Japanese program celebrates 30 years
February 9, 2003
Ray Delgado, Anastasia Hendrix, San Francisco Chronicle
More than 250 members of San Francisco's Japanese American community attended a
party recently to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the San Francisco Unified
School District's Japanese Bilingual Bicultural
The program -- which has been at several schools but is currently in place at
William R. DeAvila Elementary School on Haight Street -- gives students in
kindergarten through fifth grade one hour of
Japanese-language and cultural instruction.
The curriculum was designed to "retain Japanese culture and language after
the internment in World War II," said Julia Hatta, a program volunteer whose son
and daughter both attend DeAvila Elementary. "The
parents (who founded the program) were the children of those camps who realized
they had lost so much of the culture and language and tradition, and this was an
effort to regain some of that."
Specially trained, native Japanese speakers provide the instruction. The program
was conceived in 1969 by the Japanese Speaking Society of America, which asked
the San Francisco Board of Education to implement
It took four years of dedication and diligence before the program won funding
and opened its doors in 1973. Since then, more than 1,000 students have
participated in the program, dozens of whom attended the party.
They nibbled sushi and lychee hors d'oeuvres stuffed with macadamia nuts at the
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as they honored the 12 founders of the program
and four others who have worked recently to
The founders -- Ruth Asawa, Jacques Fitch, Nob Fukuda, Kay Higashi, Kanji
Kuramoto, Phyllis Matsuno, Sieko and Kenji Murase, Naomi Nishioka, Will
Tsukamoto, Shiro Watanabe and Suzanne Yamada -- received bouquets from current
The other four honorees -- Karen Kai, Alice Mar, Richard Wada and Myrna
Tsukamoto -- were given framed collages made of washi paper emblazoned with a
Shinto gate, a symbol of tradition, bridging generations and strength.
This report, compiled by Chronicle staff writers, runs Sundays in the Bay
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