By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation (LANSCA) celebrated the new year with a luncheon on Jan. 23 at the Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo.
Ernest Hida, board member and past chairman, noted that 2016 is the Year of the Monkey and that the Japanese word for monkey, saru, also sounds like a verb meaning to go away, as in “Iya na koto saru” (Unhappy things, go away) and “Mayoi saru” (Indecision, go away).
“There’s an old saying that wearing red underwear in the Year of the Monkey can make diseases go away,” he said. “Some department stores sell red underwear … So if you’d like to make (bad) things go away this year, go home and buy some red underwear.”
LANSA Chair Teruko Weinberg reported that in addition to the student and teacher exchange programs and student art exchange, the group is “developing, refining our plans for events leading up to LANSCA’s 60th anniversary year in 2019 … LANSCA held its first Nagoya Day event in the summer of 2014 at The Grove … Everyone said it was a great success. To follow up, we are planning a similar event at The Grove this summer … tentatively called Cool Central Japan to promote tourism and entertainment in this important region …
“With another successful event this year, we can hold equally exciting events in 2017 and 2018, all leading up to the 60th anniversary … Last year I traveled twice to Nagoya to give a presentation to government offices and business organizations and gain their support for these plans.”
Noting that many visitors to Japan pass through Nagoya without getting off the Shinkansen (bullet train), Weinberg said her goal is to persuade those who attend the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to take a side trip to Nagoya.
Deputy Consul General Izuru Shimmura called LANSCA one of the strongest sister-city programs in the country and said, “I really appreciate the contribution of LANSCA to a strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan.”
Norman Arikawa of LANSCA led the toast.
Dickson Perey gave a presentation on the 2015 Student Exchange Program, in which four students represented Los Angeles: Alexandria Russell of Canoga Park High School, Sarajoy Salib of Venice High School, Brandon Nekookar of University High School, and Karl Lin of Downtown Magnets High School, where Perey is assistant principal.
Last July, the students lived with host families and experienced student life in Nagoya — Lin and Nekookar at Meito High School, Salib at Aichi High School, and Russell at Kita High School. They visited such sites as Nagoya Castle, Nagoya Aquarium and Nagoya City Hall, and their itinerary also included stops in Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo.
“Every year we have a model program that other sister city affiliations look at with envy … a three-week experience that LANSCA sponsors to give students an opportunity to see what Japan has to offer, in particular Nagoya,” said Perey. “… We selected all of these students through a competitive process and also selected a chaperone (Erika Lopez) who is a college counselor at Los Angeles High School.”
Perey said the students gave the program rave reviews:
Lin — “Be ready to get lost, because that’s what makes the adventure an awesome one.”
Nekookar — “Great culture, good food, wonderful scenes, good people make Japan one of the most beautiful countries.”
Salib — “Make assumptions of how your trip will be, and then forget them because Japan is the only place that can tie countryside and pop culture together perfectly.”
Russell — “This trip was like going to a new world without a spaceship.”
Having served as a chaperone in 2011, Perey said, “I am eternally grateful to LANSCA for this type of opportunity … I give back just as this program has given me so much love and inspiration … This is the experience of a lifetime.”
Upon returning home, the students participated in the Nisei Week Parade and the “Nagoya in My Eyes” program, in which they do research projects and give classroom presentations in their own schools. They will also volunteer with various LANSCA events and host students from Nagoya this summer.
In addition, a science and math education research symposium in October, affiliated with but not sponsored by LANSCA, will enable some 60 students from Nagoya to engage in dialogue with their L.A. counterparts.
Hida noted, “This student exchange program actually was started by the Japan America Society, and when LANSCA was formed in 1959, Japan America Society turned it over to LANSCA … We thank Japan America Society for establishing this program.”
The Japan America Society of Southern California was presented by its president, Douglas Erber.
Entertainment was provided by Kirk Nishikawa of the Nishikawa-ryu dance school in Nagoya, which was established by his great-great-great-grandfather. He noted, “The symbol of Nagoya is the maru-hachi, literally translated, circle eight … Taken from a shape like Mt. Fuji, it means to spread good fortune, culture and also friendship throughout the land and throughout the world. That’s something that represents what LANSCA is doing.”
Nishikawa performed “Kotobuki,” a celebratory dance, and led the gathering in a series of movements created by his grandfather as an exercise program. He brought the program to a lively conclusion by asking everyone to join in a cheer done at Chunichi Dragons baseball games when the local team wins — clapping and chanting, “Namo! Namo! Namo!”
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo