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!
May 21, 2017
Following our successful partnership from last year, Japan America Society and the St. Louis Art Museum collaborated on the "Passport to Japan" Family Sunday program. Visitors to the museum enjoyed a hands-on origami workshop, several bon odori (including several with audience participation), taiko, and a lion dance. We look forward to bringing this program back next May.
Our Celebration of Japanese Culture was another successful partnership with the Missouri History Museum – our fifth! Despite the beautiful weather enticing everyone outside, many people came inside to learn about Japanese culture and traditions. We received compliments and thank-yous from appreciative attendees.
The Japan America Society of St. Louis thanks the Missouri History Museum and everyone who attended this event—performers, speakers, volunteer assistants, our JASWA friends, and our many guests. This was a wonderful experience of learning and celebrating and sharing the richness of Japanese heritage.
The JAS mission is to promote friendship and understanding between the people of Japan and the US. We support those who are learning Japanese arts as well as those with years of expertise. Thanks to a grant from Boeing, we can expand our mission of sharing culture and nurturing local talent.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chip Meyer
Dr. Chikako Usui, President of the Japan America Society of St. Louis (JASSTL), has been elected to the executive committee of the National Association of Japan America Societies (NAJAS) in 2017 for a three-year term. She has also recently been awarded a Commendation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for outstanding work in promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.A. Mr. Toshiyuki Iwado, Consul General of Japan, Chicago, came to St. Louis for the 40th anniversary of the Japanese Festival and to personally present Dr. Usui with the Commendation.
These achievements are a fitting honor following Dr. Usui’s ten years as president of JASSTL. During her tenure, she has obtained funded grants to revitalize the Japan America Society of St. Louis, greatly increasing its activity, exposure, and service to the St. Louis community. Her election to NAJAS will provide opportunities to fulfill her commitment to US-Japan relations on a national level.
Dr. Usui is an Associate Professor of Sociology and a Fellow of International Studies and Programs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served as President of the Japan America Society of St. Louis (JASSTL) since 2008. Under her leadership, JASSTL expanded its business and cultural programs and its presence in the community and increased its membership and corporate sponsorships. JASSTL provides Japan-US business programs with signature networking sushi and sake receptions, as well as authentic cultural experiences such as ikebana floral arrangement and tea ceremony, which are open to the public. It partners with schools and local institutions to present programs on Japanese culture and history and is a major player in the popular annual Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the largest Japanese festivals in the country, drawing well-over 30,000 visitors annually.
Since the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster in Japan, JASSTL has been recipient of grants offered to only three other Japan America Societies in the US to foster exchange between child victims of the disaster and US students. Through the Tomodachi Friendship program, JASSTL has brought young students from Ishinomaki (near Sendai) to St. Louis to discover American culture and has taken St. Louis area students to the tsunami-damaged regions to study recovery efforts and see the resilience of the people.
Founded in 1967, the mission of JASSTL is to promote exchange and understanding between the people of Japan and the US, provide business and cultural programs, and be the go-to source of information about Japan. People have mistakenly believed JASSTL is only for Japanese and Japanese-Americans, but its membership is diverse and welcoming to all who are interested in Japan. JASSTL is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2017.
View PDF of media release here.
We had a packed house to hear three engaging speakers at our Spring Japan Update event hosted by our member, Novus International. Talks by Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Carnegie Asia Program senior fellow James Schoff, and founder and managing director of The Yield Lab Thad Simons were followed by a wonderful sushi and sake reception provided by Chef de Art Catering. A big "Thank you!" to our speakers, to the sponsors - the National Association of Japan America Societies (NAJAS) and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, to everyone who attended, and to everyone who worked to bring this opportunity to St. Louis.
"Japan America Society of St. Louis" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
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