Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the JET Program at the JETAANY Gala! What an evening it was! Both JET alumni and friends came out dressed to the nines and ready to celebrate. We are so grateful for all of you and for these 30 years of an amazing program, friendships, and for setting an example of successful grassroots cultural exchange that has impacted so many of us and continues to impact U.S.-Japan relations in meaningful and positive ways.
This exciting evening started with a high-energy taiko performance by NY Taiko Aiko Kai and featured 3 original songs by the group, with special help from students of Columbia University Teachers College. Next up, four special guests — the Honorable Masaru Sato (Deputy Consul General, Consul-General of Japan in New York), Mr. Wataru Tozawa (Executive Director, Japan Local Government Center (JLGC), CLAIR New York), Mr. George Rose (JETAANY’s 2nd President), & Ms. Wendy Ikemoto (JETAANY’s current President) — participated in a kagami biraki (traditional sake barrel-breaking ceremony). This was followed by a toast with our co-chairs, Alex Varney and Andy Shartzer.
After dinner, the evening continued with a speech from our Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker Mr. Sato, followed by remarks from Mr. Tozawa, Ms. Ikemoto, and Reverend Earl Ikeda, the Resident Minister at the New York Buddhist Church. Mr. Ikeda discussed the origins and significance of the traditional Japanese holiday, Setsubun. The segment ended with bad news for the MCs, Lee-Sean and Zach, as they donned oni masks then proceeded to say “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” while soybeans were thrown at them.
JETAANY next honored a number of individuals that have been pivotal to not only the chapter, but also to growing, supporting, and contributing to the U.S.-Japan community, namely:
-Sue Brown: For Exceptional Contributions to JETAANY
-Monica Yuki: For Exceptional Contributions to JETAANY
-Steven Horowitz: For Exceptional Contributions to the JET Community
-George Rose: For Exceptional Contributions to US-Japan Relations
-Matt Gillam: For Exceptional Support of the JET Program and Contributions to the JET Community
-Jim Gannon: For Exceptional Contributions to US-Japan Relations
After the award presentations and speeches, our gala MCs announced the winners of the prize drawing. Several organizations including the Japan Society, Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center, New York Yankees, New York Giants, and Nippon Travel Agency, among others generously donated gifts and some lucky gala attendees walked away winners.
The MCs wrapped up the evening with a presentation of goodwill messages from around the world including former JETAANY officers and board members, JETAA chapters, and friends. Attendees then hit the dancefloor and showed off their moves!
Stay tuned for more photos from the event.