Friendship Blooms Anew

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Sakura Festival celebrates the bonds between Vancouver and Japan

Sakura Festival 2013

Scholarship recipient Maho Muto (red kimono) stands with friends and Tatsuo Ito, SEH America Inc. executive vice president.



Friendship, like all living things, requires regular tending to keep it thriving. And Clark College’s 2013 Sakura Festival did just that, strengthening the bonds of friendship that led to Clark receiving a gift of 100 shirofugen cherry trees from John Kageyama, president of America Kotobuki.

Kageyama was present at the opening ceremony for the festival, held in mid-April. He expressed joy in seeing the trees he had donated in 1990 now mature and blossoming.

“At the time, I didn’t realize how beautiful these trees would grow,” he said during his speech to the crowd that gathered under gray but rainless clouds.

Other dignitaries who spoke during the ceremony included Clark College President Bob Knight; Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt; Tatsuo Ito, executive vice president of SEH America Inc.; and Toshiharu Okuda of the Kyoto Prefecture Assembly. Joyo, Vancouver’s sister city in Japan, is located within Kyoto Prefecture.

The ceremony took place next to the Royce E. Pollard Japanese Friendship Garden, yet another gift of friendship cementing the ties between Vancouver and Japan. The garden was a gift to the city of Vancouver from Dr. Chihiro Kanagawa. During its dedication at the 2012 Sakura Festival, President Knight announced the Dr. Kanagawa Scholarship providing full tuition and fees to an international student from Japan to attend Clark College for one academic year.

Maho Muto, the first recipient of the scholarship, also spoke during the ceremony. Clad in a traditional kimono, she expressed her thanks for the opportunity to study at Clark.

“I feel like I have a big, big family in Vancouver, Washington,” she said. “You have made me so happy to have the opportunity to study here and I am thankful for so many people’s support.”

Before the ceremony, Yukiko Vossen performed on the koto, the national string instrument of Japan, with flute accompaniment. The ceremony ended with a performance by the Clark College Women’s Choral Ensemble under the direction of music professor April Duvic.

President Knight concluded his remarks by saying, “As we celebrate the beauty of our flowering cherry trees, let us also take a moment to celebrate the friendships that have brought us here today. May they too continue to bloom and flourish for years to come.”

Portland Taiko Drummers

Portland Taiko drummers enliven Gaiser Student Center.

After the formal ceremony, guests walked to Gaiser Student Center to enjoy cultural displays and activities hosted by Vancouver Rotary, the Clark College Japanese Club, International Programs, and the Anime and Manga Club. Onstage entertainment included a demonstration of a formal Japanese tea ceremony and a lively performance by the Portland Taiko drummers.

Newly tenured Japanese professor Michiyo Okuhara, who serves on the Sakura Committee, circulated among her students and among the children from Child & Family Studies who were attending the festival. “For our program, it’s a wonderful way to have community members come to Clark and get to appreciate the friendship we have with Japan,” she said. “I’m from Japan, and so when people understand Japanese culture, it’s wonderful for me both on a personal level and as a Japanese teacher.”

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