The Japan America Society of St. Louis began the new year with a wonderful Shinnenkai at Sushi Sen in Lake Saint Louis on January 21. This year's Shinnenkai was well-attended, including Deputy Consul General of Japan from Chicago, Kenji Tanaka, and three full tables of our corporate members Nidec, Novus, and CSI. Once again, our attendees had the pleasure of hearing the insights of guest speaker Dave Lowry, an expert on Japanese culture. This year, Dave spoke of the concepts of omote, or "surface-level meaning," and ura, or "deep meaning." He explained this in the context of some interesting unpublicized (ura) Shinto practices concerning the emperor, as well as practices concerning the coming and unprecedented abdication, as Emperor Akihito will "retire" on April 30 and Crown Prince Naruhito will become the new emperor.
Deputy Consul General of Japan Tanaka spoke in glowing terms of JASSTL's commitment to strengthening relations between St. Louis and Japan, and in particular outgoing JAS President Dr. Chikako Usui's tremendous efforts and successes in strengthening the JAS in St. Louis. Dr. Usui retired at the end of 2017 and now serves as Chairman of the Board. So this year's event was also the first in 10 years to feature a new president, Mr. Greg Gorman of Nidec Motor Corporation.
Of course, no JAS Shinnenkai would be complete without the kagami-biraki (sake barrel opening ceremony), a raffle of fukubukuro bags, and Chef Ken's osechi ryori - special New Year's meal (and sake!). This is always a treat, and a good time was had by all!
To view more photo's from this event please click here.
At the request of the St. Louis Public Library, JAS arranged a presentation at the Schlafly branch in January about Seijin-shiki, the Japanese Coming of Age celebration. Seijin-shiki is the second Monday of January, a national holiday in Japan to honor and celebrate 20-year-olds as adults. They gain the right to vote and are of legal age to drink alcohol. Our speaker modeled the elegant, long-sleeved furisode kimono worn by young women and showed a video and slides of family photos from her special day. After the presentation, several women in the audience enjoyed trying on kimono and yukata. JAS was pleased to partner with the library to share Japanese culture.
With the New Year, a new leadership team is assuming responsibility for the Japan America Society of St. Louis as Dr. Chikako Usui steps down after 10 years leading a period of tremendous growth of the JAS. Dr. Usui was the longest-serving president in the society's history and her tenure saw greatly increased activity in programs and services rendered to the people of St. Louis, as well as membership.
Perhaps most important, though, Dr. Usui has implemented a transition plan to continue the success of the JAS and the new leadership team is a highly dedicated and well-qualified group. Greg Gorman takes over as president of the JAS. Greg is an executive at Nidec Motor Corporation who brings a great depth of knowledge about the financial aspects of the organization. He is both knowledgeable and well-respected in the Japanese community. Kenichi Kitajima steps in as 1st Vice President. Mr. Kitajima also brings a strong business acumen as an executive with Novus Corporation. He is likewise dedicated to the growth and activity of the JAS. Linda Austin continues as 2nd Vice President. Ms. Austin has served the JAS and JAS Women’s Asociation (JASWA) for many years. She is quite involved with cultural and social programming and brings a professional knowledge of marketing to bear on the efforts of the JAS. And, her long experience serves as an invaluable institutional memory of the society. Another Japanese executive, Toshio Kitamura of CIS Leasing, steps into a leadership role as 3rd Vice President. Mr. Kitamura arrived in St. Louis from Tokyo in 2015 and became a highly dedicated member of JAS. With this executive leadership team, the JAS should be well-positioned for strong transitions in the foreseeable future.
In addition to the president and succession of vice-presidents, the JAS also importantly strengthened its treasurer position with the addition of Ron Sakai, an accountant with Wells Fargo. Mr. Sakai brings the knowledge and experience of accounting matters that will be essential to demonstrating financial strength to our constituent, sponsors, and donors. Ron is also Japanese American with a history of involvement in the community. He will be crucial to the ongoing success of the JAS.
2018 will be a year of change and transition at the Japan America Society, but with the planning and hard work Dr. Usui has put into place to secure a strong leadership team, everyone at JAS is optimistic about our prospects for even more success this year. Happy New Year!
The collaboration between JAS and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company is making its way around the world! Simon Westermair, the Marketing & Facility Manager for UCBC's German brewery, presented Japan's Consul General for Bavaria and Baden Württemberg, Hon. Tetsuya Kimura, with two bottles ofKonomi - the beer Urban Chestnut brewed this year for the Japan America Society's 50th Anniversary. Consul General Kimura was reportedly very happy about the gift and collaboration and sends his wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to St. Louis!
Two former participants in the St. Louis-Ishinomaki Friendship Program are planning trips back to Japan in the coming year, continuing to fulfill the mission of the Program and the Japan America Society. Under the program, 11 American students in all traveled to Ishinomaki, Japan; visited areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami; participated in home-stays; experienced Japan and its culture; made many friends; and brought their experience back to St. Louis with them. Now, two of those students are deepening their Japan connection with their own trips back to Ishinomaki.
George Arbanas (left) was one of six participants in 2014 to travel to Japan. Since then, George has volunteered for the JAS, sustained his interest in Japan, and maintained contact with many of the people he met. He is now a sophomore at St. Olaf College and will be traveling back to Japan in January 2018. During his trip, he will visit his host family and several of the students in Ishinomaki with whom he has remained friends. "I’m very excited to return to Japan, and I’m very much looking forward to reconnecting with the people I met as a part of the TOMODACHI program."
Christian Ragain (right) was one of the five students who made the TOMODACHI trip in 2016. He is planning his return in June of 2018. During this trip, he will spend some time in Tokyo and then will travel to Ishinomaki to visit his host family. When asked about his upcoming trip, Christian said, “I’m super excited to go back! I remember how quickly I was learning Japanese while staying there, so I’m excited to learn more during my second visit! I cannot wait to see my old host family as well as my school’s old exchange student... I cannot wait to visit Tokyo for the first time, and I hope to immerse myself as much as possible in the Japanese culture even more than I was able to in the two weeks I spent there with the TOMODACHI program!”
This St. Louis Ishinomaki Friendship Program was created under the auspices of the TOMODACHI Initiative (http://usjapantomodachi.org/), which was created to support Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. The Japan America Society of St. Louis created and organized the program with funding from TOMODACHI and the National Association of Japan America Societies (NAJAS). In addition to the trips to Japan in 2014 and 2016, the JAS also organized visits to St. Louis by Japanese students and adults in 2013 and 2015. They participated in the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical garden, experienced American and St. Louis culture through baseball and other activities, and enjoyed homestays for the duration of their stays. The mission of the program was to invest in the next generation of Japanese and American people and deepen relations between the two countries through grassroots-level and people-to-people exchanges. In George and Christian, we see this mission being fully realized!
Our 50th anniversary Annual Dinner was our most successful fundraising dinner yet. We sold out our capacity quickly thanks to corporate table sponsorships by CSI Leasing, Nidec, and Novus and the tremendous support of our general members.
Seventy-four people gathered to enjoy a huge spread of Japanese dishes and sushi and to meet and enjoy one another’s company. The event was a great success filled with many surprises. Mayor Lyda Krewson proclaimed November 7th, 2017, as “Dr. Chikako Usui Day” in St. Louis in honor of her retirement as president of the Japan America Society of St. Louis for the past 10 years. Dr. Usui was also surprised by many wonderful gifts presented to her. She said she “will use her new vases at the ikebana demonstration at our festival next year.”
We also presented a $3000 donation to the St. Louis Japanese Language School, a Friendship Award to Ms. Hiromi Ishida for her dedication and support of the St. Louis Ishinomaki Friendship Program of the previous four years, and a Distinguished Service Award to retiring president Dr. Usui for her incredible achievements of the past 10 years..
In an unusual partnership, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company of St. Louis and Miyasaka Brewing of Suwa City, Japan, have collaborated to craft a unique beer with sake influence to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Japan America Society of St. Louis (JASSTL). The beer, named “Konomi,” will make its debut at this year’s Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden over Labor Day weekend.
How did this partnership come about? In 2016, the JASSTL and Urban Chestnut partnered and presented a unique beer and sake tasting event. As both beer and sake are made through a fermentation process, the JASSTL put on an event with speakers from both brewing traditions. UCBC’s Adam McBrady explained their brewing philosophy as well as the beer brewing process and its history. In comparison, Katsuhiko Miyasaka of Miyasaka Brewing explained the brewing and traditions of sake as well as the history of the nearly three and a half centuries that the Miyasaka family has been brewing. Coming from breweries with a veneration for the past as well as an eye to the future, the two speakers found much in common, and they decided to remain in contact should future opportunities to work together present themselves. When Adam was approached by Dr. Chikako Usui, President of the JASSTL, and her associate Chip Meyer regarding the possibility of UCBC making a special beer for the upcoming 50th anniversary, they realized this was a unique opportunity to bring the St. Louis and Suwa cities and breweries together in celebration.
Miyasaka Brewing is based in St. Louis’ sister city of Suwa, in the mountainous Nagano prefecture west of Tokyo. Brewed by the Miyasaka family since 1662, their Masumi sake (meaning transparency, or truth) is highly regarded. It was also at their brewery where the world’s most popular sake yeast strain, “Brewing Association Yeast #7” was first discovered and isolated. After discussing the elegance of a sister cities collaboration to celebrate JASSTL’s 50 th anniversary, Miyasaka very generously sent Urban Chestnut some of their home yeast to brew the new beer.
Urban Chestnut’s Brewing and QA team went to work studying how best to work with the special yeast. Initial tests indicated that the home yeast gave the beer a fruity, mellow flavor, and the ultimate consensus was to replace a portion of the grain bill with rice and focus on making a light and refreshing beer suitable for the warm days of the Japanese festival. In homage to the Missouri Botanical Garden, a decision was made to include ceremonial grade matcha in small quantities to the beer. This addition gives the beer a slight essence of the intense, powdered green tea without overwhelming or competing with the Belgian-like characteristic of the yeast.
A call was sent out to select individuals to seek their expertise in naming the beer. The ultimate choice was Konomi , which means “to like,” or “to favour.” Dave Lowry, an expert on Japanese culture, suggested this name as in the tea ceremony konomi means “a creative impulse that enlivens something in a new way.”
The Japanese Festival was Saturday through Monday on Labor Day weekend at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Konomi beer was available in the food court at the Japan America Society beer and sake booth. See the Garden’s website for more information about the festival.
Konomi - 好み
September 2- 4, 2017
Thank you to all who attended the Japanese festival, this year we had the second highest record of attendance coming in at 39,764! It was special to us at JAS because it was a part of our 50-year anniversary Celebration!
This year our Tee Shirt booth featured multiple shirts including our 2017 Japanese Festival tee shirt with danchiku 暖竹(giant cane of Bamboo), the five virtues of Bushido and beautiful calligraphy for Flower.
Urban Chestnut teamed up with Masumi Sake to make a perfect beer, Konomi 好み, for a hot summers day. This was our first year selling draught beer and it was a great success! It was so widely enjoyed that our last cup sold before 2PM on Monday. Thank you again Urban Chestnut for collaborating with Masumi Sake to make this tasty beer for the 50th anniversary of the Japan America Society of St. Louis.
Thank you Dr. Chikako Usui for the wonderful Ikebana demonstration that was standing room only.
Congratulations to International Institute on winning our first annual Trivia Night!
"Japan America Society of St. Louis" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
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