Chicago Shimpo
Former First Graders Speak of
40 years of Footsteps
Futabakai Day School Celebrates 40th Anniversary

• The Chicago Futabakai Japanese Day School celebrated its 40th anniversary and held a commemorative gathering and a ceremonial party on August 29 at the school gymnastic hall. The Sumire Kindergarten also celebrated its 10th anniversary.
• Among the special guests were Toshiro Arita and Yoko Furukawa, who were first graders when the school opened in 1978. Kengo Nagasaka, Chairman of Futabakai Board, was also a student in the early years of the school.

• At the gathering, English teacher Diane Stark was awarded by Consul General of Japan Naoki Ito for her 39 years of devotion.
• Stark said, “I’ve been here for 39 years. It’s a long time, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that long because each year is different, more different experiences.” She also said that she has been enjoying teaching English to Japanese students. “We do a lot of repeating, and I correct pronunciation, so they can be more confident to speak,” she said.

• After remarks from Principal Tadashi Sakano, Consul Hideki Makino, Futabakai treasurer Kunihiko Takahashi, and Futabakai Board of Kenya Yamada, Nagasaka introduced former first graders, Toshiro Arita and Yoko Furukawa. He began searching past students’ names through Facebook to make contact with them.

40 years of Footsteps

• Yoko Furukawa lived in Germany shortly after she was born and then moved to Chicago in the spring of 1978. She attended a local school and went to a summer camp. While she was enjoying the camp, she faced a difficulty with a broken telephone game. When she heard that Japanese Day School was going to open in the fall, she was very pleased. Her father’s educational policy was that educating his children in their native language was the first priority.
• She had enjoyed her school life in the Day School and still remembered many details of each event in those days. She cried and cried when she had to return to Japan.
• In 2000, she came to Chicago again due to her husband’s job, so she put her two sons in the Day School and sometimes in Saturday School. She returned to Japan in 2005.
• In 2016, she came to Chicago for the third time. Her sons were often talking about their dreams that they wanted to work globally. Then they became college students in Japan, and the elder son was hired by a company which will realize his dream. This time, Furukawa brought her daughter, who was born in 2005, just before she returned to Japan. She said that she was pleased to give her daughter an opportunity to experience a foreign life.
• She said, “I wish the Day School continues to give its students good memories like I have. All my memories are my treasures.”

• Nagasaka found that Toshiro Arita was Japan Airlines’ pilot and asked Yamada, JAL’s Vice President & Regional Manager of Central region, U.S.A, to contact him. Arita managed his schedules to attend the ceremonial party and came to Chicago for a one-night stay.
• Before Arita entered the Day School in 1978, he was living in Sao Paulo, Brazil where his father found a Japanese Saturday school. Before moving to Chicago, his father made sure that the Day School was opening here. Putting his son in a Japanese school was his educational policy.
• Arita was in the Day School until he became 11 years old and returned to Kanagawa, Japan. He entered the Waseda University and decided to become a pilot. It took about 15 years to become a captain.

• Arita spoke about what he had learned in the Day School. “I believe that a global human resource is someone who is educated with his or her native language and extends studies on diversities overseas, then develops their abilities based on their knowledge and experiences. The students of the Day School are literally in such an environment. They are able to build their sense of nationality, self-confidence, and pride in the school; therefore, they can work internationally,” he continued.

• Kengo Nagasaka was in the Day School from 1982 to 1984, from the 5th grade to the beginning of middle school. He returned to Chicago as an exchange student when he was in high school. He entered Panasonic and was transferred to Chicago for the third time and spent 7 years here. He moved to another company then he was transferred here again, so his stay in Chicago is the fourth time. He was appointed as the Futabakai Board Chairman two years ago.
• He introduced some of his classmates in the 1980s. A boy, who said he wanted to become a doctor or president, is now an owner of a resort hotel in Nagano Prefecture. Another boy, who was a big fan of Sadaharu Oh, then assistant director of Yomiuri Giants, wanted to become an assistant director of a baseball team. Now he is a financial professional. A girl, who wanted to have a cute, small store became an interior designer.

• Nagasaka also recalled his time in the Day School. The students had a sport shirt, which had a Futabakai logo. They were told not to wear it outside of the school. It was a time that Americans still have negative images toward Japan and threw stones at Futabakai school busses, but the students enjoyed their school lives.

• Nagasaka said, “We, the Futabakai students, have a special tie. We have shared the same values. The students, who were studying here 40 years ago, have spread in the world and worked globally. I believe that we can speak Japanese of course and we can speak English, too; therefore, we can work globally. I feel that the Day School has put its mission on that. I wish the school continues and celebrates the 50th and 100th anniversary no matter if the school faces financial difficulties or anything else.”

Attendees make toast for Futabakai Day School's 40th anniversary.

Principal Tadashi Sakano (R) and Saturday School Principal Katsu Shimabukuro

English teacher Diane Stark

Toshiro Arita (L) and Yoko Furukawa, first graders in 1978, opening year of the school

The first anniversary of the school. Arita and Furukawa are in the photo.

Kengo Nagasaka