Impact of Visiting Japan on Life and the Future
African-American Students Discuss on Their Experiences
• Former students of the Langston Hughes Elementary School and participants of Kakehashi Project spoke about their experience in Japan at an event “Bridge the Future of Chicago’s Youth”, which was held on April 29 at the Japan Information Center of the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.
• Consul General Naoki Ito welcomed the students and families from Langston
Hughes and spoke about the development of “The Dream Project for the 21th
• Consul General Ito said that the interest in the Japanese language has been increasing in Chicago and the Midwest while the number of teachers available to teach Japanese has been decreasing. “I hope some of you consider becoming Japanese teachers, so that you can share the impact that Japanese study has had on your lives,” Ito inspired the attendees.
• Earl Ware, former Principal of Langston Hughes said that the Japanese program was initiated in 1992 having the students have more respect on themselves and learn self-discipline, and it was successful. He applauded retired Japanese teachers, Mitsuko Rokuhira and Ikuko Nichols, for their devotion to the program. He also expressed his gratitude to Ichiro Ozawa.
• Kimbreana Goode, principal of the school, said that Xian Franzinger-Barrett
joined the school last February to teach Japanese program, and is going
to reopen the program.
• Former student Erionna Tucker, who visited Japan when she was the 7th
grade, spoke about her experience in Japan. She said, “It was the best
experience in my life.”
• Since her childhood, Tucker’s dream was to go to Japan. She transferred
to Langston Hughes and her dream came true. “There is opportunity for
kids like us to go to Japan. It doesn’t mean having to go to college abroad.
Just out from my experience, please, please take this opportunity into
your hand. Being exposed to something new that you haven’t seen before
is so breathtaking, so amazing,” she encouraged younger students.
• Leah Castleberry and Brandon Stuart visited Japan last March through
Kakehashi Project, which was created this year by the Congressional Black
Caucus Foundation in partnership with the Embassy of Japan in Washington
D.C., to increase African-American interest in and exposure to the culture
• Brandon Stuart started studying Japanese when he was a high school student and stayed with a Japanese family in Aichi Prefecture in 2005. He screened his digital story that showed many meetings with a variety of people and good food. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a master degree and works for the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
• Three former students from Langston Hughes and the two participants of Kakehashi discussed the impact they had on their lives and future. Dan Seals, former JET teacher and government official, joined to lead them.
• Donald Walker (18-year-old HS student) visited Japan when he was in
the 7th grade student and loved all his experiences, including Japanese
people and culture. He said that having a lunch with the Prime Minister
was an amazing experience. After returning to Chicago, he began to see
people’s eyes when he talked with them and felt more disciplined.
• Erionna Tucker said that her personal life has changed since she saw
how other people in the different culture were. She also felt she became
more disciplined and aware of conscience. “I’m glad that I changed because
now I want my career to be different. I want to be a translator even more,”
• Brandon Stuart was 15 or 16 years old when he first visited Japan,
and it was such a time of learning on how to present himself. During his
search for different aspects of life, he said that experiences in Japan
helped him to find a center and articulate his dreams. He felt conscience
development after he saw that Japanese were always bowing and saying,
“yes, yes, so, so,” when one contacted others. It was a way of dealing
with people while paying respect.
• Leah Castleberry was impacted by the respect and reverence that Japanese
people had for the Earth. She said, “Every Japanese person understood
their personal duty to preserve the planet.” She has started to save water
and do recycling after she returned.
In the back row from left: Brandon Stuart, Leah Castleberry, Consul Toshihisa Kato, Ikuko Nichols, Consul General Naoki Ito, Mitsuko Rokuhira, former Principal Earl Ware, Xian Franzinger Barrett, Driona Tucker, Chante Wilborn, Principal Kimbreana Goode, and Donald Walker