144 years after his death, Sakamoto Ryoma’s descendants do America and plant leadership seeds

About 200 or so New York City area high school students traveled to the Japan Society near the United Nations to hear descendants of Japan’s most famous modern era leaders and Koichi Prefecture high school students speak to them about leadership and inspiration.

Noboru Sakamoto, 9th generation descendant of Sakamoto Ryoma, Minako Koyama, Minako Koyama, 5th generation descendant of Katsu Kaishu, joined John Manjiro scholar Junji Kitada and three (female) Koichi Prefecture high school students in two hours of discussion.

The visitors to America gave their views on how Japan’s mighty leaders could have approached the issues facing society today.

I was struck by the simplicity and beauty of getting Japanese and American students – and seniors! in one place to share views and hear from the progeny of Japan’s Abraham Lincolns and Martin Luther Kings. This should happen more!

US Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos tweets often about the lack of Japanese students choosing to study in America. I would argue that the traditional academic model of student exchange needs to take into consideration the more direct and innovative approach of getting young students and the elderly from both countries together face to face more. Our aging and challenged societies will do better if we join young and old in an exchange of global learning and sharing. 

The event was picked up in a small mention in the Asahi newspaper (Japanese) but the significance of the mention is disproportionate to the potential inspiration left with the students and seniors who braved the stage and shared their views.

It is never too late for Japan to reinvent itself – it just has to plant a few seeds and have a couple of majestic trees along to provide the shade.

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Noboru Sakamoto, 9th generation descendant of Sakamoto Ryoma explaining the nuance of “Igosso” to US High School students

 

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