On April 17, members of the JET Alumni Association of New York (JETAANY) were invited to attend a reception at the Nippon Club for the Governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, who was in New York to drum up support for his city’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Among the guests at the reception included Willie Banks, the three-time track and field Olympian, and world record holder from 1985-95 in Men’s Triple Jump. (Cool trivia: Banks speaks fluent Japanese.)
And on May 3, several JETAANY members, along with employees of CLAIR and the Japanese consulate, were on site to help Inuyama City Council Member Anthony Bianchi (Aichi-ken, 1987-91) and B. Bridges participants at the Japan Friendship Festival at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza. The B. Bridges program (short for “Brooklyn Bridge” as well as “Building Bridges” and “Be Bridges”) was created as a cultural exchange program by Bianchi and the administration of Xaverian High School, of which Bianchi is an alumnus.
“The idea for the B. Bridges exchange program was born 10 years ago at an event the Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, held for me at Borough Hall after my first election, so it was great to be able to hold this, our Japan Friendship Festival: Inuyama Day at Borough Hall,” Bianchi said.
The program has sent close to 500 people from Brooklyn to Inuyama City and vice versa. This year, 40 participants came from Inuyama City to stay with families of students attending the school. On a beautiful sunny day, JETAANY members were able to help the group out at various booths which showcased tea ceremony, Japanese calligraphy, and traditional Japanese toys and wares.
“The cooperation of the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the Japanese Consulate of New York, the Japan Local Government Center, and the JET Alumni Association of New York were crucial to making this event successful,” explained Bianchi.
He added: “I was also proud of our B. Bridges members, as well as our exchange partners at Xaverian High School, who made great use of the opportunity. This, I believe, made the event a great experience for all those in attendance.”