Two years after the tragic events of March 11, 2011, 23 Japanese junior high school students ages 12-14 visited Hawaii under the Rainbow for Japan Kids (RFJK) program. This was the sixth group of Japanese students to visit Hawaii under this program, bringing 120 students from the three affected prefectures–Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima–who have visited Hawaii.
The Hawaii RFJK Committee composed of Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH), Japan Airlines Hawaii Office, First Hawaiian Bank, Studio Rim Hawaii, Hawaii Senior Life Enrichment Association and its Nadeshiko Club, Lighthouse Hawaii, and other supporters welcomed the Japanese students on March 25th for an eight-day stay that took the students to locations on Oahu and the Island of Hawaii. As in previous programs, the students spent several days at North Shore’s YMCA Camp Erdman with local students from the Bridge Club of Hawaii engaging in outdoor activities specifically designed to forge teamwork and create friendships with local students, a major goal of this program. Following activities on Oahu, the students traveled to the Island of Hawaii to experience its incredible natural beauty. In Kona, the students learned about ancient Hawaiian culture and customs and then moved to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for a stay at Kilauea Military Camp. There, through hiking tours, story-telling sessions, and night-time stargazing, the students learned about Hawaii’s volcanic origin and how Polynesians first colonized Hawaii. Through these activities, the program aims to free the students from their day-to-day lives in Japan under less-than-ideal conditions, focus on their own lives and dreams, create friendships with local people, and return to Japan refreshed and dedicated to bettering their lives and their communities.
Back on Oahu, the students engaged in water activities at Hilton Hawaiian Village’s lagoon where the Hilton Grand Vacations staff and Waikiki Beach Activities prepared kayak races and stand-up paddle-boarding lessons. Several days were spent dedicated to making personal ukuleles, courtesy of KoAloha Ukulele. The students took the ukuleles back to Japan as a reminder of their visit. Other organizations provided in-kind donations of hotel rooms, meals, and local transportation to include Pagoda Hotel, Suntory Restaurant, Beijing Restaurant, Nishimoto Trading, Lawson, Warabeya, Waikiki Trolley, Iyasume, and Ito-En. Hawaiian Airlines provided discounted and complimentary airfares for travel to the Big Island.
This group included three students from Onagawa City in Miyagi Prefecture. Last year, Mrs. Susie Roos, wife of U.S. Ambassador John Roos, donated funds from the sales of her cook book to this project after visiting Onagawa City and seeing the devastation and visiting with the children. Several students from Onagawa visited last year also.
RFJK is a proud partner with TOMODACHI, a private-public partnership led by the U.S. Embassy and the U.S.-Japan Council that aims to invest in the next generation of Japanese and Americans in ways that strengthen cultural and economic ties, and deepen the friendship between U.S. and Japan over the long term. More information on these programs can be found on the U.S. Embassy website at http://japan.usembassy.gov, or by calling JASH at (808) 524-4450.