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Honoring High School Students from Japan

When I first started the Stanford e-Japan program, I never expected to be up on that podium making a speech [at Stanford University]… Yet there I stood, a little more grown up than before.
—Seiji Wakabayashi, Kumon Kokusai Junior-Senior High School

If I hadn’t participated in this program, I wouldn’t have been as interested in the U.S. as I am right now.
—Hikaru Suzuki, Senior High School at Otsuka, University of Tsukuba

I am very grateful to be given the chance to think about and to discuss with my fellow classmates what we should do in order to strengthen the U.S.–Japan relationship in the future.
—Haruki Kitagawa, Keio Senior High School


The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) honored three of the top students of the inaugural 2015 Stanford e-Japan distance-learning course at an event at Stanford University on November 2, 2015. The three Stanford e-Japan Day honorees—Haruki Kitagawa (Keio Senior High School), Hikaru Suzuki (Senior High School at Otsuka, University of Tsukuba), and Seiji Wakabayashi (Kumon Kokusai Junior-Senior High School)—were recognized for their coursework and exceptional research essays that focused respectively on “A Comparison and Analysis of Educational Systems: What Is ‘Successful’ Education?,” “Why the Japanese Have a Good Image of America,” and “Schooling Japan.”

Stanford e-Japan Day featured welcoming comments by Dr. Gary Mukai, SPICE Director, and opening remarks on youth and the future of U.S.–Japan relations by Deputy Consul General Nobuhiro Watanabe, Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Deputy Consul General Watanabe reinforced that youth are the ones to shoulder the U.S.–Japan relationship in the coming years, and that he is very much looking forward to the day when these students will engage in furthering our two countries’ strong ties.

Waka Takahashi Brown, Stanford e-Japan Instructor, gave an overview of the course. Stanford e-Japan is a distance-learning course on U.S. society and culture and U.S.–Japan relations that is offered annually to 25–30 high school students across Japan. The course presents a creative and innovative approach to teaching high school students about U.S. society and culture and U.S–Japan relations, and provides Japanese students with unique opportunities to interact with diplomats and top scholars affiliated with Stanford University and other institutions through online lectures and discussions. Importantly, the course introduces both American and Japanese perspectives on many historical and contemporary issues.

Each student honoree gave a succinct and lucid summary of his/her research essay and skillfully answered questions from the audience. Following the question-and-answer period, each student was presented with a plaque by Brown. Following the presentations, the students and their families joined the audience in a luncheon.

Following the event, Stanford undergraduate Mathieu Rolfo took time from his studies to take the three honorees on a tour of the Stanford campus. Mathieu is a former student in SPICE’s Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP), a distance-learning course on Japan and U.S.–Japan relations that has been offered to high school students in the United States for 12 years. RSP Instructor Naomi Funahashi honored Rolfo as one of her top three RSP students in 2011. Funahashi and Brown are planning to continue to engage their students “virtually” across the Pacific.

Stanford e-Japan has been generously funded for the first three years (2015–17) by a grant from the United States-Japan Foundation. SPICE supporter Amanda Minami Chao was in attendance and had the chance to share her thoughts on Brown University with student honoree Seiji Wakabayashi who plans to apply to her alma mater.

During a recent trip to Japan, Mukai had the opportunity to meet with other excellent students who were enrolled in the inaugural course. Shoko Kitamura, Waseda Honjo Senior High School, noted that she especially enjoyed a lecture by Dr. Joseph Yasutake on Japanese-American internment during which Yasutake shared his first-hand accounts. Tairi Goto, International School of Asia in Karuizawa, stated that he especially appreciated a class activity during which he was introduced to textbook descriptions of the atomic bombing of Japan from Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China, and the United States. Misaki Katayama, Hiroshima Prefectural Hiroshima Junior/Senior High School, commented on her interest in learning about Japanese picture brides who left prefectures like Hiroshima to the United States in the early 20th century.

Reflecting back on the inaugural Stanford e-Japan course and e-Japan Day, Brown noted, “The inaugural group of e-Japan students was phenomenal. It was wonderful to be able to meet at least some of the students in person on e-Japan Day, although I felt like I had already met them through our interaction during the course. I have no doubt that future leaders, diplomats, and entrepreneurs will emerge from this cohort. ”