Attend a snow festival in Japan? That’s what the Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) proposed to Waipahu High School Japanese language students. Needless to say, they jumped at the opportunity. As a Title 1 school, it seldom gets such opportunities. As a continuation of steps leading to the establishment of sister city relations between Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture and City and County of Honolulu, JASH has actively supported educational and cultural exchanges between students in Nagaoka and Hawaii for the last several years. JASH hosted high school students from Nagaoka in 2010, and college students from Nagaoka when they attended the memorial ceremony of the Pearl Harbor attack last December 7th. This time, Nagaoka invited students from Hawaii to visit its “Yukishika Matsuri” snow festival in February. Funding for this visit came from two major sources. JASH Board member and Education Programs Committee Chair Jean Rolles provided the majority, while the City and County of Honolulu provided additional support as part of its promotion of the sister city initiative. Thanks to these two supporters, three students from Waipahu High School, two boys and a girl, accompanied by academic advisor Will Smith, were hosted over several days in February by Nagaoka’s Executive Committee for Developing a Bridge of Friendship between Japan and U.S.A.
Yukishika is a mound of snow the locals in Japan’s “Snow Country” built in the winter to preserve foods for the coming spring. These mounds have turned into a playground for children and the community, and a festival resulted. The program included enjoying the festival, a courtesy visit with Mayor Tamio Mori, home stay with local families, a presentation about Hawaii’s culture to local university students, host families, and invited guests, and a visit to Japan’s famous hot spring onsen spa. Hawaii’s students were hosted by many of the same students who visited Hawaii in December, leading to the development of additional friendships and relationships.
Nagaoka and Honolulu will sign a formal sister city document during the Honolulu Festival in March 2012 when a fireworks display will be presented to the people of Honolulu as a gesture of peace and friendship. Nagaoka is the home town of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor and was firebombed by American forces at the waning stages of WWII. JASH is proud to have assisted in promoting reconciliation and mutual understanding through this new relationship. We look forward to supporting additional cultural and educational programs for students from Nagaoka and Hawaii in the future.