Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program
Shinzen in Japanese means international goodwill or amity. This cross-cultural exchange program promotes the values of fair play and competition, while fostering ties between the U.S. and Japan, and our Japanese and Japanese American communities. Through sports, youth exchanges, touring and homestays, our young ambassadors build stronger relationships with the people of Japan, while learning about their cultural heritage, traditions and identity.
In 1995, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) and the Office of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco began discussing ways to create a more dynamic and meaningful exchange program between the U.S. and Japan. It was agreed that although there are a substantial number of traditional cultural and intellectual exchanges, there exists a greater need for meaningful dialogue and goodwill exchange between youth in Japan and Japanese American youth.
Since the inaugural visit to Japan in 1997, the Shinzen USA Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program (Shinzen Program) has been able to provide unique opportunities for not only the exchange of friendly competition, but also for building a foundation for the exchange of ideas and important values of our young people today, ensuring a strong future for our U.S.-Japan relations.
2019 Shinzen Program Update
Applications for the 2019 Shinzen Program are now available.
The Shinzen Program would like to invite 7th-9th grade* youth that are interested in learning more about Japanese/Japanese American (JA) culture and community, as well as gain a stronger connection to their Nikkei heritage. To apply, applicant’s birthdates* should be between January 1, 2004 and (no later than) December 31, 2006. In the event that response is not as high as expected, consideration may be extended to include those born as early as July 1, 2003 (10th grade), please see application for details.
2019 will mark the 9th trip to Japan for the Shinzen Program, which began in 1997. The Shinzen Program is designed to develop and nurture young ambassadors between the United States and Japan; provide an opportunity for friendship and spirited sports competition; provide the opportunity for meaningful dialogue and related to each others' culture and heritage; and promote U.S./Japan bilateral interest and responsibilities amongst young people.
Although basketball is not the primary focus of our Program, we use it as the vehicle to engage youth and their families to learn more about Japanese/Japanese American culture, heritage, traditions and become more active in the JA community. Many of your teams were formed by Japanese/JAs in the early 1930’s and are still thriving today in a sport that has become a focal point in our community.
During our most recent program in 2016-17, the program commitment was 18-months with a large portion of the fundraising provided by group family fundraiser events. The changes to the 2019 Program include a $1,500 participation fee and only one large family group fundraiser, in addition to the youth raffle sales, and workshop/potluck commitments from February-August. Due to the shortened timeframe, family travel is secondary and may be adjusted slightly as we are not anticipating as many extended family members
The Shinzen Prorgam will require full family participation during the winter/spring months to learn about Japanese American history as a family (through the video drama series 99-nen No Ai/99 Years of Love) and research (Ancestry.com) and document your personal family history in a book.
Links to Application and Overview/FAQs:
Please note that the deadline for submission of the 2019 Shinzen Application is Friday, January 4, 2019 by 5:00 p.m.
Should you have any questions, please email: Shinzen@jcccnc.org
2016-17 Shinzen Program
The JCCCNC coordinated a special (two-year) 2016-17 Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program, after celebrating the 110th Anniversary of San Francisco's Japantown and commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2016, culminating with a trip to Japan in the summer of 2017.
The selected participants for the 2016-17 Shinzen Program were:
Girls Team: Coach Rachelle Hata (Shinzen 2002-03) and players, Miya Chan, Charlene Tonai Din, Tomi Eijima, Alyssa Ikuma, Kristin Katayama, Taylor Matoba, Izumi Murase, Lauren Noguchi, Taylor Noguchi and Olivia Yoshii.
Boys Team: Coach Ryan Baba (Shinzen 2004-05) and players, Aiden Fujimoto, Ryan Kawamura, Connor Nakamura, Stephen Nakamura, Tyler Tsudama, Jake Tsutaoka, Josh Tsutaoka and Kellen Uyeda.
Click here to view a slideshow from the 2016-17 Program and Trip to Japan.
Shinzen 2017 Goodwill Trip to Japan
As members of the Shinzen USA Nikkei Youth Goodwill Program Tour took their first steps off the Japan Airlines flight on July 25, the excitement and a little bit of anxiety began. This was no ordinary tour to Japan, it was a culmination of 14-months of learning, sharing and working together to better understand our Japanese American culture, history and heritage, raise funds for the program and prepare for our activities in Japan. We were also traveling as goodwill ambassadors to meet new friends and strengthen relationships that were built after two devastating events, the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku and the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in Kobe and Osaka.
After a brief stop in Tokyo to get a night’s rest, we boarded the Shinkansen to Sendai. The group visited one of the three most beautiful sights in Japan, Matsushima Bay. Our welcome lunch was one of only two times our whole group would gather, so it was great to see all 94 of us together - many three generation families, ranging in age from 8-86, from the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose and also Georgia and Hawaii. See photo highlights of the rest of our trip.
Our final farewell reception in Kobe truly tied our theme “Obon: a Gathering of Joy” together. Although our relationships began from disasters, this farewell was more a celebration of 20+ years of friendship with the people and organizations who helped build the Shinzen Program over the years. Former staff, coaches and friends from Kobe and Osaka came together after the program’s eight-year absence as if we had not missed a day or year - that is the true spirit of Shinzen. It is our hope that the new bonds created by our Shinzen USA players and families continue to grow and endure.
Shinzen Tour Photos and Quotes from Participants
“This trip was a lifetime of experiences in a few days. It really showed me how different everyone is and how we should accept and respect what we have and to not take it for granted.” – Lauren Noguchi, Girls Team Member
“I enjoyed this trip. It made me aware of the tsunami that affected the Kesennuma region. As a survivor of two tsunami that hit Hilo, Hawaii (1946, 1960), I can relate to the citizens of the Tohoku region.” – Alice Fujimoto, Grandparent
“The highlight of my trip was definitely spending time with the homestay family. At the Sendai YMCA, I was greeted by a bright-faced grandmother, a mom and her three children. Every evening I came home to an enthusiastic family and an amazing meal. The dad always sat with us and we talked about popular trends in America, his job, and Japan life in general. The mom made delicious food and we always enjoyed breakfast together. All three kids were energetic and the grandparents were friendly and helpful. Even until the very end, the grandma waved to us while our bus left the hotel. I am extremely grateful for the time they dedicated towards our cultural enrichment.” – Connor Nakamura, Shinzen Boys Team Member
"The tree planting project in Kesennuma and the speech from Priest Katayama impressed me most. The strength of human relationships is something that I value and feel that in this time of internet and electronic communication, the value of person to person interaction is sometimes lost. His speech was one that touched me and hope that our younger generations will hold what they have learned close to their heart.” – Sandra Suzaki, Parent
Sawoko and Wataru Yoshimura were first time host parents (Sendai) who prepared thank you statements, here are excerpts: Sawoko, “I was worried about English, especially speaking, but Tomi and Taylor listened to me carefully…there turned out to be no worry. They also shared their family history. It was the most impressive for me. I knew about the concentration camps during the war but I felt their experiences were more real.” Wataru: “They gave us pretty photobooks. It makes us feel humble to imagine how intensively they have prepared for this trip. I watched today's games; Tomi was one of the best players; we didn't miss Taylor helping her teammates with fans in both hands. Though it might not be in the near future, when raising kids, we hope they grow up to become youths like Tomi and Taylor. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.”
“On our last night in Sendai, we had a farewell reception where I was able to meet players from the Tohoku Gakuin teams. It was really fascinating to see how excited they all were to meet Americans. We exchanged each other's emails, Instagrams and took many selfies. It was touching to see how close we became within such a short time. This night made me realize that this is why we went on this trip--to create cross-cultural relationships with the youth of Japan. Although we may never cross paths with the Japanese students again, I left Sendai knowing that we brought joy and friendship to this city.” – Tomi Eijima, Girls Team Member
“What touched me was the camaraderie amongst all the players, especially during the games. We could see the bond that they all share. It was great to see them take responsibility for their time, their schedule and to work together if they were unsure of things. We were also very thankful for the homestay families that opened their homes to our kids, it was a huge commitment on their part, especially with the early morning schedules and not using cars the way we do, they were so gracious and kind.” - Leann Katayama, Parent
“Through the Shinzen program, it pushed me to try new things and allowed me the opportunity to meet new people such as my Kobe host family. They showed me around the small town they lived in and taught me many interesting things about Japan. We participated in cultural activities together such as folding origami, Japanese calligraphy, and fireworks at night.” – Alyssa Ikuma, Girls Team Member
(traveled to Japan for the first time with her family, three generations, including her paternal grandparents Mas and Kay Ikuma, pictured standing on right side)
“The Shinzen Youth Goodwill Program brought great pleasure to us. We are really thankful for our longtime friendship.” - MIchiko Matsuda, Executive Director, The Center for Global and Community Services, Kobe YMCA
(L to R: Matt Okada, JCCCNC Director of Programs, Kobe Y Staff – Aiko Nakamichi, Michiko Matsuda, Lori Matoba, JCCCNC Deputy Director, Hikaru Tamura, Director)
The thirteenth year of the Shinzen USA Nikkei Youth Goodwill Sports Program saw nearly 80 participants from the Bay Area - 21 youth basketball players, their families and staff - traveled to Japan for a week-long grassroots exchange trip.
The 2009 program theme “Shinzen Forever,” was a reminder that although the program in its current state is ending, the friendships and bonds created by the spirit of Shinzen will always remain.
“When we first started, I didn’t understand the meaning of goodwill and friendship, I just thought, basketball and Japan - that sounds like fun, but it was way more than that. We volunteered, went to events, we learned about the bomb in Hiroshima and played with the kids at the Kodomo Home (orphanage)...I learned that friendships can spread and maintain for probably my whole life. These friendships that I made in Japan will always be remembered.”
- Amada Joo, Santa Clara
Highlights of the 2009 Program included: youth homestays in Osaka and Kobe, participating in the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Relationship (2007) Plaque Unveiling, creating crafts and dancing with the children of Nagata Kodomo Home and being the guest of Toyosaki Jr. High School in Osaka, getting a tour the school, playing goodwill games and being treating to a mini-concert by their band. Click here to view some highlights of the trip.
2007 was an exciting year for the Shinzen Program - 22 players and their families traveled to Hiroshima, Osaka and Kobe, Japan from July 27-August 5, 2007. The highlight was the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City relationship, which included a visit with Osaka Mayor Seki at City Hall.
Press Release: 2007 Shinzen POST Press Release
Jared Wong (Moraga), whose family originated from Hiroshima, was overwhelmed by the visit to Hiroshima stating that, “Going to the Hiroshima Peace Museum and the Sadako Memorial Statue was life-changing. The museum showed me how devastating a single act could be and how it could have been prevented. Those two monuments taught me that the relationships we were building with the Japanese kids are actually really important as we grow up and take more control of our surroundings.”
“When I met my Osaka host family for the first time, I was nervous. I was worried that I would do the wrong thing and insult them or embarrass myself. They welcomed me into their home and made it clear that I could feel comfortable because I was now a part of their family. They were sweet and generous, and we had a lot of fun. Even though it was hard to communicate at times, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life, and I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to see my host family again.”
- Katie Gong, San Francisco