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JASH APCC Junior Ambassadors Visit Chozen-Ji & ʻAkahiao Nature Institute

This summer, the Japan-America Society of Hawaii’s four Junior Ambassadors (JAs) are learning all about Japan and local Hawaii culture in preparation to represent Hawaii in this year’s Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention BRIDGE Virtual Summer Camp (APCC BVSC). Although the over 40 APCC delegations throughout Asia and the Pacific are still unable to convene in person in Japan, we are nonetheless excited for the virtual exchanges that will bridge students from around the world in July and August.

In preparation for the virtual summer camp, our 11-year-old JAs have been busy learning about Japan, Hawaii, and the other participating countries and cities through our monthly JASH Workshops which this year feature many hands-on activities. Kicking off their studies, JAs navigated their way around Don Quijote, searching for Japanese delicacies. With curious palates, they tried a variety of new foods, including takoyaki, konbu maki, and even natto!

Sehren, Kent, and Jake order takoyaki with JASH Director of Educational Programs, Takako Miyazawa

Up next, on May 28, they visited Daihonzan Chozen-ji, an international zen dojo located in the back of Kalihi Valley. Under the guidance of Reverend Cristina Moon, JAs and their parents learned about the unique history of the dojo and challenged their bodies and minds in a short zazen meditation session. Then, they got their blood pumping in an introduction to kendo led by Teshima-sensei, Ueno-sensei, Sayama Roshi, and Kangen Roshi. Dо̄mo Arigatо̄ Gozaimasu thank you very much to Chozen-ji for hosting us!

Kent Clark, Jake Miyasaki, Zoe Kikuta, and Sehren Villarimo practice zazen meditation.

JAs learn kendo basics from the sensei.

JAs and their families enjoyed the educational field trip to Chozen-ji.

Most recently, the group flew to Kona from June 3-5 to learn about sustainability and mālama ʻāina from the wonderful staff at the ʻAkahiao Nature Institute (ANI). Thanks to a generous donor, five recent APCC alumni, Kourtney Nishimura (‘16), Joanna Sato (‘18), Kalā Soares (‘18), Ella Bosworth (‘19), and Rhegen Villarimo (‘20-21) joined the trip as mentors for this year’s JAs. Although JASH has an active program alumni network through Bridge Club Hawaii (BCH), their usual activities have been paused due to the pandemic, and so we are grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with each other. This trip was chaperoned by JASH Program Coordinator Christianne Ono, JASH NexGen Advisory Committee Secretary and 2022 APCC Chaperone David Hayashida, former BCHCo-President Haley Honda, and Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association (JETAA) Hawaii Co-President Daniel Ichiyama.

ANI’s Jeff Fuchs teaches the students about Huʻehuʻe

During their time at ANI’s Huʻehuʻe Ranch, the group unleashed their curiosity and kilo ‘observation’ skills as they walked through the forest, learned about environmental challenges and ANI’s creative solutions, and harvested fresh produce directly from the garden. They also participated in a service project where they helped ANI’s Landscape Artist & Permaculture Specialist Antonio as he and a local crew laid the foundation for a water catchment system. Under the watchful and patient guidance of the Let ‘Um Fly Archery Club, the group experienced first-hand the strength and precision required to shoot recurve bows.

Laying the foundation for the future water catchment

To end their time in Kona, our four JAs presented their Global Bridge Leader Reports. For these reports, they were each tasked with researching and presenting their findings on how pollution, recycling, GMOs, and global warming have affected life in our islands. Each presentation was followed by thoughtful discussion led by the alumni mentors. The JAs will revisit sustainability-focused topics such as these during the APCC Bridge Virtual Summer Camp later this summer, when they will brainstorm on various environmental issues facing the Asia-Pacific region with the other JAs.

Working together on a group entrepreneurial design project

Regardless of the range of ages in our group to Kona, our JAs, program alumni, and chaperones came home with new strengthened connections to the ʻāina and more importantly, to each other. Joanna Sato (‘18) commented, “What surprised me the most was our ability to get along with each other, despite our age gap. I felt connected with the other kids through these free time activities because I used to play these games when I was a JA. Transitioning to high school, I realized that I can't remember the last time I played tag or group games since everyone around my age has been focused on studying.” Mahalo nui loa to ANI Executive Director Julie Rogers, Program Coordinator Jeff Fuchs, and Community Outreach Coordinator and Cultural Liaison Liana Macdonald-Kainoa for their guidance and expertise in crafting invigorating and inspiring programming for our group.

Back row (L-R): Kourtney (‘16), Joanna (‘18), Ella (‘19), Rhegen (‘20-21), and Kalā (‘18)

Front row: Jake (‘22), Kent (‘22), Zoe (‘22), and Sehren (‘22)

Mahalo to our JASH Chaperones and ANI Staff for a fantastic weekend!

Throughout the rest of the summer months, our JAs will learn more about Japanese culture, traditions, and daily life in their remaining JASH preparatory workshops. In addition to learning more about Japan, they will also brainstorm what makes their own lives here in Hawaii special, and what they’d like to share with the other JAs as representatives of Hawaii. To learn more about our JASH APCC Program, please contact Program Coordinator Christianne Ono at

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