By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley) – A taiko drum performance, a gift of friendship medals, and a Japanese tea ceremony were some of the highlights of Cal State San Bernardino’s Japan Day celebration.
Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese ambassador to the United States, was the guest of honor and keynote speaker at the Japan Day luncheon on March 13, attended by more than 150 staff, faculty, students and community guests. He was accompanied by four other delegates who have a strong interest in supporting Japan and U.S. relations.
“This event was a great opportunity for CSUSB to promote our growing Japanese language and culture programs not only to our students, but also to the local community,” said Makiko Amaya, adjunct lecturer in the university’s department of World Languages and Literatures, and lead coordinator of the event.
“It’s easier to find a variety of events and activities about Japan in large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, but these are not as common in the Inland Empire,” she said. “However, our second annual Japan Day at CSUSB proved that there is much interest in Japan and its culture right here in our own community.”
Rong Chen, CSUSB interim associate provost of academic programs, welcomed Fujisaki and his delegation in a brief morning session. He said that it’s important to promote international student exchange programs, and praised Japan’s exchange program as a model for other countries to follow.
Fujisaki said two of the reasons for his visit were to enhance the grassroots student exchange program and to explain how the “new Japan” is very different from a decade ago.
“Today’s Japan is more open … as you can see, there are more women in our delegation today than there were 10 years ago,” he said pointing to the delegation made up of three women and two men.
In traditional Japanese custom, Fujisaki presented a symbolic friendship medal to Chen and his department; to Andrew Bodman and his division of Academic Affairs, who also accepted one on behalf of CSUSB President Tomás Morales; and one to the University Diversity Committee, accepted by Twillea Carthen.
The other four delegates included Nobuo Yoneyama, entrepreneur and founder of Nisshin Global Corporation; Momoka Seino, violinist and singer whose performance “added a touch of artistic brilliance to the luncheon,” according to Amaya; Azusa “Hanah” Tobimatsu, an English language instructor; and Erika Takeda, a student at Keio University.
Each presented during breakout sessions on business, culture, education and women’s issues.
Tea master Takako Osumi mesmerized the audience of 90 with a concluding Japanese Tea Ceremony.
“We enjoyed the warm welcome by your university,” said Fujisaki. “It was great to have a luncheon with many leaders of the university and our delegation enjoyed mingling with friendly and intelligent students.
“It was encouraging to learn that the Japanese language-study students are rapidly increasing at your campus; and we hope to strengthen our ties with Cal State San Bernardino,” he said.
Amaya said about 50 students, including Japanese language class students studying here, international students from Japan and alumni of the study abroad programs in Japan, served as volunteers for Japan Day.
“Through volunteering for this event, they had the opportunity to experience things that they cannot learn in a classroom environment,” Amaya said. “I believe this motivated current Japanese language students to continue learning about Japanese language and culture, and encouraged other students with minimal knowledge of Japan to learn more about it.”