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U.S.-Japan Grassroots Exchanges

Aug. 13 - Solid U.S.-Japan relations are built upon a foundation of thousands upon thousands of friendships between individual Americans and Japanese. Volunteer organizations, such as America-Japan Societies in Japan and Japan-America Societies in the United States, promote these friendships by sponsoring grassroots people-to-people exchange programs that bring us together.

Ann and I recently attended the Seventh International Symposium of America-Japan Societies in Akita City. Sponsored by the Akita America-Japan Society, this convention was held on the beautiful campus of Akita International University, and it brought together staff and volunteers from various societies to exchange ideas on best practices. Ann and I met many dedicated volunteers working to organize programs that bring together Japanese and American young people. The American participants presented a variety of ideas such as high school student ambassadors programs, baseball exchanges, and quiz programs to encourage the study of Japanese culture and history. Likewise, the America-Japan Societies in Japan also are energetically promoting youth exchange programs.

Here I am with the delegation representing Yokohama at the Symposium in Akita.

We were particularly pleased to see collaborative efforts such as the Hawaii Japan-America Society's partnership with a counterpart organization in Ehime on a "Japan in a Suitcase" program. Under this program, volunteers visit Hawaii elementary schools to explain about the daily lives of Japanese elementary school students. These volunteers bring with them a "suitcase" of items donated by the counterpart organization in Ehime, including bento boxes and school uniforms, to help illustrate vividly for Hawaiian students the daily lives of their contemporaries in Japan.

It is through the efforts of volunteer organizations such as these that young American and Japanese gain their first experiences learning about the cultures of their counterparts across the sea. These organizations are truly serving as a bridge between us. Ann and I left this convention confident that with these organizations' efforts to build cross-cultural friendships, U.S.-Japan ties will remain strong.

Until next time,


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