Thank God for our 15th anniversary

It was drizzling a bit on February 26, 2010 (Fri) when the 15th Anniversary of the Atsumi International Scholarship Foundation and the 10th Anniversary of SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association) was celebrated at the Kajima KI Building in Akasaka, Tokyo.

The celebration outdid that one five years ago, and was able to convey the gratitude that many “raccoons” had towards the Atsumi Foundation (Chief Directress Itsuko Atsumi and Managing Directress Junko Imanishi).

A raccoon refers to a scholarship recipient of the Atsumi Foundation. Owing to the many raccoon drawings of the Atsumi Foundation founder, Takeo Atsumi, an alumni association, RaccoonKai, was formed, the members of which were called “raccoons”. The members of RaccoonKai are also members of SGRA. Since SGRA, however, is an open network, its membership is not limited to raccoons. The raccoon ages below are the number of years from becoming an Atsumi scholarship recipient up to the present, and at the same time gives an idea of the history of membership in SGRA.

The celebration program was as follows

Part I (Master of Ceremonies: Yu Xiaofei)
Opening Remarks: Chief Directress Itsuko Atsumi
Congratulatory Remarks: Screening Committee Chief Yotaro Hatamura and Board Member Yasushi Akashi
“15 Years of Atsumi Foundation and 10 Years of SGRA: The Path Up to Now and to the Future” Managing Directress Junko Imanishi (SGRA Chief Representative)
Updates from Former Scholarship Recipients (Online Chat with Taipei, Boston, Seoul)
Wadaiko Performance

Part II (Master of Ceremonies: Jiang Susu, Sim Choon Kiat)
Based on Chief Representative Junko Imanishi’s proposal submitted to the Atsumi Foundation board one year ago, the project called “AISF15★SGRA10” was initiated. During the SGRA Karuizawa Forum last summer, the Operations Committee (OPCOM) was organized and formally set up in fall. The 6tanuki3 mailing list was created, whereby the OPCOM frequently consulted each other online (peaking at 20 emails in one day), in addition to several offline meetings. The “6” is the number of OPCOM members (adding their “raccoon age”, in the words of the master of ceremonies of part 2) are Eric Schicketanz (1 year old), Wang Jianhong (3 years old), Sim Choonkiat (4 years old), Jiang Susu (5 years old), Jeon Jin-Hwan (9 years old), and myself Max Maquito (15 years old). The “3” refers to SGRA’s Keiko Ishii (Managing Committee), Tadahiro Shimazu (Managing Committee Head), and Chief Representative Junko Imanishi, who supported the OPCOM.

Despite being the youngest child, OPCOM’s Eric did a lot of work from making arrangements for the owls from Europe to calling for people to help out during the celebration, as well as the BGM. Wang many times took the long journey to attend OPCOM meetings at Sekiguchi from Saitama, where (real) raccoons may still be running around. With his baritone voice and humorous disposition, Sim paired up with Susu, the manager of OPCOM’s purse, to become the master of ceremonies of part 2. The head of OPCOM, Jeon, who has been blessed by SGRA’s good supporter Kajima, managed, in coordination with various fun programs such as the internet live chat of part 1, the Kagami-biraki and cake present of part 2, as well as the arrangements for the venue facilities.

Besides this, it was encouraging to see raccoons responding to the request for assistance by the OPCOM and Chief Representative Imanishi. The registration and guidance of guests were handled by Shermatov Ulugbek (1 year old), Housam Darwisheh (1 year old), Son Joung-A (1 year old), Kim Youngs-Soon (1 year old), Yang Myung-Ok (6 years old), Chang Kuere (7 years old), Maria Elena Tisi (7 years old). The internet live chat was assisted in by Yeh Wen-chang (11 years old), and Nalin Weerasinghe (4 years old). Photos were taken by Kwak Young-Joo (1 year old), Feng Kai (2 years old), Yuk Jae-Hwa (2 years old). The setting of the banners and Kagami-biraki were assisted by Rinchin (1 year old), Ye Kyaw Thu (1 year old), and Lwin U Htay (9 years old). Despite their busy research and work schedules, everyone showed up to lend a very much needed hand. Moreover, they were joined by 51 raccoons, who showed up for the celebrations. We would also like to give our heartfelt thanks to raccoons all over the world who contributed funds for the celebrations. Our thanks also to SGRA’s cooperators and special members, the foreign students support group, and for supporting firms including Kajima (with apologies to those who are not mentioned).

In addition to the theme of “thanks from raccoons”, I think that we all felt “the world’s raccoons” was another theme in the celebrations. Through the internet live chat, which was not possible five years ago, we all felt how small the world has become: in Taipei there was Chen Tzu-ching (8 years old) and Chan Chai-fong (3 years old), with graduate students waving at the back. In Boston, there was Lim Chuan-tiong (10 years old) and Kevin Wong (5 years old) who looked so sleepy (it was 3:30 AM in Boston). And there was Nam Ki-Jeong (14 years old) and Han Kyoung-Ja (5 years old), and Lee Eung-Yong (3 years old) who prepared a chocolate cake with the number 15 on it. Moreover, as MANCOM Chief Shimazu put it, owls (decorative figurines) flew in from Italy, Germany, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Sri Lanka. According to the survey of the world’s raccoons, in addition to the SGRA members who were already giving their time and energy the 7 research teams and 4 overseas base camps, a love call from raccoons all over the world could be heard as 98 raccoons responded in favor of participating in SGRA activities in some way, proposing 23 new research themes, and initiation of activities in 10 additional countries/regions.

Part 1 was finished off with a Wadaiko performance by Mira Sonntag (6 years old), her daughter Yukiko-chan, and the folks from Studio Hogaku Academy Wadaiko. As the master of ceremonies Yu Xiaofei (8 years old) remarked, the sound of the drums sounded as cool as the beating of the heart.

In his greetings, Mr. Yasushi Akashi pointed out that in international exchanges it would be better to work on the premise that “the other person is different” instead of “the other person is the same.” He stressed that even when there is difference it should be respected. Spoken like a good sympathizer of the “one-country, one-vote” principle of the UN.

It brought to my mind the following words written during SGRA’s creation 10 years ago: “To the wooded hills of Sekiguchi, overlooking a shogun’s stake by the banks of the River Edo, we have gathered from different lands in quest of the ways of the Rising Sun. From here we journey on to the world, in search of harmony in diversity.”

In his greetings, Chief of the Screening Committee Dr. Yotaro Hatamura spoke “My starting to work in the screening committee came about since my kid was going to the same kindergarten as Imanishi-san’s. At one time, I was thinking of giving up, but I realized that I would be giving up the opportunity to be in touch with high level academic research. The work also got to be more interesting as I did more of it. So, I would like to be allowed to continue, if I am not getting in the way.” These are words that the raccoons of the world would surely agree to.

Chief Representative Imanishi, in her presentation promised that “I would like to further increase our membership, and expand our circle towards new themes and new overseas base camps.”

As mentioned above, through the survey carried out as part of these celebrations, we have confirmed the intentions of raccoons from the world over about their interest in SGRA’s activities. As SGRA global citizens, who naturally include these raccoons, individually take initiative in their respective settings, they will on their own be able to pave the way towards a SGRA global community. We will soon be sending out the second part of the survey so as to support such initiatives. We would like to take the next step hand in hand with all the members of SGRA.

I am filled with excitement about Atsumi Foundation’s future.

(by Max Maquito)

Photos by SGRA Staff(1)

Photos by SGRA Staff(2)

Photos by Thomas 
 PW: Lovely tanuki