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Japan-America Society of Hawaii
1600 Kapiolani Blvd Suite 204
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
Phone (808) 524-4450
Fax (808) 524-4451
admindir@jashawaii.org
Office hours:
M-F, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.


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Japan in a Suitcase

Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS) is a free program that teaches the concept of different perspectives to elementary school students. We visit classes and share Japanese artifacts such as an elementary school backpack (randoseru), textbooks (kyoukashou) , and traditional summer clothing (yukata). We also bring photos of life in Japan and introduce basic Japanese greetings, gestures, and games.

JIAS is divided into three separate programs - JIAS I for kindergarten and grade 1, JIAS II for grades 2 and 3, and JIAS III for grades 4 and 5. Presentations range from 40 minutes to one hour. In each, students are encouraged to ask questions while they explore, gaining valuable lessons on critical thinking. They learn about similarities and differences between themselves and people in Japan, and are reminded throughout the presentations that "different" does not equal "wrong".

Japan in a Suitcase I
Kindergarten & Grade 1
40minutes

JIAS I is designed to teach the concept of different perspectives to students in kindergarten and grade 1 through easy to understand examples. We begin by teaching students simple Japanese greetings. Next we show enlarged photos of roads in Japan and the U.S. with people driving on opposite sides of the street as an example of something that is done differently in a different place. We then use puppets to demonstrate animal sounds in different countries, and teach various gestures used in Japan. Following these examples, we explore items in the suitcase with the students. Included are artifacts used by Japanese elementary School children, such as a school backpack (randoseru), indoor shoes (uwabaki), and textbooks (kyoukashou). We end by teaching the Japanese version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".

JIAS I Request Form

Japan in a Suitcase II
Grades 2 & 3
45 minutes

JIAS II was redeveloped in 2008 based on teacher feedback for students in grades 2 and 3. We begin by teaching students simple Japanese greetings. Next we introduce Japanese elementary school life by exploring items from the suitcase such as a Japanese timetable, different Japanese writing systems, a bento box and posters of lunch time and school events. Students then explore more items from the suitcase that reveal aspects of Japanese community, such as traditional clothing (yukata). Time allowing, we tell them that students in Japan also play the popular children's game, Jan Ken Po, and have them try it with their classmates in the Japanese style.

JIAS II Request Form

Japan in a Suitcase III
Grades 4 & 5
1 hour

For students in grades 4 and 5, JIAS III uses more complex examples to teach and reinforce the concept of different perspectives learned in K-3. Following introductions and greetings, we compare a Japan-centered and a U.S.-centered world map to show that people see or depict things differently depending on where they are from. Students then have an opportunity to explore various school items (calligraphy set, P.E. uniforms and more) in small groups. Following this exploration period, each group presents their items to the class for further discussion. We end with a slideshow on school life in Japan, which helps to reinforce what they have just learned.

JIAS III Request Form

We are always looking for new volunteers to help present JIAS! If you are interested in volunteering, please click here for more information. You will need Adobe Reader to open.

. :   Japan-in-a-Suitcase Visits Wailuku Elementary on the island of Maui


On September 5, 2014, students at Wailuku Elementary were treated to a special presentation of the Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS) program thanks in large part to a grant given by the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation. Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) staff members Elizabeth Barrera and Kathryn Murata along with JIAS volunteers Becky Ebisu and Geri Cheng spent the day on Maui sharing JIAS I and II with the first and second graders in the school. Together, the four of them gave a total of twelve JIAS presentations to nearly 250 students.

Wailuku Elementary, with its stately buildings constructed from stones found in Iao Valley, was established in 1904 and currently services over 1,000 students in grades K - 6. The interest level of the students was high and children were excited to see the presenters on campus and in their classrooms sharing items about Japan and Japanese school life. The first graders especially liked seeing various Japanese school items and comparing and contrasting the differences between school life in Hawaii and in Japan. For the second graders, the program tied into school curriculum nicely, as students will visit the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum this school year to learn about Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work on the plantations.

(L) JIAS Volunteer Geri Cheng shares the illusion poster with 1st graders at Wailuku Elementary. This visual prop helps teach the concept of different perspectives. (R) JASH Staff Kathryn Murata and Liz Barrera show the Japanese world map to 2nd graders to help them learn where Japan, Hawaii and the US are located.


All students seemed to grasp the basic concept of different perspectives, having been shown various items and poster boards while discovering more about Japanese school life: student schedules, writing system, randoseru (backpack), zokin (cleaning cloth), uwabaki (indoor shoes), textbooks, and a bento box; and Community life: language, money, festivals, clothing, the game Jan Ken Po (JIAS II), and the Japanese version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (JIAS I). They were encouraged to spot differences in the way Japanese children do things and the way they do things and were reminded that different does not equal wrong.

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students' sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose of JIAS is to teach children about Japan's unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii's special relationships with Japan. The young students at Wailuku Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. JASH wishes to extend a special thanks to Vice Principal Noe Castro who helped us arrange this visit.

If you know of a school on a neighbor island that would benefit and welcome the JIAS program in Spring 2015, please contact JIAS Program Coordinator Elizabeth Barrera at ebarrera@jashawaii.org.

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. :   Japan in a Suitcase Visits Guam


(L) A St. John's School student points out the differences of Japanese yen. (R) St. John's students model the randoseru backpack.


From May 27-28, 2014, two schools on the island of Guam, Tamuning Elementary and St. John's School, were given a special presentation of Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS). Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) Volunteers Becky Ebisu and Noreen Kawachika spent one full day at each school presenting the JIAS program to every classroom. In the interest of promoting understanding of U.S. - Japan relations in Guam, JASH obtained a special grant funded by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP) which focused on promoting cultural understanding and education in schools which will in turn strengthen positive global relationships. The CGP grant allowed JASH to take JIAS to Guam and will also include a JIAS presentation to American Samoa later this year.

Because of Guam's unique placement in the Pacific, the students at both schools embraced the concept of different perspectives wholeheartedly as they discovered more about Japanese school life: student schedules, writing system, backpack, textbooks, and a bento box; Community life: language, dress, and the game Jan Ken Po; and Geography: locating Japan, USA and Guam on a world map through the JIAS presentations. Guam's close proximity to Japan also meant that many students had traveled there or would be visiting Japan sometime in the near future.

In appreciation for the JIAS presentations given by the JASH volunteers at Tamuning Elementary School, the students shared with the presenters a gift of song. Everyone agreed this was an effective and enjoyable way of learning about each other.

The JASH volunteers also visited St. John's School, where they gave the JIAS presentations to a total of nine classes for students in grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade. In each classroom, there was high interest in the contents of the suitcases and the lessons were very interactive for the students, evidenced by the many questions raised about the various items presented. Teachers hoped that this program would return to Guam again in the future.

(L) Students of Tamuning Elementary. (R) A Tamuning Elementary student models the boy's yukata.


JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students' sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom and challenging the children to explain the differences they see from how they learn. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose is to teach the children about Japan's unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii and Guam's special relationships with Japan. Children of both Tamuning Elementary and St. John's School now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. A special grant from the Center for Global Partnership made this visit possible. A special mahalo to Monte Mesa, President of the Nikkei Club in Guam, who helped us to coordinate this visit with the schools. Also thanks to Tricia Marie Cruz, Curriculum Coordinator at Tamuning Elementary, and Pat Bennett, Principal at St. John's School for allowing us to come in to visit their schools.

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. : Japan-in-a-Suitcase Visits Kaumuali'i Elementary



(L-R) Second graders model a Japanese yukata (cotton Kimono) for their classmates; Kindergarten students get ready to bow to their teacher.


For the last day of the 2012-2013 school year, children of King Kaumuali'i Elementary School on Kauai were treated to a special presentation of Japan in a Suitcase. JASH staff members along with a volunteer spent the day on Kauai presenting to grades K, 1, and 2. Principal Karen Liu gave the presenters a warm welcome. It was obvious to the presenters that the school thrives because of the involvement of the Principal and Vice-Principal who were busy running around coordinating the days' activities.

The students were excited to see the various school items and learn new Japanese words. Many students were buzzing with curiosity as they asked questions such as, 'why do some Japanese coins have a hole in the middle?' Students were encouraged to spot differences in the way the Japanese children do things and were reminded that different does not equal wrong. Not many children were of Japanese descent, and overall they were not exposed to Japan much. Some children took a martial art so they knew the word 'sensei,' which quickly became the popular word of the day. Students in the lower grades loved the Japanese version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and wanted to sing it throughout the day. Teachers were surprised to learn that in Japan the students and teachers eat together in the classroom. They were also surprised that a randoseru (Japanese school backpack) can cost upwards of $300.

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students' sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom and challenging the children to explain the differences they see from how they learn. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose is to teach the children about Japan's unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii's special relationships with Japan. Children of King Kaumuali'i Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. Thanks to grants from donors such as the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Hotel Industries, and individual donors that made this excursion possible. Also a special thanks to Principal Karen Liu who helped us to arrange this visit.

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. : Japan in a Suitcase Visits Naalehu Elementary


(L-R) Fourth graders demonstrate how to use a Japanese calligraphy kit. Fifth graders model the apron, mask, and hats used by student lunch monitors in elementary schools in Japan.


On Thursday, November 15th, Japan-in-a-Suitcase Program Director and two volunteers traveled to Naalehu on the Big Island for a day to present to grades 3, 4, and 5 at Naalehu Elementary. Naalehu is the southernmost point in the entire United States. The drive from Hilo Airport is nearly two hours, one way. It is especially the goal of Japan in a Suitcase to bring this program to schools in remote areas.

Naalehu Elementary has just over 300 students. The presenters were able to reach out to about 130 of them. The demographic of Naalehu Elementary consists of many children of immigrant workers who came to work on the nearby ranches. Many students struggle with English as their second language and don''t have a chance to be exposed to other cultures.

Before the program arrived, students and teachers alike imagined that the presenters would come with a suitcase full of items from Japan. They were delightfully surprised when they found out their predictions were correct. A fourth grade teacher commented that it was not only a great way for students to learn of another culture, but also to learn about respect and responsibility through the ways of Japanese school children. Even after the presentations were over words like sensei or arigatou suddenly became trendy on campus and students continued to use them throughout the day.

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students' sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom and challenging the children to explain the differences they see from how they learn. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose is to teach the children about Japan's unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii's special relationships with Japan. Children of Naalehu Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. Thanks to grants from donors such as the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Hotel Industries, and individual donors that made this excursion possible. Also a special thanks to Ms. Denise Garcia, Naalehu Parent-Community Networking Center (PCNC), who helped us to arrange this visit.

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. : Japan in a Suitcase visits Lanai Elementary


L-R: Lanai Elementary third graders model the Japanese yukata.; Kindergarten students learn to say goodbye by saying sayonara and bowing.


For the first time, Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS) traveled to Lanai to present to their only elementary school, Lanai Elementary. Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) staff and a volunteer were able to present to all students from grades K through 5. Lanai High and Elementary School services the entire island.

In Lanai, the pace of life is much more relaxed than on Oahu. Crime rate is low and most people don't lock their doors. There's no McDonald's or chain stores, only one gas station, and no traffic lights. Everything in the main area of Lanai City surrounding the school is within walking distance.

During the presentation for second grade, students became very excited when shown the McDonald's poster board. The nearest McDonald's is on Maui so many children shouted out, "McDonald's on Maui!" Students were excited to see Japanese yen with a few noting that they had a small collection of their own at home because a relative had brought it back from Japan. Upon seeing the Japanese yukata, a third grade girl mentioned that for Halloween she dressed up in kimono. A girl in the third grade class also mentioned after the presentations that her mother is from Japan so she is learning a few Japanese words.

At the beginning of the fourth grade presentations, students were very shy and hesitant to speak out. When it came time to do group work, they became excited to be able to see and touch Japanese school items they had never encountered before. Students were able to explore the school items well and confidently give presentations to their classmates. Fourth graders also noted the similarities between their school and Japan's elementary schools. Lanai Elementary has a pool just like every elementary school in Japan. Their field is also similar to the school field in Japan.

Students and teachers alike hoped for the presentations to return to Lanai again soon. In their thank you letters, students included words that they had learned such as arigatou and sensei. Teachers loved how the presentations gave students a higher sense of cultural awareness. A teacher noted, "we in Hawaii come from different cultures therefore our students' perspectives involve all of these."

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students' sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom and challenging the children to explain the differences they see from how they learn. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose is to teach the children about Japan's unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii's special relationships with Japan. Children of Lanai Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. Thanks to grants from donors such as the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Hotel Industries, and individual donors that made this excursion possible. Also a special thanks to Mr. Merrill Taguchi, elementary school counselor, who helped us to arrange this visit and also provided transportation to and from the airport.

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. : Japan in a Suitcase Visits Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary in Hilo


On May 19, two Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) staff traveled to the Big Island to bring Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS) to the fourth and fifth graders of Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary in Hilo. This was the first time for Japan in a Suitcase to visit Chiefess Kapiolani. It was "Spirit Week" at school and the theme was "Wacky Day." Students were dressed in their wackiest outfits of mismatched shoes, shorts as sleeves, and the wackiest hairstyles. All of the students were excited to participate and volunteer during the presentation. You could see the light bulb above their head click on as they discovered things that were near to them in their everyday lives--Nintendo, Sony Playstation, Pokemon--all originated in Japan.

The children enjoyed discovering the school items used by Japanese elementary school students and treated the items with great care. Hilo also has its own history of tsunamis so students were highly curious about the recent disasters in Japan and had lots of thoughtful questions for the presenters. Some students were also curious about how to say or write their name in Japanese.

After the presentations teachers approached the presenters and commented how wonderful the presentation was and that it is such a great opportunity for the students. They even promised to send pictures taken during the presentation. The presenters also noticed that the children have an orderly system of lining up while they wait to be picked up after school.

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students' sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom and challenging the children to explain the differences they see from how they learn. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose is to teach the children about Japan's unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii's special relationships with Japan. Children of Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. Thanks to grants from donors such as the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, Friends of Hawaii Charities, and JTB Goodwill Foundation that made this excursion possible. Also a special thanks to the new JASH intern Yuri Matsuoka who brought over a new randoseru (Japanese backpack) from Japan to use during Suitcase presentations.

(L): Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary students carefully explore the randoseru (Japanese backpack) with JASH staff. (R): Students in their "Wacky Day" attire were excited to learn about Japanese schools.


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