Years at YIS: 3 years
You recently had one of your paintings exhibited at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Could you tell us about how that came about, how you felt and if you have had other exhibitions in Japan or elsewhere?
I was extremely lucky to meet the head of the Jyoryu Women's Artists Association, an all women's artists collective, last year when I was visiting the museum for an exhibition. I gave her my business card on which I had a little painting, which she liked. She invited me to attend a workshop they held. The collective holds a submission-based exhibition at the museum every year. I submitted three paintings, from which one was chosen to be exhibited.
I published an anthology of poetry while in high school and I had exhibited my poetry, photography, and sculptures in an exhibition at my college last year, but this was my first exhibition at a public museum. It was a true honor to have my painting exhibited at a museum that I have been visiting with my grandmother since I was a toddler, and it was the experience of a lifetime to get to take her there to see my painting. Seeing the smiles of my former teachers, Ms. Barbour and Mr. Lorimer, at the exhibit was also very rewarding (Ms. Barbour and Mr. Lorimer are pictured with Juna, below). It's another reason I am so grateful for this experience.
Which teachers played an important role in your time at YIS?
Ms. Barbour and Mr. Simon Lorimer played significant roles in my life during my time at YIS. Both of them went above and beyond their duties as teachers and showed me so much care and concern. I would not have accomplished anything I did in high school and beyond if I hadn't had them rooting for me and supporting me throughout.
Please describe a memorable moment from your time at YIS.
I recall many moments in my English Literature class with Ms. Cari Barbour where genuine connections, honest conversations, and moments of sharing occurred between people of vastly different social groups.
Do you keep in touch regularly with YIS classmates? If so, please tell us about any particular reunions you have had.
What grade at YIS would you want to relive, and why? Would you do anything differently?
I honestly would not want to relive any grade! I feel grade 11 was the year I finally figured out how to comfortably navigate high school. I feel it's the same way with a lot of people - they started realizing who they were by the end of high school.
If I would do anything differently, it would have been to have made more of an effort to engage in the local Yokohama community. Though I'm half Japanese and grew up speaking Japanese, by the time I graduated, I'd realized I had neglected putting in the effort to maintain my mother tongue. As I grow older, I really want to make an effort to strengthen my connection to Japan because it's such a beautiful country and I don't want to lose the gentle and patient parts of me that Japan has cultivated.
I did lose a close friend in high school. Her parting taught me to take every opportunity to tell the people I associate with that I think positively about them.
Where you are based now, and what your occupation and lifestyle are like?
I live in New York, and attend an art school called Pratt Institute. I work at a butcher shop on the weekends and also volunteer for an organization that facilitates free art classes for elementary students at a local library.
In the near future I plan to pursue a graduate degree in social work to work for the prison abolition movement in the United States and to work to free Palestine. I see myself working in prison education, and I hope I have the opportunity to teach art to prisoners.
Given your achievements and experiences, what advice would you give to YIS students in Gr. 11 or 12?
In general, I think a grateful heart is a magnet for positive opportunities.
Thus, my first piece of advice is for every student at YIS. Each and every one of us who has ever attended YIS is so extremely privileged, in ways that are impossible to see unless you remove yourself from the opportunity-blessed environment at YIS. I recommend every student should get a part-time job at a convenience store or a family restaurant during their time in high school. And despite thinking that they don't have time to do so, I think students actually do. Working in the service industry can open your eyes to the absolute privilege that each of us in the international school environment enjoys.
My second piece of advice is for those unhappy in their environment right now. In high school, I couldn't even begin to imagine how different, and better, my life would become once I graduated and had the opportunity to build my own communities and set up my own life. Those opportunities are waiting for everyone. Just keep your head down, work hard, and I promise you will have a whole world waiting for you beyond YIS. You deserve to experience that world.