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Princess Kesang of Bhutan Visits ASIJ

On May 9, Princess Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuk of the Bhutanese Royal Family visited ASIJ to speak with elementary and high school students. Princess Kesang is the Executive Director of Bhutan’s Thangka Conservation Center (TCC) as well as a scholar of ancient Buddhist scriptural text and iconography. The Princess was joined by Ephraim “Eddie” Jose, who was the Chief Conservator for the global exhibition The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan and the first non-Japanese recipient of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Properties certification. Eddie is currently an art conservation consultant based in Bellevue, Washington. Continue reading

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History Comes Alive in Grade Five!

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ASIJ 5th graders have been hard at work scripting, interviewing and piecing together iMovie news reports. Using information garnered from primary and secondary sources as part of their Think Justice social studies unit, students were excited to create a newscast depicting an important event from the Civil Rights Movement. With events ranging from the March on Washington, to the bus boycotts and Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the hallways have been alive with cries for freedom, justice and equal rights. Continue reading

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Lahari’s Mythology Odyssey

To explore alternative ways to craft and share narratives, students wrote their own odyssey and used Google Earth to map the geographic locations they cited. In addition to writing a clear and engaging autobiographical journey students had to connect their narrative to the mythology they had studied.

As I walked into the English classroom, I felt doomed. I had only signed up for Mythology because of the required four years of English so I walked into the room with no high expectations. My only expectations were a lot of intense reading, writing and lecturing. However, I have been pleasantly surprised throughout the course.

We read a lot of short classical mythological stories which are very interesting—and the mini-reflections we write about them help us think about the stories more deeply and relate to them personally. Not only do we have concise readings, we also have a wide array of activities such as Greek mask making, the Google Earth Odyssey project and watching movies in class!

The lecture series we’ve been watching is mind-blowing as well. If you had asked me “what is a myth?” before I started this class, I would’ve said exaggerated truth. However, if you ask me the same question now I would probably sweat furiously and think very hard. The lectures really make us think about mythology—what a myth actually is, why myths have been written and their significance in various cultures. The ideas of Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist and writer, have been the most interesting—he’s made me realize the many perspectives I can use in studying mythology. He described the common steps in a hero or heroine’s journey and the many archetypes used in storytelling—ideas which are still used today.

Film director and writer George Lucas was inspired greatly by Campbell’s work and the film Star Wars, which we watched in class, is based on the various stages of his hero’s journey. I was surprised to learn this because I had watched the movie before, but never compared its similarities to other stories. This class is constantly making me think about, and relate to, many different things. (Lahari Gorantla, Grade 11)

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ASIJ SAGE Students Meet with First Ladies

On March 19th Alicia Clow, grade 12, and Sofie Kusaba, grade 11, representing ASIJ and SAGE (Students Advocating for Gender Equality), had the opportunity to meet with First Ladies Michelle Obama and Akie Abe in a roundtable discussion on women’s education around the globe. Alicia and Sofie were two of only a few high school students invited to participate in the discussion which was largely comprised of college-aged students.

Alicia Clow reflects on meeting with these two influential women:

My father told my brother last week, “… I don’t think that’s very likely, but if you had asked me last month if your sister would be in the Asahi newspaper with Michelle Obama and Akie Abe, I would’ve said that’s not very likely.”

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My best friend Melanie Uno, Julia Sasanuma and I started SAGE, Students Advocating Gender Equality, in our Junior year after Melanie happened to stumble across the Asian University for Women (AUW), the university we now support. SAGE strives to not only raise money toward scholarships to the university, but also to raise awareness about gender inequality and education in and out of our community.

Especially this year, SAGE, now over 90 active members who meet at least once a week, has made amazing progress. In the past two years we have raised over ¥1.2 million and have sponsored one full-ride scholarship to AUW as well as projects that do not directly support the university, but still support our cause. I have had amazing opportunities through the network and publicity of my club. Most recently, I was able to participate in a roundtable experience with Michelle Obama and Akie Abe.

Before we listened to speeches by the two First Ladies, I met a number of young women from universities and high schools around Japan that were also participating in the roundtable. The group ranged from women studying business, to those who were designing office furniture for women. Watching the two First Ladies, both very powerful, successful women, believing and fighting for the cause I believe in and have been fighting for, was not only inspiring but also energizing. They didn’t just passively project ideals and theories, but also backed their answers with personal stories or data.

I loved how Mrs. Obama shared her educational background and demonstrated how her education is what led her to personal success as a mother and a professional success as a woman with a career. She emphasized that we can initiate change anywhere—even from our own backyards, and the issue of gender inequality and encouraging women’s education is not only a foreign issue, but an issue close to home.  I was also delighted to hear Mrs. Abe, who has been working with girls’ education in Asia, bring up AUW often in her answers to questions during the discussion.

Although I will be going to university in the fall, and my time with SAGE at ASIJ will end, I am excited to continue working with gender issues and girls’ education all over the world. (Alicia Clow, Grade 12)

You can watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s reflection on the discussion on The White House YouTube Channel or read it on The White House Blog. You can also read details on the event at The Wall Street Journal.

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The Carter Hammer Hits High School

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On March 6th Mimi Nakagawa, a representative from Habitat for Humanity in Japan, visited the ASIJ High School during activity period. With her, Mimi brought a hammer signed by former president Jimmy Carter, a leather-bound journal and a challenge. Dubbed “The #carterhammer Challenge,” participants are asked to use the hammer for a good deed, sign the journal and spread the Carter-hammer message through social media networks.

You can read full details of the #carterhammer challenge on their campaign’s homepage.

Jimmy Carter’s hammer is currently traveling around the Asia-Pacific region in order to raise awareness and money for new building projects. The hammer started in Thailand and will eventually meet Jimmy Carter in Nepal, where Habitat for Humanity will begin building houses using new techniques better suited for earthquake-prone regions.

ASIJ Highschool students are supporting the cause through a competition to see who can raise the most money: Freshmen and Juniors vs. Sophomores and Seniors. The #carterhammer challenge is not only a fundraising campaign, but also a social media campaign. Participants as well as supporters are encouraged to upload, share, hashtag and like the hammer on their favorite network.