Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program
Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program
The Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program (TYAFP) was created as a dynamic youth exchange program between the United States and Japan. The significance of a first-hand cultural experience is invaluable in helping a young person in the Japanese American community define his or her own identity and establish a greater connection to their sometimes seemingly distant heritage, as well as encourage continued interest in Japan, its people, culture and history.
The TYAFP will help initiate meaningful dialogue and goodwill exchange between the youth in Japan and Japanese American youth. It was also created to give the youth in our community the opportunity to develop and gain leadership and civic development skills to help them build a strong foundation for thieir future endeavors.
All participants who successfully complete the TYAFP will receive a certificate of completion, as well as personal letters and certificates of commendations from government offices and dignitaries.
Goals of the TYAFP -
To develop a deeper understanding and awareness of Japan, its culture, people and history as an international citizen ambassador; to develop lifelong leadership and civic skills; to provide an opportunity to visit Japan and participate in meaninigful exchanges with youth from Japan; to develop an appreciation and understanding of citizen-action and involvement through community and international volunteerism; to assist youth in obtaining admission to higher education, scholarships and future recognition through their participation in the TYAFP.
The Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program is named in honor of The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Foundation who through the generosity of their foundation this program is possible.
Interested in becoming a Takahashi Fellow?
If you would like to be a part of the next Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program, please review the commitment and send your completed application and letter of recommendation as noted on the application form.
2014-15 Takahashi Program
Takahashi Youth Fellows to Visit Japan - July 17-30
Ten high school student members of the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program (Takahashi Program) organized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) and sponsored by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation will embark upon a 12 day trip to Japan on Friday, July 17, 2015.
Left to right (front row): Catherine Kamita, Junko Taniguchi, Alison Shikada, (second row): Toshio Kanazawa, Pierce Cavanaugh, Courtney Koyama, Caelynn Hwang, Marissa Otonari, Adam Schulze, and Cullen Reilly
The Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program, in its fifth year, is a follow-up, after 13 successful years, to the Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Sports Program (Shinzen Program). The structure of the Takahashi Program is based on the best practices, experiences, opportunities and activities of the Shinzen Program, but focuses more on the leadership and civic development of youth to build a strong background and foundation for their future endeavors. This program is invaluable in not only helping the youth in our Japanese American community develop and define their identity, but also helps to create future leaders for the community.
The ten chosen youth participants have been preparing diligently over the course of 12 intensive workshops that spanned two summers to prepare for their trip. These young ambassadors have participated in workshops to learn about the history of Japanese Americans, as well as research and create their own family history books; participated in team-building activities, including a day at the Fort Miley Ropes Course; planned and successfully coordinated an udon fundraiser to raise money for their activities during their trip; and began to understand the planning process and importance of setting goals, objectives, and understanding how each step in planning aids in the success of their goal.
This summer, they participated in Japanese language workshops; organized a bake sale fundraiser to support an orphanage they will visit in Kobe, and started to take command of their own activities, planning elements of their own workshops which have helped to build their leadership skills. With this planning process background they have planned several intercultural activities in Kobe and special activities in Sendai and Kesennuma for Tohoku earthquake and tsunami survivors. They will also have the chance to visit the Nagata Kodomo (orphanage) Home, and go to the Kisen Wai Wai Mura, where they will have the opportunity to experience traditional Japanese village life farming, cooking, and making their own chopsticks.
About the Fellows:
Pierce Cavanaugh- A 17 year old Senior at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco.
Caelynn Hwang- A 16 year old Junior at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo.
Catherine Kamita- A 15 year old Junior at Mission High School in San Francisco.
Toshio Kanazawa- A 16 year old Senior at Monte Vista High School in Danville.
Courtney Koyama- A 17 year old Senior at the Oakland Technical High School in Oakland.
Marissa Otonari- A 16 year old Junior at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo.
Cullen Reilly- A 17 year old Senior at St. Ignatius Preparatory in San Francisco. Adam Schulze- An 18 year who will attend Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.
Alison Shikada- A 17 year old Senior at Presentation High School in San Jose.
Junko Taniguchi- A 16 year old Junior at Lowell High School in San Francisco.
The 2015 Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program Itinerary:
Friday, July 17 Depart SFO
Saturday, July 18 Arrive in Tokyo
Sunday, July 19 Cultural Tanabata and Food Activity in Sendai
Monday, July 20 Cultural Exchange Activities at the Sendai YMCA
Tuesday, July 21 Cultural Exchange with Hamawarasu Program (Kessenuma)
Wednesday, July 22 Visit Jifukuji Temple (Kesennuma)
Thursday, July 23 Arrive at KisenWaiWaiMura Farming Village (Osaka)
Friday, July 24 WaiWaiMura (Harvesting, mochi, hashi making, cooking)
Saturday, July 25 Osaka City Tour
Welcome reception with Host Families at Kobe YMCA
Sunday, July 26 Free day with host families
Monday, July 27 Activities with Nishinomiya Nursery School (Kobe)
Activities at Nagata Kodomo Home (Orphanage)
Tuesday, July 28 Peace Project Activity with West Kobe YMCA
Visit and Discussion at Kobe Earthquake Museum
Wednesday, July 29 Intercultural Exchange-Kobe City College of Tech
Farewell Reception at Kobe YMCA
Thursday, July 30 Half day tour of Kyoto
Depart for SFO
2012-2013 Takahashi Program
Takahashi Fellows Return Home from Japan
SAN FRANCISCO (August 27, 2013) – The Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program (Takahashi Fellows Program), organized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) and sponsored by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation sent the second class of ten high school Fellows to Japan from July 21 to August 1. The twelve day Japan trip culminates a two year program in which the fellows developed their leadership and civic skills, gained a better understanding and appreciation of their culture and identity through workshops and first hand activities in Japan. The Takahashi fellows’ experience ranged from living on a traditional farming village at Kisen Waiwai Mura in Osaka, to living with a Japanese host family, putting smiles on children’s faces by leading games at an orphanage and this year in particular the fellows went to the Earthquake and Tsunami hit areas of Sendai and Kesennuma where they led art activities with the goal of bringing a sense of hope and relief to the Tohoku residents.
The trip flew by for all the fellows as they traveled to six different cities in twelve days. Tohoku was the first stop for the fellows as they visited and lead activities with preschool students at the Sendai YMCA and at a temporary housing shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture with the intention of bringing hope to those young and old devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Meandering through the coastal town of Kesennuma, the fellows not only saw the remains of foundations of houses, met with Head PriestKatayama of a local temple and heard about his plans to have a natural tree barrier created in order to offset future tsunamis, went to the Ganbare store, which is creating new economic opportunities for locals by turning fabric from fishing aprons into bags and souvenirs, but in the end they brought smiles to the senior residents of a temporary housing shelter. Fellow Jessi Svoboda recounts the experience, “That was possibly the most amazing thing of all. These people, these unfortunate people who had lost so much, been through so much – they smiled. Despite everything, they smiled.”
Going from country to bustling city, the Fellows had a day in Tokyo where they experienced traditional Japan at the Sensoji Temple where they made their wishes and covered themselves in incense smoke at the temple to relieve their ailments. At night they experienced modern Japan at the new Tokyo Sky Tree Tower where they ventured up almost 400 floors to the observation deck of Tokyo Sky Tree. The two experiences gave the youth an overall view of the wide array of culture within the city.
Another unique experience was the Takahashi Fellows stay at Kisen Waiwai Mura, a traditional Japanese farming village built by the City of Osaka and managed by the Osaka YMCA, to replicate life on a farm in the early 1800s. The youth spent two days and two nights living in this village, with the hope of learning how to live in a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
The Fellows had to not only cook every meal from scratch over an open fire, but they also learned basic farming techniques from plowing the land, to harvesting ripened fruits and vegetables, that they ate later that evening. The Fellows were also given the opportunity to partake in traditional activities such as mochi pounding, making their own chopsticks, and making udon from scratch. These traditions are even hard to find today in modern Japan. The hands on experience of learning Japanese traditional activities helped give the Fellows better perspective on some of their ancestor’s lifestyles.
Many learned the value of hard work and to appreciate everyday luxuries. This was their first time living in a communal setting, caring not only for their own health, but also for the group/community’s well being. The meals took around three hours to prepare and from the collective preparation of meals to delegating farming duties, the Fellows walked away with a once in a lifetime experience in a traditional Japanese setting. 2013 Fellow, Aislinn Ozawa-Burns expressed her new appreciation for food and the Japanese custom of saying “Itadakimasu.” “I will no longer use it (Itadakimasu) as a simple habit or custom. Rather, I will use it to sincerely express my appreciation of food.” Many of the Fellows enjoyed the Wai Wai Mura village because it brought them closer to their ancestors, but also created strong bonds within the group.
Although the Takahashi Fellows time in Tokyo and Osaka were memorable ones, their visit to Kobe and time shared living with their host families was most memorable for most. The Fellows first full day in Kobe brought them to the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution where they were able to see the destruction that struck the Kobe area in 1995, but also the resilience of the people and understand that there were many who came to help, including the JCCCNC, aiding in the rebuilding of the area to what it is today.
The JCCCNC has strong ties to the city of Kobe, specifically the Kobe YMCA due to the earthquake relief fund efforts in 1995. A large part of the trip was spent in Kobe where the fellows lived with a host family and got to meet a wide array of Japanese youth. The fellows led arts and crafts activities at the Nishinomiya YMCA preschool and at the Nagata Kodomo Home. Along with supporting the Kobe YMCA, the JCCCNC helped the Nagata Kodomo Home after the earthquake in 1995, by supporting the rebuilding of their current facility in the Nagata area, where our ten Takahashi Fellows visited and were able to create strong bonds during their three hour visit.
The Takahashi Fellows enjoyed a day at the Kobe City College of Technology (KCCT) where they shared information and had discussions with students =, aged 15-22 years old, about school life, club (after-school) activities and hobbies and other interests. The Takahashi Fellows also introduced American high school life and taught a dance to the students and staff of the KCCT. The KCCT students showed the Takahashi Fellows how they program iphone applications, as well as kyudo, Japanese archery, showing them that along with technology the school also teaches them traditional cultural arts.
The Takahashi Program officially ended with a Graduation Ceremony on July 31 at the Kobe YMCA. All of the Takahashi Fellows were asked to speak and all of them thanked their host family Mika Osaki said in her speech, “Thank you for showing me the beautiful city of Kobe as well as the beauty inside of your hearts. You were more than giving to me and I feel as if I’m part of your family.” Many of the children of the host families could be seen holding on to the fellows not wanting to say goodbye at the reception.
After spending their last day sightseeing in Kyoto, the group returned home on August 1st to a group of friends and family members. Parent, Arlene Kikkawa- Nielsen writes, “There were so many aspects of this trip that were meaningful in so many ways! (Andrew) was very touched by seeing in person versus on TV the devastating effects in both Tohoku, Kobe and was inspired by the survivors strength. The Host family experience was wonderfully welcoming and he felt the comforts of home away from home.”
“We look forward to seeing the fellows continue to maintain their relationship and activity in the community and we have stressed that this is only the beginning of their leadership development,” mentions Ryan Kimura, Director of Programs of the JCCCNC. He adds, “The Takahashi Fellows will be an integral part in the planning process for future Takahashi classes and their investment into future generations will make them stronger leaders.” For more information on the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program, please call the JCCCNC at (415) 567-5505 or visit www.jcccnc.org to read more about the Takahashi Fellows trip to Japan and upcoming projects.
2011 Takahashi Program
From July 19 - 31, 2011, ten youth traveled to Japan for the inaugural Takahashi Ambassador Youth Fellowship Program, organized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) and sponsored by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation. The program, which is designed to develop leadership and civic skills and instill a stronger understanding and appreciation of culture and identity through first-hand experiences, offered many unique opportunities not found with typical group tours. These unique experiences ranged from a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a two-night stay at a farming village in Kinsen Waiwai Mura.
The ten youth who participated in the inaugural Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program are: Mina Han, Owen Iwamasa Angeline Junaedy, Grant Kawahatsu, Yumi Kobayashi, Kristen Koyama, Danny Souza, Whitney Tamaki, Colin Wong and Laura Kim Yee.
On their first stop the Takahashi Fellows were able to experience a bit of Tokyo’s culture by shopping in the Asakusa area, tasting Monja-yaki, a traditional Tokyo favorite, and exploring the Tokyo Edo Museum. Also on their itinerary were visits to University of Tokyo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Diet, and the famous Shibuya district, where they experienced some of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
During their visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Takahashi Fellows were able to have a group discussion with Foreign Ministry officials, Ms. Akiko Sugita and Ms. Mizuho Hayakawa. During the discussion, Takahashi Fellow, Grant Kawahatsu, asked the question, “What message (about the earthquake, tsunami and pending nuclear situation) would you like us as youth ambassadors to bring back to America?” Ms. Akiko Sugita answered by asking the Takahashi Fellows how they felt, “Do you feel safe?” As the Fellows all answered, “Yes,” she continued, “Please let them know in America that Japan is safe and to please visit.”
Following their stay in the big city of Tokyo, the Takahashi Fellows made their way to Kisen Waiwai Mura, a traditional Japanese farming village built by the City of Osaka and managed by the Osaka YMCA. This area replicates farm living in the early 1800s. The youth spent two days and two nights living in this village with the hope of learning how to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle and give the Fellows a better perspective on how some of their ancestor’s lived. The Fellows learned basic farming techniques from plowing the land, to harvesting ripened fruits and vegetables that they used to cook their meals over an open fire.They were also given the opportunity to partake in traditional activities such as mochi pounding and making their own straw slippers, which are traditions hard to find today in modern Japan.
Ryan Kimura, Director of Programs for the JCCCNC, mentioned of the Fellows stay at the village, “Many learned the value of hard work and to appreciate everyday luxuries. This was their first time living in a communal setting, caring not only for their own health, but also for the group/community’s well being. The meals took around three hours to prepare and from the collective preparation of meals to delegating farming duties, the Fellows walked away with a once in a lifetime experience in a traditional Japanese setting. Many of the Fellows enjoyed the Waiwai Mura village because it brought them closer to their ancestors, but also created strong bonds within the group.”
The next leg of their journey brought them to the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution in Kobe where they were able to see the destruction that struck the area in 1995. Here they learned about the resilience of the Japanese people and the many that came to help, including the JCCCNC, aiding in the rebuilding of the area to what it is today.
The JCCCNC contributed to the rebuilding of the Nagata Kodomo Home orphanage, at its current location, after the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. The ten Takahashi Fellows visited this orphanage and were able to create strong bonds during their three hour visit. Angeline Junaedy said, “Saying goodbye was not easy. I saw how their [children] facial expressions changed. Although, they were smiling and waving, something in their faces was saying they wanted us to stay.” Laura Yee adds, “the time at the Nagata Kodomo Home really made me reflect on the family that I have and see things from the children’s point of view. I myself am adopted, so this experience has made me think about how my life would’ve been different if it weren’t for my parents. That idea makes me very sad and very grateful for what I have because I can’t imagine growing up without any family or people to actually care about me.” The Takahashi Fellows have already discussed ways they can stay involved in supporting the children and the Nagata Kodomo Home.
The following day, the Takahashi Fellows enjoyed a day at the Kobe City College of Technology (KCCT) where they shared information and had discussion with students there, about school life, club (after-school) activities, hobbies and other interest. The Takahashi Fellows also introduced the Cha-cha Slide to students and staff of the KCCT. The KCCT students showed the Takahashi Fellows how they program iphone applications, as well as kyudo, Japanese archery, showing them that along with technology the school also teaches them traditional cultural arts.
The Takahashi Program officially ended with a Graduation Ceremony on July 30 at the Kobe YMCA. All of the Takahashi Fellows spoke and thanked their host family. Colin Wong said, “As a guest I felt obligated to inconvenience my host family as little as possible, so their hospitality as hosts always left me with an awkward mix of guilt and gratitude. I don’t think it’s possible to say thank you enough. Being part of the Yabuchi family has been the best part of this trip!”
After spending a couple of extra days sightseeing in Kyoto, the group returned home on July 31 to a group of friends and family. A few days’ after their return, Alice and Masato Kawahatsu shared their own feelings about their son Grant’s experience with the program, “Grant was especially moved by many of the experiences he encountered and little by little, he shares with us how this trip has moved him deeply and helped him to grow as a person and leader. He truly realized how blessed he was to have his family, his friends, his community and all the support he has been receiving his whole life. Witnessing this transformation brought tears to Mas and my eyes as we had prayed and hoped that he would feel and realize this deeply on this journey. As parents, we were so happy that he was able to bond with the people of Japan and share his heart with others.”
“As this was the inaugural year of the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program, the JCCCNC will encourage these ten Fellows to stay actively involved with the JCCCNC and their own communities, as leaders and advocates,” mentions Lori Matoba, Deputy Director of the JCCCNC. She adds, “The Takahashi Fellows already have plans to continue to support the children at the Nagata Kodomo Home and are looking at ways to share what they learned about Japan with others, especially youth their age.”