Many thanks to Council Leader Nobuko Saito Cleary for providing this recap!
My husband Dr. Gary Cleary and I have been sending funds and materials to Japan since the Great East Japan Earthquake six years ago. I’ve had many visits to the Tohoku region with family and USJC friends, and as part of the TOMODACHI Initiative.
This time, I was invited by Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba to join a historic tree-planting ceremony to honor the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso and Mayor Toba gave remarks to welcome participants to the ceremony.
It began to rain during their speech, but as we planted, the sun came out and seemed to symbolize the happier days ahead. These pine trees will grow bigger and will tell this region’s history of survival to future children. Among all 70,000, only one pine tree survived during the tsunami. This miracle tree left seeds and the people of Rikuzentakata waited six years so that we could plant trees grown from these seeds.
(L-R) Dr. Cleary, Mayor Toba and the author
Mayor Toba said with a smile, “We learned from the mistakes from the past and rebuilt a town with a dream.” After six years, the city and its schools were rebuilt on the hills, and the newly built bank is much higher than before. I am lucky to have witnessed these changes and feel fortunate to have friends who supported this restoration.
I looked at the beautiful beach and ocean, prayed for happiness for the children of Rikuzentakata and wished for good luck for the city’s future. I saw that the resilience and positive actions of the residents and forward-thinking improvements have accomplished so much already. Rikuzentakata stands proudly as a rebuilt, safer city and I am humbled and honored to have had a part in helping this wonderful city and its residents.
Council Leader Leslie Ito, who had just returned from JALD 2017, published her reflections in Rafu Shimpo:
As a Yonsei raised in the 1980s and 1990s, I grew up trying to distinguish myself as a Japanese American, an identity that felt very disconnected from Japan.
My first trip to Japan was the summer of 1993 during my first year of college. My grandparents felt that the best use of their redress money from the U.S. government was to take my sister and me to Japan and reconnect with our family, culture and motherland. We traveled with 20 other family members from Tokyo to visit our great-grandfather’s home in Fukuoka.
Click here to read more in Rafu Shimpo.
To commemorate the one year anniversary of the Kumamoto earthquakes, the Asahi Shimbun Company held an event titled "Kyushu and Kumamoto - Earthquake Recovery Support Project - Forum & Fair." TOMODACHI Alumni Manager (as well as USJC Associate and ELP '10) Kaoru Utada Furuya spoke on a panel titled "Tips for Local Governments and Aid Workers to Collaborate." She talked about the history of the TOMODACHI Initiative and its innovative programs, as well as TOMODACHI alumni activities in Kumamoto to help the disaster-affected areas recover from the aftermath of the earthquakes.
USJC Associate Kenshiro Uki (ELP '14) spoke to Top Chef's Sheldon Simeon in a video featured on Eater! They talk about the difference between ramen and saimin, Sun Noodle's impact on food culture in Hawaii and across the United States, and the early beginnings of the Uki family's noodle operation. Click here or on the image below to see the segment.
Congratulations to Council Leader Janet Ikeda for being elected to the Board of Directors of the Joint National Committee for Languages - National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS)! JNCL-NCLIS is an organization committed to shaping policy that advocates for learning foreign languages and advancing international education.
Click here to read more.
USJC Associate and ELP '14 Kenshiro Uki (Vice President of Operations, Sun Noodle) was interviewed by NHK about the recent popularity of ramen in the United States. He talks about creating craft noodles to complement each restaurant's ramen, the joys and challenges of producing new and original noodle recipes and expanding the family business.
The segment is in Japanese and interviews with Kenshiro are in English. Click here or on the image below to see more.
USJC Associate and ELP '16 Sakura Yagi spoke to The Gohan Society about her work with her family's business, T.I.C. Group. Sakura talked about bringing her public relations experience to the family business, how T.I.C.'s many restaurants serve as culinary ambassadors to New York City communities by providing authentic Japanese flavors, and what it means to work with family as a second generation leader in the food industry. Click here to read more.
Council Leader Emily Murase co-authored a resolution to remove a policy requiring Asian American students to enroll in "Oriental School" in San Francisco's Chinatown. The San Francisco school board passed the resolution with a unanimous vote and plans to create a mural portraying Asian American history in the district. Dr. Murase is the first Japanese American to serve on the board! Click here or on the image below to read more.
Chair of the USJC (J) Board of Councilors Kathy Matsui was recently featured in Asahi Shimbun. Appearing in a weekly series called "Front Runner," which features leaders from various sectors, the article discusses her upbringing in California, her career and her work in Womenomics. Click here to read the article (registration is required and the article is in Japanese only).