Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Remarks by Consul-General Nozomu Takaoka
in the Luncheon to honor the JET returnees,
as joined by the JUSTE participant teachers,

on December 6, 2014

December 6, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen:  It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this luncheon welcoming Japan Exchange and Teaching Program returnees and members of the Japan-U.S. Training Exchange Program.  This afternoon also provides an occasion for the Japan-America Society to officially present Johnston Middle School with the Shintech-Kanagawa Fund. 

The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program draws enthusiastic young professionals from all over the world to teach English and work in local government offices in cities across Japan.  For over 28 years the program has encouraged exchange between our two countries creating relationships that last a lifetime. 

Today we welcome back six JET participants: Mr. Charles Harris who served as an ALT in Tome-shi, Miyagi Prefecture; Mr. Andrew Lewis, Yokote-shi Akita Prefecture ALT; Ms. Jessica Maple, Yamaguchi Prefectural ALT; Ms. Amanda White, Iwamizawa-shi Hokkaido ALT; Mr. Wayne Yin, Abu-cho Yamaguchi ALT; and Mary Vo, Takamatsu-shi Kagawa Prefecture ALT. 

To the six returnees today I hope this gathering encourages you to take your next step to share Japanese culture now that you are home and officially part of the JET alumni community.  Here today to assist you in this endeavor are fellow JET alumni, supporters, and friends.  In particular I would like to recognize at this time Dr. Toshimatsu Matsumoto, who has served selecting outgoing JET participants and encouraging returnees from this region since the very beginning of the program.
Next, please let me introduce the JUSTE Program. This initiative was created by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and President Barack Obama in 2010. The goal was to increase efforts of mutual understanding and give Japanese Teachers of English an opportunity to improve their teaching skills through study exchange. For now four years, the University of Texas in Austin has hosted educators from Japan and created solid ties between Texas and Japan.  It has become a tradition to invite JUSTE participants as a guest for this luncheon. 

Lastly I would like to recognize Johnston Middle School, and Principal Wenden Sanders, for the continuing commitment to Japanese language and culture as the only Junior H.S. offering Japanese in Houston.  Thanks to the support of the Japan-America Society of Houston under the leadership of President JJ Naoki, and the generous donation by Shintech Inc. represented today by Mrs. Akemi Saitoh, the Japanese language program at Johnston has continued and even expanded.  The Japan-America Society of Houston Shintech-Kanagawa Fund will support the salary of Ms. Yumi Franklin, her professional development, as well as help to update textbooks and resources.  Today we have the opportunity to congratulate all involved in this great achievement!

The budget cuts that result in the cancellation of Japanese language classes are not unique to Houston.  As Consul-General of Japan I am looking for ways to combat this trend and effectively support existing Japanese programs.  I believe all of you gathered here today recognize the importance of foreign language education in strengthening ties between our two nations.  Many of you are language teachers yourself with unique experiences teaching in diverse environments.  Others of you can help our cause through your involvement in JETAA, Japan-America Societies, and the support of Japanese businesses.  We are all a part of the solution and recognizing your dedication and expertise I hope today will be an opportunity to start a dialogue and I kindly ask for your advice.