Akira Otsuka (Class of 1986) was at YIS during her nursery year in 1973 and her high school years from 1983 to 1986. Today her two daughters are YIS students. We asked Akira to tell us about her experiences at YIS and why she decided to enroll her children here.
When were you at YIS and what were your experiences like?
I was at YIS briefly during nursery year (a few months in 1973) and from Grade 9 to Grade 12 (1983-1986). I enjoyed both experiences and was surrounded by great teachers and friends, some of whom I am still in contact with. School field trips, school dances and home economics classes are some of the fun moments I still remember. I have particularly fond memories of the field studies, including a long hike in Hiroshima (Gr.10) and staying overnight at Shirakawa village (Gr.11). I also have wonderful memories of singing and dancing to the hokey pokey song and going to the Halloween party and Christmas concert while at nursery school.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
I attended Sophia University and majored in Japanese Studies, focusing on Japanese Linguistics. After graduating from Sophia I was accepted as one of ten participants to be dispatched to the United States to work as a Japanese language teaching assistant. I worked in a public high school in Eugene, Oregon for two years, and then as a Japanese language assistant in Victoria, Australia for another two years.
After returning to Japan, I worked briefly as a substitute teacher at YIS, continuing with my studies in language teaching through distance education. At the same time, I applied for a job at Kanagawa International Foundation, which is an affiliate of the Kanagawa Government, and I have been working with them up until today. My responsibilities include accounting; acceptance and planning and conducting daily activities for technical trainees from developing countries. I also conduct judging committees to finalize grant programs for activities operated for both overseas and domestic NGO's within Kanagawa Prefecture and I organize monthly events for children, inviting foreign-residents as guest speakers to introduce their home countries in Japanese.
Your daughters are YIS students now. Why did you decide to enroll them at YIS?
The time I spent at YIS together with classmates and teachers with various backgrounds was not only fruitful, but created a unique basis for work and other experiences later on in my life. Along with using what I learned through studies, the most important experience was sharing ideas with people from different backgrounds. I am still in touch with some of my classmates and teachers, and that gives me a lot of opportunity to be engaged with the international community. Mr. & Ms. Bernard, Mr. Stanworth, Ms. Ishida, Ms. Tsugawa, and Mr. Kunoki are some of the wonderful teachers who brought valuable meaning to my student life and beyond, and I truly respect them all. I would like our children to experience the same student life in such a wholesome and supportive environment.
I believe that it is very important for our children to spend their school life together with friends, teachers, staff and administrators from a variety of backgrounds; the strong English curriculum at YIS is certainly an added bonus. By interacting with people from different parts of the world, origins, and ethnic backgrounds, our children will learn that there are different ways of approaching life and its challenges, by sharing ideas and ways of thinking with classmates and teachers on a daily basis in a multicultural school environment. Having English language skills together with Japanese or any other languages will also open up more opportunities for our children to study abroad, and to search for work in an international and multicultural environment.
There are various ethnic communities existing within our hometown Yokohama, for example Chinese, Korean and Indian. Each community has its own history and culture to hand down to the young ones, but also faces challenges residing in a foreign country. Japanese people must live harmoniously with our neighbors from overseas. In order to realize that there are people with different origins and backgrounds, and to respect each other's thoughts and ideas, we believe that it is ideal to let our children gain that experience at an early stage of life.
How is YIS different today from when you went to school here?
The IB educational system had not been introduced when I went to school here. The school facilities are gorgeous now, but I do miss the old wooden assembly hall and the home economics room that no longer exist.
Akira's two daughters
Akira with her son and daughter