2007 Internationalisation Awards

Winner– Mr. Seikoh Sasaki

Ms. April Morley wrote:

When I first heard about Mr. Seikoh Sasaki he was described as a type of ‘Japanese Idol’ because he had countless appointments and was often traveling abroad. Upon meeting him I realised how true this was as his dedication to internationalisation and friendly demeanor has meant he is well known in his local community and in many foreign circles. A typical week sees his calendar filled with: teaching English, translating documents and speeches, consultation on exchange issues and being a friend and advisor to locals and foreigners alike. Mr. Sasaki should be nominated for an award due to his passion for promoting internationalisation and for the positive influence he has on those around him.

Mr. Sasaki has been a Japanese Teacher of English at a High School level for over thirty eight years. His work however, extends far beyond the classroom and touches on many peoples lives both in Japan and abroad. Some of the main activities he is involved in include: Tome International Friendship Organization, International Exchange consultant to the local government and unlimited support to the local JET community. The Tome International friendship Organization is a group of Japanese people who organise international events within Tome City. Some of these events include: the annual Tome International Festival where people of many different cultures come together, Halloween and Christmas parties and other celebrations where foreign traditions can be taught and enjoyed. At these events he helps to organise activities, translate documents, and host proceedings. There are always a variety of foods and performances on display at these events and participants come from diverse origins including: China, Korea, Russia, Australia, Canada, America, South Africa, Ireland and England.

Mr. Sasaki is also formally involved in promoting internationalisation through his work with Tome local government. This ranges from setting up sister city agreements, organising home stay programs and regular translation work. He helps to organise trips abroad so that the residents of Tome can visit their sister city in The United States of America and vice versa. Every year he also helps arrange home stay programs for students from a number of local and foreign schools. Students visit countries such as England, The United States of America and Australia and students from these countries visit Japan. He is involved in many steps of each group’s journey which can range from basic language classes to cultural information and traveling tips. However, this is not only limited to the students, it is extended to their families and friends as well to maximise the number of people involved. Each year he travels abroad with at least one of these groups to ensure the program runs smoothly. While abroad, he makes many friends and encourages them to visit Japan. This is demonstrated in the many well wished he receives over Christmas and the New Year period.

While Mr. Sasaki is the official supervisor of one JET at his High School, he assists approximately eight JETs on a regular basis. This ranges from issues with mobile phones and bank accounts to professional and personal support. His home phone and cell phone are always on and he encourages you to call even if it’s just for a simple question or a chat. These conversations often turn into hilarious discussions where there is more laughter than talking. He is dedicated to ensuring that foreigners have a smooth transition into their local communities and makes them feel that by having a different background, they have something unique to offer at a grass-roots level. This encourages involvement in local activities in the longer term and inspires them to teach about their own culture.

As a supervisor he is constantly helping me to become involved in my local community and beyond. I have had a lot of ideas to improve English education at my school and he has been very encouraging and supportive. Due to my lack of knowledge of the Japanese language he has helped me harmonise with my co-workers and make a positive impact on my students learning. I recently organised an art exchange between a school in Australia and due to its success there are future plans between schools in England. I am now also involved in local events and activities outside of the school. Thus, Mr. Sasaki is very supportive of others ideas to promote internationalisation.

In the classroom he is a dedicated teacher. He often brings back interesting souvenirs from trips abroad and challenges students to keep open minds about the world outside of Japan. When doing this he helps Japanese students to realise that their culture is unique and that they have something special to share with others. Simultaneously he ensures that they also acknowledge that they have a lot to learn about other cultures.

Mr. Seikoh Sasaki is approaching retirement however this does not mean he will retire from building bridges between international communities. It is a joy for him to foster international exchange and it pervades many aspects of his everyday life. He hopes to continue working with the local government and anticipates that he will have more time to help future JETs during their stay in Japan. He is deserving of an award because he doesn’t ask for recognition or complain about his busy schedule. To Mr. Seikoh Sasaki, internationalisation is not something that happens suddenly, it’s a way of thinking combined with consistent actions that makes it a reality.

Honorary Mention – Mr. Michikaz Shintack

Ms. Lisa Dvorjetz wrote:

Mr. Shintack is almost the definition of internationalisation: “becoming involved with transcending national boundaries or viewpoints”. With his kind nature and thirst for knowledge he has not only opened his own eyes but opened the eyes of those around him.

The very first time I met Mr.Shintack, he was very proud of the fact that he knew people from many different countries and is in the process of learning languages such as English and Chinese (as well as a bit of French and German). He started telling me that the commencement of his love for foreign cultures started when he watched a random Japanese TV programme in which a woman went traveling around to foreign countries. This truly fascinated him because he had no idea that such things existed outside of Japan. So, the first step in Mr.Shintack expanding his knowledge of other customs was through learning English. Most people, when learning English, only care about daily conversations but Mr.Shintack thrives to know more about how he can help foreigners adjust to Japan by helping them discover traditional Japanese customs and ways of life. Living in the countryside can make foreigners feel alone and far from home but Mr.Shintack will put down everything to help a foreign person adjust into the society. For example, from his knowledge of Chinese language and culture, he got into a conversation with an ALT about what his favourite Chinese foods are. One of those items is a smelly Chinese cheese. This ALT mentioned the search he went on in Japan to try and find this ingredient but failed to find it anywhere. The following week, Mr.Shintack arrived with a jar of this Chinese cheese. Not only did he give some to the ALT but also gave another jar so that the ALT can pass it onto his friends.

Another instance of Mr.Shintack’s kind-heartedness is that even on New Year’s day, a day traditionally for Japanese people to spend time with their families, he invited an ALT and his friend to go to the hot spring with him since he knew that they were miles away from home over the holiday period. This proves that he is trying to expand other people’s awareness of different country’s ways of life as well as letting his generous personality shine through.

For the past 9 years, Mr.Shintack has been involved in a home stay program. Visitors from all over the world, such as England, Thailand and Malaysia, come to his home for a few days on a cultural exchange. Many foreigners who visit Japan have pre-conceived perceptions on stereotypical Japanese life so he not only shows these people the tourist sights of Japan, but also the unseen side of what it’s like to be a true Japanese. He has invited many of them to go to a Shinto shrine with him and at the shrine, he will pray for prosperity and good fortune.

To pass on his enthusiasm for English and western culture, he voluntarily helps out at an adult English conversation class. With this beginner’s class, since they do not have a vast vocabulary, he acts as an interpreter between the native English speaker and the students. He not only translates but also gives advice to the students on how to communicate to foreigners in English, something that textbooks have difficulty explaining. Thanks to this, many of the students from this class opened their houses to the home stay program visitors.

He has motivated many of the elderly in the community, who would not otherwise have learnt English, to conquer a language barrier and communicate through cultural exchange. One interesting story is that there is an elderly woman in the community whose son went to study in America for a while. The mother told her son “You can go to America and date anyone as long as she isn’t dark skinned”. The son became very angry with his mother for being so close minded. Years later, thanks to Mr.Shintack, this elderly woman opened up her house for the home stay students and it just so happened that the girl staying at her house was of an African origin. Mr.Shintack feared that the elderly woman would show her prejudice to this girl but on the contrary, the woman absolutely adored this girl and realised that it’s the personality in someone that matters the most. This is one of the many things that Mr.Shintack has stressed to the many people he meets. “We are all human beings and we should all learn to get along with each other”. With this kind of mentality, the world is already a better place.

In conclusion, over the many years, there have been ALT’s that have come and gone in the Hiroshima Prefecture but strangely enough, he remembers each one of their names and where they come from. He also tries his very best to keep in touch with them through the technology readily available to us. He truly wants to hold onto the international bonds that he has made so that he can continue to learn all that there is to learn about different cultures and countries.