Did you know that the Japanese Friendship Garden (JFG) in Kelley Park is a very special place because it is directly related to our 60 year history with Okayama City, Japan? The City of Okayama is home to one of the Three Great Gardens of … Continue reading Friends of the Japanese Friendship Garden (JFG)
This summer, between flooding and Typhoons in Okayama, 5 intrepid high school students selected from over 35 applicants went to experience their first homestay and student exchange in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture, Japan. With them went their equally intrepid (or perhaps even more intrepid)
Okayama City hosted over 50 students total from their sister city relationships around the world. Our students came back with a new appreciation of the similarities and differences between our two cities and cultures! Each created very special relationships with their host families & vowed to always be friends & family.
-What was different?
It was CLEAN! EVERYWHERE! No litter, no trash, no homelessness. Everyone is polite and welcoming. And it was very green! In San Jose, our hills are brown. In Okayama, everything is green and fresh.
When a family says someone is ‘good’ at something…they mean REALLY GOOD! One student went to their homestay family’s little daughter’s piano recital and couldn’t accept the family’s compliment to her (saying she could sing) after that!
Kids seem to do what is expected of them after being told once. It’s in the culture.
-What was the same?
They do have ketchup and mayonnaise!
Parents worry about their children, just like they do here.
People like anime! (Yes! It did come from Japan!)
They were worried if they would be liked, just as “we” SJ students wondered whether they would be liked.
We had a small reunion! Some of the delegation members from April 2018 were able to drop by Kelley Park and with the help of several of San Jose’s City Councilmembers, their staff, Vice Consul Ryo Aono (who had help from Kevin O’Donnell from the Consulate of Japan SF) and San Jose-Okayama Sister Cities volunteers (Denise Esparza, City of San Jose Parks Recreation and Neighborhood Services, Elanor Sakamoto, translator), sponsors (Catherine M. Tompkison), SJOSC Board members, Elizabeth Chien-Hale, Tina Urata, Dr. Mototaka Senda, Kathy Sakamoto – We also had students who will be participating in the Homestay in Okayama 2018 (July) program this year!
We must acknowledge our wonderful Sister City International Special Ambassador, Mr. Shin Koyamada and his wonderful wife, Nia Lyte! They always add so much to any event! Shin is a martial artist, having studied and competed in many martial arts disciplines. He is also an actor, gaining fame as “Nobutada” the son of the samurai played by Ken Watanabe. Shin is also a Special Ambassador for karate for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and a Board member to Sister Cities International.
We have great support from San Jose City Councilmembers, D10-Johnny Khamis, D3-Raul Peralez & his wife, Victoria & Chief of Staff Christina Ramos, D4-Lan Diep and staffer Thulien Dang, D8-Sylvia Arenas (represented by Lauren Urhausen, D2-Sergio Jimenez represented by Vanessa Sandoval and last but not least, D7-Tam Nguyen & staff Louansee Moua.
The Kelley Park Japanese Friendship Garden was modeled after the great Korakuen Garden, one of the three great gardens of Japan which is on the grounds of Okayama Castle. The Castle is known as the “Castle of the dark bird” or “Crow Castle” because of the dark background of the walls of the building.
The garden in San Jose, CA was damaged severely during the flooding in February of 2017 and is still being restored. The descendants of the original koi flown to San Jose, CA as gifts to San Jose from Okayama City, Japan, still inhabit the filtered pools in the Kelley Park Japanese Friendship Garden. A new filtration system is needed to allow the fish back in the larger pond areas. Since this costs in the $100K range, a lot of fundraising is needed. All funds to Parks & Recreation must go through the Parks Foundation.
A delegation will be traveling to Okayama come April 2018! Although our list of delegates is yet to be revealed to the public, it is varied, interesting and impressive. We hope you’ll want to learn more about student exchanges, cultural exchanges and the history of … Continue reading San Jose going to Okayama!
Flutist Ray Furuta is representing San Jose by invitation from Okayama Music Festival held annually in Okayama City, Japan. He is accompanied on piano by Kanako Yamasaki
Their lists of accomplishments is best served by reading their bios. Suffice to say that they have worked internationally to great acclaim while maintaining their connections to local community.
Praised for “Sophisticated” (San Francisco Classical Voice) performances, Ray Furuta has established a reputation as “one of today’s top young concert artists” (Del Mar Times). Officiated as a cultural ambassador to the U.S. in 2014, Furuta has performed and taught world-wide.
He has been a featured artist for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Miami Chamber Music Society, Juilliard School, and United Nations to name only a few.
As a dedicated chamber musician, he is the Artistic Director of Chamber Music Silicon Valley and has performed with renowned artists including Jon Nakamatsu, Peter Frankl, The Weilersteins, and members of the Kronos, Avalon, Juilliard, Mendelssohn, and Emerson String Quartets.
As a powerful teaching artist, Furuta is the Professor of Flute at Santa Clara University. He as also given master classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Stanford University, New York University, University of Victoria, Gettysburg College, and more. As a recipient of the infamous Staller Scholar Award and honored as a distinguished alumni in 2016, Furuta earned is Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from Stony Brook University where he was a pupil of Carol Wincenc and the Emerson String Quartet. His other mentors include harpsichordist Arthur Haas and pianist Wu Han.
“THE PROTÉGÉ OF THE GREAT FLUTIST, CAROL WINCENC”
We are very happy that Shin, a native of Okayama, Japan, is the first Japanese national to be a part of the Sister Cities International Board of Directors. In addition to his work as an actor, he has spent a majority of his time doing non-profit work to help other countries in the fields of humanitarian aid, the arts, business and education. For more information about the Koyamada Foundation (Shin & wife Nia) see http://www.koyamada.org
Although we know that these types of events take a lot of time, planning, careful execution and lots of support, they are also some of the wonderful benefits of the sister cities programs and relationships.
Anyone who heard these young, talented musicians know that their teachers, conductors, assistants, families and sponsors have every right to be bursting with pride. They were wonderful.
Thank you to Matsuda-san for ‘modeling’ & Okayama East Rotary for providing the t-shirts to both groups of musicians and for helping make this concert a reality!