SAN FRANCISCO — The Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program (Takahashi Fellows Program), organized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) and sponsored by the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, with additional support from the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, Japan Airlines and Kintetsu International Travel, will be sending 10 youth participants to Japan for its inaugural program this summer.
The Takahashi Fellows Program was created as a follow-up after 13 successful years of the Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program. The structure of this new program is based on the best practices, experiences, opportunities and activities of the Shinzen Program, but focuses more on the leadership and civic development of youth to build a strong background and foundation for their future endeavors.
The Takahashi Fellows Program helps develop a deeper understanding and awareness of Japan, its culture and the people as an international citizen ambassador, develops lifelong leadership and civic skills, provides youth with the opportunity to visit Japan and have meaningful exchanges with their peers, and develops an appreciation and understanding of citizen-action and involvement through community and international volunteerism.
Paul Osaki, executive director of the JCCCNC, mentions, “This program is invaluable in not only helping the youth in our Japanese American community develop and define their identity, but to also create future leaders for the community.”
The 10 youth participants selected to participate as 2011 Takahashi Fellows have been preparing diligently over the course of five intensive workshops to prepare for their trip. These young ambassadors have participated in Japanese culture and language workshops; organized a luncheon fundraiser to support scholarships for participants; learned about Japan and its history through a true-story film on Hiroshima before and during World War II; and engaged in team-building activities, including a six-hour ropes course session at Ft. Miley.
They have taken command of the planning of many of their own activities for the workshops helping to build their leadership skills. The Takahashi Fellows have had to apply the new planning skills to every activity and event, and as a result of the process they have learned the importance of setting goals, meeting objectives and being accountable for their actions. With these new-found skills, they have planned intercultural activities in Osaka and Kobe as well as a special discussion with a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo.
Other highlights of the trip include a tour the Japanese National Diet, a visit the Kodomo Home orphanage and a stay at Kisen Wai Wai Mura, where they will have the opportunity to experience traditional Japanese village life — farming, cooking, sleeping and making their own chopsticks and slippers.
The Takahashi Fellows will be documenting their trip through journals, photos and videos that they hope to send while they are in Japan, as well as when they return.
About the 2011 Takahashi Fellows
Mina Han, a 17-year-old junior at University High School in San Francisco, looks forward to expanding her knowledge of Japan and the Japanese American community.
Owen Iwamasa, a 16-year-old junior at George Washington High School in San Francisco, looks forward to improving his knowledge of Japan, and improving as a person.
Angeline Junaedy, a 16-year-old junior at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, looks forward to learning more about the Japanese American community, and wants to better herself through her experiences in Japan.
Grant Kawahatsu, a 17-year-old senior at San Francisco’s Stuart Hall High School, looks forward to meeting other community-minded youth, and to sharing his experiences in Japan once he comes back.
Yumi Kobayashi, a 14-year-old freshman at Albany High School, hopes to learn more about Japanese culture and about Japanese teenagers.
Kristen Koyama, a 16-year-old junior at Oakland Technical High School, wants to learn more about her Japanese heritage and looks forward to going to the Kodama Orphanage.
Danny Souza, a 15-year-old sophomore at Palma High School in Hollister, wants to get in touch with his Japanese culture and get the full experience in Japan.
Whitney Tamaki, a 16-year-old junior at Albany High School, wants to further develop her leadership skills and looks forward to building international relations.
Colin Wong, a 17-year-old senior at Campolindo High School in Moraga, is looking forward to cultural exchanges with peers in Japan and continuing to develop his leadership skills.
Laura Kim Yee, a 17-year-old senior at Skyline High School in Oakland, would like to learn and explore Japanese culture through this first-hand experience.
Two memorial scholarships were made available by JCCCNC members — Kahn Yamada, in memory of his wife Florence “Flo” Kono Yamada, and the late Roy Y. Ashizawa’s wife Fumi, daughter Joyce Ashizawa-Yee, her husband, Bradley Yee, and grandson, Wesley — to support two students who otherwise might not have been able to participate.
The Florence “Flo” Kono Yamada Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Angeline Junaedy, who like Yamada has a vibrant personality and strong passion for civic responsibility in the community. Yumi Kobayashi was awarded the Roy Y. Ashizawa Memorial Scholarship for her great interest in going to Japan to learn, see, smell, feel and taste Japanese culture and art first-hand, and then return to share her experience with others.
On July 9, the Takahashi Fellows and their family members attended a send-off reception hosted by Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Inomata and his wife at their official residence. He stressed in his speech that they “should remember the three L’s while they are in Japan — look, listen and learn; two M’s — make friends and meet people,” so that when they come back they should “share their experiences and stay in touch.”
Whitney Tamaki, on behalf of the Takahashi Fellows, said in her speech how they “individually and as a group have grown,“ adding that many of them are looking forward to connecting with their Japanese roots and experiencing Japan with their own eyes.
She thanked Tomoye Takahashi, who was not in attendance, and her sister, Martha Suzuki, for sponsoring the trip. In appreciation for their support, the fellows created special lanterns for Inomata, Suzuki and Takahashi to be sent to Hiroshima for the annual lantern-floating ceremony on Aug. 6.
The program would not be possible without the generous support provided by the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, which was established in 1985 to further develop and encourage an understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture, values and the arts, as well as supporting activities in the Japanese American community that promote a better understanding of Japanese American history, its challenges and its future.
“The Takahashi Foundation, Tomoye Takahashi and Martha Suzuki have been long-time supporters of the JCCCNC youth international goodwill exchange programs and we cannot thank them enough for the opportunity these programs have provided for the youth in our community to learn about their Japanese culture, heritage and traditions while strengthening the bonds between the United States and Japan,” states Donna Kimura, JCCCNC board member and Takahashi Program advisor.
The JCCCNC also appreciates the support from the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, especially Consul General Inomata, along with travel partners Japan Airlines and Kintetsu International Travel.
For more information on the program, contact Lori Matoba at the JCCCNC, (415) 567-5505.