last year. We would now like to share with you photos of the Lantern Lighting Ceremony held at the Lantern Plaza in April of 2014 (sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies).
We would like to take this opportunity to once again express our heartfelt gratitude to all those companies and individuals who have extended generous support to advance this project.
This project was begun with the purpose of broadening the Cherry Blossom Centennial events to other areas beyond Washington, DC and across the country, and the project has been conducted in support of an initiative by the Embassy of Japan, with the cooperation of various U.S. tree-planting organizations. Based on proposals from each group applying, the scope of cherry blossom tree planting has been extended to regional symbolic areas such as state capitols, city halls, main thoroughfares and university campuses, and finally the 21 projects shown below were awarded grants by the JCAWF. The Nationwide Cherry Blossom Tree Planting Project has been completed as of April 2014. We truly appreciate all of your support.
From March 20th to April 13th, many cultural exchange events were held during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC as in previous years, and many people from all over the country visited. Led by the National Cherry Blossom Festival Inc. (NCBF), supported by the JCAWF, and the Embassy of Japan, events were held which drew attention to Japanese “soft power,” such as dance, music, food, animation, literature, Igo and Shogi, Japanese card games, advanced technologies, and Japanese language. The JCAWF assisted in the operation of the events not only with financial support but also by recruiting many volunteers mainly from the members of the JCAW and their families. On April 6th, the “Lantern Lighting Ceremony,” sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies, was held at the “Japanese Stone Lantern Plaza” newly completed with the financial support of the JCAWF, and more than 200 advocates of U.S.-Japan relations gathered. The continuation of these kinds of cultural exchange plays a very important role in sustaining and strengthening the Japanese presence in Washington, DC. We at the JCAWF will continue to make an effort to promote cultural exchange.
With cooperation from the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, and with the objective of establishing a future vision for U.S.-Japan relations, this project involved the creation of the “Mansfield Task Force for Shared Advancement and Prosperity” ( “Task Force”) centered on a new generation of American experts on Japan from industry, government, and academia.
On June 6th of last year, the Task Force held an “Interim Presentation” on Capitol Hill giving an outline of its vision for U.S.-Japan relations. The Task Force’s vision was organized into a proposal entitled “Crafting a Contemporary U.S.-Japan Vision,” and last November the proposal was presented in both Japanese and English. The proposal discussed “taking advanced and strategic measures to make the economies of Japan and the U.S. stronger and more vibrant,” and each of the 7 members of the Task Force included his or her specific proposal.
Japanese Version: http://mansfieldfdn.org/japanese-2/
English Version: http://mansfieldfdn.org/program/dialogues/u-s-japan-task-force/
From November 29th to December 5th of last year, the Task Force delegation (including former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer) visited Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kumamoto to present this proposal. In each city, the Task Force held discussions with political and business leaders and with the media through open seminars at universities where they engaged in lively and constructive debates on the future of U.S.-Japan relations.
See the Mansfield Foundation Task Force Website:
Mansfield Foundation Task Force on Crafting a Contemporary U.S.-Japan Vision for Shared Progress and Prosperity http://mansfieldfdn.org/program/dialogues/u-s-japan-task-force/
At the end of last year, with the completion of the proposal and the presentations held in Washington, DC and around Japan, this project supporting the next generation of Japan research experts came to a successful conclusion.
Thanks to all of your efforts, the U.S.-Japan Intellectual Exchange Support portion of the Cherry Blossom Centennial Project has concluded. However, the “seeds” we have sown inspired by the “cherry blossoms” have begun to grow and steadily continue their development. The Foundation intends to continue to explore ways in which we can nurture them.
Download PDF Document version from here.