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Kakehashi Project Brings Two High School Students Closer
Twenty students from the Kure National College of Technology (Kure Kogyo) in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, visited the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago on March 24 and deepened the friendship between the two schools. Whitney Young is well-known for being First Lady Michelle Obama’s alma mater.
Previously, the students of Whitney Young visited Kure Kogyo last July and had first-hand experiences in Japan through student exchanges, host families, and sight seeing. This time, Principal Joyce Kenner, Japanese teacher Yukiko Schrock, and other faculty members hosted a reception to welcome Kure Kogyo students. Deputy Consul of Japan Keiko Yanai and staff from the Chicago Public School Council participated in the reception.
The student exchange program is called “Kakehashi Project” and is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the Japan Foundation, which was initiated to foster Japan-US friendship for the next generation. Kakehashi means a bridge in Japanese.
Principal Kenner, who visited Japan three years ago, greeted Kure Kogyo and said that the two schools were building a partnership, and the students would be able to visit each other on a yearly base.

Whitney Student Hilary Pham, who had won the first prize in the second category at the 28th Japanese Language Speech Contest, made a speech about “Kakehadhi’s Meaning”. She said that the project was an investment for promoting deeper friendship and reinforcing bonds beyond the language barrier. Alana Bourgeois also won the second prize in the speech contest.
The students of Whitney welcomed Kure Kogyo by pantomime performances, and Whitney Young Orchestra played beautiful pieces of music.

On the other hand, the students from Kure Kogyo, who were divided in four groups, made witty presentations to introduce Japan.
The first group spoke about Japanese cuisine and use of flavors such as soy sauce and miso (soy bean paste). The group also demonstrated how to make soup stock from dried bonito fish.
The second group showed the history and sight-seeing spots in Kure City and Hiroshima by using colorful photos. The group brought a handmade fortune drawing for good luck, which was common in shrines in Japan, and Whitney students enjoyed the drawing.
The third group explained how Japanese traditional technologies worked for quake-resistant buildings and towers by showing an experimental video. The same technology is used in the present day such as Sky Tree in Tokyo. The group also showed the hidden technology in a wind-up doll, which was used in robots, engines, and product lines today.
The fourth group introduced Japan’s kawaii culture. Kawaii means cute. The group said that the kawaii culture consisted of four categories; characters, Lolita fashion, singers, and behaviors. One of the students quickly turned into Pikachu, and another student demonstrated kawaii behaviors. The audience enjoyed Kure Kogyo’s presentations.

Masashi Maemoto, a student of Kure Kogyo, answered Shimpo’s interview questions. He said that he applied for the project to know more about the world after he had visited Dalian in China last summer through a world discovery program.
According to Maemoto, about 80 hopefuls applied for the Kakehashi project with an essay, and 40 students were chosen. Then each of the 40 had an interview in English, and finally 20 students were selected. He said that he wanted to become an architect in the future and observed many buildings in Chicago.

Yuko Uesugi, Associate Professor, Ph.D. of Kure Kogyo commended the students, who had practiced the presentations almost everyday. She said, “They weren’t accustomed to making a presentation and speaking English, so it was hard for them at the beginning. But they gradually improved presentations with their creativities. I think that they realized both the difficulty and importance of communication and wished to have better presentations.”
Uesugi had a job after graduating from high school, but felt a need for more education and entered a college when she was 23 years old. She majored in American literature and studied at Arizona State University for one year. After returning to Japan, she completed her doctoral degree.
She said that the English education in Japan was becoming rote learning, and the students didn’t recognize the importance of communication by using English. She said, “I want them to study English through their own first-hand experiences.”

According to Seiji Kano, Associate Professor, Dr. Eng., Kure Kogyo had visited Roosevelt High School and community facilities in Seattle for four days, and was going to visit Atlanta.
He said, “Making friends gives the students many meanings. I have been teaching them the importance of friendship worldwide.” He has taken his students to Thailand and China when he was on a college faculty. He also visited Taiwan, Australia, and other countries.