Japan-in-a-Suitcase Visits Guam

A Tamuning Elementary student models the boy’s yukata

From May 27-28, 2014, two schools on the island of Guam, Tamuning Elementary and St. John’s School, were given a special presentation of Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS). Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) Volunteers Becky Ebisu and Noreen Kawachika spent one full day at each school presenting the JIAS program to every classroom. In the interest of promoting understanding of U.S. – Japan relations in Guam, JASH obtained a special grant funded by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP) which focused on promoting cultural understanding and education in schools which will in turn strengthen positive global relationships. 
Because of Guam’s unique placement in the Pacific, the students at both schools embraced the concept of different perspectives wholeheartedly as they discovered more about Japanese school life: student schedules, writing system, backpack, textbooks, and a bento box; Community life: language, dress, and the game Jan Ken Po; and Geography: locating Japan, USA and Guam on a world map through the JIAS presentations. Guam’s close proximity to Japan also meant that many students had traveled there or would be visiting Japan sometime in the near future.

Students of Tamuning Elementary

In appreciation for the JIAS presentations given by the JASH volunteers at Tamuning Elementary School, the students shared with the presenters a gift of song. Everyone agreed this was an effective and enjoyable way of learning about each other.

St. John’s students model the randoseru backpack

The JASH volunteers also visited St. John’s School, where they gave the JIAS presentations to a total of nine classes for students in grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade. In each classroom, there was high interest in the contents of the suitcases and the lessons were very interactive for the students, evidenced by the many questions raised about the various items presented. Teachers hoped that this program would return to Guam again in the future.

A St. John’s School student points out the differences of Japanese yen

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students’ sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom and challenging the children to explain the differences they see from how they learn. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose is to teach the children about Japan’s unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii and Guam’s special relationships with Japan. Children of both Tamuning Elementary and St. John’s School now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. A special grant from the Center for Global Partnership made this visit possible. A special mahalo to Monte Mesa, President of the Nikkei Club in Guam, who helped us to coordinate this visit with the schools. Also thanks to Tricia Marie Cruz, Curriculum Coordinator at Tamuning Elementary, and Pat Bennett, Principal at St. John’s School for allowing us to come in to visit their schools.