On Tuesday, August 20, the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston hosted a reception to welcome the 2013 Houston-Chiba Youth Exchange students, followed by a ceremony to present Johnston Middle School of Houston Independent School District with the Japan Foundation “Grant for Japanese-Language Courses,” in the amount of $28,000.
The evening began with a video conference with the Mayor of the City of Chiba, the Honorable Toshihito Kumagai. The four Japanese junior high school students; their chaperone, Ms. Yumi Kanke; host families; representatives from the Japan-America Society of Houston; Houston city officials; and Acting Consul-General of Japan Takahiko Watabe participated in the conference where the students introduced their hosts to Mayor Kumagai and shared some of their experiences since arriving in Houston.
At the reception’s opening, Acting Consul-General Watabe’s remarks expressed his appreciation to the Japan-America Society of Houston (JASH) for their long-standing support of the Houston-Chiba Youth Exchange and proclaimed the exchange “one of the most meaningful traditions created to strengthen and deepen the sister-city friendship between Houston and Chiba.” In alternating years the program has sent Houston students to Chiba, and welcomed Chiba students to Houston for over three decades. JASH President, Mr. JJ Naoki, and JASH Executive Director, Ms. Patsy Brown thanked the host families, Post Oak School Middle School, and Johnston Middle School for their contribution to the continued success of the exchange.
The second half of the ceremony focused on Johnston Middle School, the recipient of the $28,000 Japan Foundation “Grant for Japanese-Language Courses.” Johnston Middle school has been the bridge for Japanese language programs at Kolter Elementary and Bellaire High School and a leading player in the Houston-Chiba Youth Exchange for over 25 years. Acting Consul-General Watabe praised the students and staff for their commitment and gave his best wishes for the continuation of the Japanese language program at Johnston Middle School. Next, Principal Wenden Sanders spoke thanking Japan Foundation, JASH and the consulate for their support and expressing his personal commitment to continue the program.
After Acting Consul-General presented the Japan Foundation Grant check to Principal Sanders, Johnston Middle School faculty and representatives from the Houston Independent School District were recognized and gathered for a picture to commemorate the occasion.
For the rest of the evening the students from Chiba, host families, Post Oak and Johnston Middle School representatives and HISD officials enjoyed mingling over refreshment until the evening concluded with the Chiba students dance performance to Japanese singer Kyary Pyamu Pyamu’s platinum single, “Ninjya re bang bang.”
For further information about the Japan Foundation Grant presented to Johnston Middle School please refer to the ******* Press Release (link).