On Friday, July 22, 2016, JASH welcomed fifteen students from two schools in the Ehime prefecture of Japan. As a sister state of Honolulu, Ehime maintains a strong connection to the islands; especially following the tragic Ehime Maru accident of 2001, the states are committed to working together to better relations between the people of both countries. During their visit, Uwajima Minami Secondary School and Matsuyama Higashi High School students played icebreaker games with JASH staff, interns, and volunteers, were introduced to JASH’s activities through a presentation by President Lenny Yajima, and were treated to delicious yakisoba made by Mr. Atsushi Takebayashi of Move4Japan.
Friday’s visit followed that of two groups of students from Uwajima and Okinawa in 2015 as part of the Society’s Sister School Relationship Program.
Earlier this summer, JASH was contacted by Uwajima Minami Secondary School teacher Mr. Kazuyoshi Asao with regards to their upcoming visit to Honolulu during which students from two schools in Ehime planned to take English classes at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and learn about Hawaiian culture. JASH staff eagerly arranged activities for the students, including not only a visit to the JASH office, but also to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the East-West Center, the UH Mānoa Kanewai lo`i, and the I-Lion Hawaii School, an international school headed by JASH President Emeritus, Mr. Earl Okawa.
After introductions and lunch, JASH President Lenny Yajima gave the students a brief introduction to JASH’s non-profit activities, including the Society’s many fundraisers, educational programs, and member events. Next, the staff and two volunteers came together to introduce the Japanese students to a game called POGS, which examples the many historical exchanges between Japan and Hawaii: “Menko,” a simple game popular during the Edo Period, was introduced to Hawaii through Japanese immigrants, and evolved into POGS, a game now known throughout the United States.
Both Ehime and Hawaii hope to perpetuate and encourage exchanges such as these between the two states. Since 2003, when the sister state relationship was first developed, JASH has been dedicated to the vision of uniting students and citizens of the two states and fostering that unity into the future. Seeing the students’ excitement to travel to and learn about Hawaii gives JASH optimism and excitement for the years ahead.