End of the Japanese Adventure

(The following was written Monday, October 18, on the way from Seisen-ryo to Tokyo.  I could not upload the photos from Tokyo (bad connection) so this posting is being done from the US.  As a matter of fact, it is being done from Kansas City, MO, where Joanne and I are attending the National Collegiate Honors Council’s 45th annual conference along with a delegation of EKU students and faculty.)

It seems the only time I have to write on this trip is when we are on a bus.   The work and play of the delegation at KEEP is behind us and we are on the ride back to Tokyo where we will enjoy an afternoon and evening in the city before heading to the airport on tomorrow.  Joanne and I are in our 16th day in Japan.  While we have enjoyed this trip here like no other, we are ready to come home.

The delegation looked not too timeworn as they came into the terminal after clearing Japanese immigration and customs.  Looks can be deceiving, however, and most we asleep by the time we made it through Tokyo.   Most, too, were up early the next morning eager to explore their new surroundings.arrival.jpg

First came an orientation and work session where we went over the details of the week and prepared 14 official gift bags which the delegation would present to a variety of dignitaries over the week.  For me, one of the highlights came with Yasuko Tonegawa had the opportunity to meet James Rusch, nephew of the late Dr. Paul Rusch, whom the Japanese of the Yatugatake Highlands revere.  The striking similarity to his uncle made Jim an instant celebrity.memorial-center.jpg

party-koto.jpgThat evening, we attended the official welcoming reception, sponsored by our host, Hokuto City.  Mayor Shirakura and I spoke and both of us made our remarks in Japanese.  Part of the evening’s entertainment was a group of ladies who played some beautiful music on some scaled down versions of the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument.

Thursday was a very busy day.  We visited the city’s experimental solar panel test sign.  Picked by the Japanese Central government, Hokuto City’s site has 27 different brands of solar panels from nine countries.  They test thesolar-panels.jpg output of these different units under a variety of weather conditions.  Not surprisingly, they have found that all the units have different strengths and weaknesses.

Then it was to city hall where Mayor Shirakura and some of his senior leadership team informed us about education, tourism, and details about the city’s budget and operations.  Then I got to sit in his chair.city-hall.jpg

Our next stop was a local nursery school, where the children “clapped” the delegation in to the school property.  Joanne is leading the way in this photo.   She is followed by Masako Meshino, longtime.   Brian Ragsdale, who introduced me to the study of Japanese, is in the background, followed by Sandy and Jim Clark and James Dantic.nursery-school-walkin.jpg

meiji.jpgLater, we visited an historic sake brewery attached to a home where the Meiji emperor spent the night more than 130 years ago.   The room where he stayed was not entered by another person for more than 60 years, because it was believed by the Japanese people that he was a god on earth.   It was not until the end of World War II, when Emperor Hirohito declared that he was a mortal man that persons were allowed to enter the room again.   The gate through which the Meiji emperor entered the property has remained unopened since he used it.


Then we visited the Suntory Hashuku whisky distillery.   This whisky is single malt whisky, made in virtually the same fashion as Scotch whisky, even to the use of once used bourbon barrels.  The barrels are recharred up to five times and used to age the whisky from 10 to 31 years.barrel.jpg

Next was a trip to a small Buddhist temple famed for having one of Japan’s three oldest trees on its property.  This cherry tree, which blooms profusely each spring attracting hundreds of tour busses per day, is more than 2,000 years old.sakura.jpg

Friday was spent getting to Minobu-san, the site of a large and impressively beautiful Buddhist temple complex.  It is the home base of the same sect as operated the small temple we visited on Thursday.  A visitor can take all the outside photographs he or she wants, but photographs of the interiors must be taken while standing outside, as the interior shot here was taken.minobu-1.jpgminobu-2.jpgminobu-3.jpg

A spectacular sky lift provides a ride to a small, mountaintop temple, 700 meters above the main complex at Minobu.minobu-4.jpg

Saturday we saw the beginning of the Paul Rusch Yatsugatake County Fair.  I have written about this even in past blogs.   This year’s was the most spectacular I have seen.   The weather was wonderful and the crowds were very large, with 25 thousand at least there on each day.  The food was great, the dogs amazing, and the children as beautiful as ever.  When I presented James Rusch to the crowd during the opening ceremonies, the crowd reaction was overwhelming.  fair-opening.jpgdog.jpgfish-stick.jpgemma.jpg

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday and the second day’s use of the new Madison County Booth display designed by EKU art department chair, Dr. Herb Goodman.   We are already talking about how we need a booth that will better display them.fair-booth.jpg

Departure from Seisen-ryo this morning (Monday) was the same sweet sorrow as always. bye-bye.jpg Each of us is eager to get home to Kentucky, but sad to leave this place beautiful for both its scenery and its people.   Tokyo will be a stark contrast, but I look forward to showing the first timers on the trip Nakamise Street, the Cannon Temple, and the lights of the Ginza and Akihabara.

This has been our longest, most productive, and most enjoyable trip to Japan.  I truly believe we have finally gotten the ball rolling toward a partnership with Rikkyo University.  I learned a lot in my first American Committee for KEEP/KEEP board meetings and look forward to my involvement on a team of Americans and Japanese charged with developing international involvements for KEEP that will generate private support.  My fellow ACK board members and the members of the KEEP board are solid people whom I have grown to respect.  This certainly includes Tetsuro Kuroda-san whom I have known since my first trip to Japan 12 years ago.

The war is mentioned from time to time; sometimes as the Pacific War and sometimes as World War II.  It is always a matter of fact reference and without the slightest hint of animus.  Based on the relationships I have with my Japanese friends, it is almost hard to imagine that our fathers and uncles were at war.  That’s the basis for a good part of my belief in the value of international relations.   I believe they are a way help insure future understanding and peace.  

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Days in Kofu; Off to Meet the Delegation

 As I am writing this blog entry, Joanne, Kanae Meshino-san, Hiro Yoshida-san (KEEP staff) , Awazawa-san an official representative of Hokuto City and I are on the bus headed toward Narita to pick up the rest of the Madison County Delegation.    Awazawa-san was a member of the Hokuto City delegation to Madison County in May.

The other 18 delegates will be “fresh” from an almost 13-hour plane ride from Chicago.  Of course, they had left Richmond before dawn on Monday, October 11, to catch their 6:30 flight from Lexington to Chicago.   After we meet them at Narita, they will still have a four-hour bus ride to Hokuto City and Seisen-ryo.   That means those of us meeting them will have spent a total of eight hours on the bus today.

The delegation members we meeting include Jim and Sandy Clark, James and Julie Dantic, Randy and Cheryl Stone, Vi Farmer, Meena Mohanty, Patrick Kelleher, Beth Blanchard, Brian Ragsdale, James Rusch, Susan Mullins, Dinah Tyree, Steve Farmer, Jeff Farmer, Bobby Craig Thompson and Ruthie Lamb

Jim Clark is the executive director of government relations at EKU and Sandy is retired.  James Dantic is the Director of the Model Laboratory School at EKU and his wife Julie is a nurse.  Randy Stone is City Administrator in Berea and Cheryl is the retired direction of EKU’s Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Training. Vi Farmer is a member of the Berea City Commission and was instrumental in the creation, first of Berea’s partnership with Takane and later with Madison County’s sister region arrangement with what is now Hokuto City.  Meena Mohanty  is a public defender and daughter of retired EKU sociology professor Dr. Amiya Mohanty.,  Patrick Kelleher is a physician from Berea.   Beth Blanchard is the Director of International Student Services at EKU.  Brian Ragsdale is an EKU graduate who has his own computer software business and was an exchange student at Yamanashi University, our Japanese partner institution.

James Rusch may be the star of the delegation.    He is the only non-Madison Countian; coming from Louisville.   He is the nephew of Dr. Paul Rusch who was the force behind the Kiyosato Experimental Education Project.  He passed away in 1979 and is revered by the Japanese in the Yatsugatake Highlands.   I am anxious to see the Japanese reaction to him.  He bears a striking resemblance to his late uncle.

Susan Mullins the visiting artist and will remain in Japan the week following the delegation’s departure to teach in the area schools.   She is a Native American and an artist of diverse talents.

Dinah Tyree, Steve and Jeff Farmer, Bobby Craig Thompson and Ruthie Lamb are the traditional craftsperson part of the delegation. 

Yesterday, Joanne, Kanae, Jennifer Corwin, and I returned to KEEP after two days in Kofu.  Seisen-ryo was completely booked for the weekend, so we made the excursion south.  Sunday, Joanne and I spent a delightful day with our good friends Kiyomi and Noriko Ueya.  You can see them mentioned in my Japanese blogs from earlier years.   Kiyomi is a distinguished professor and they spent a year in Kentucky when he taught at EKU as an exchange professor.  With them, we visited Zenkoji Temple in Kofu, had a wonderful lunch of yakiniku at a mountainside wine village, toured a winery, drove to Lake Kawaguchi, one of the five lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji, and enjoyed a conomiyaki dinner back in Kofu.


We came back to KEEP at mid-day Monday in time for pizza at a delightful roadside restaurant that keeps a goat for a pet.pizza-place.jpg

Later that afternoon, we had the real pleasure of hearing a Japanese orchestra play Dvorak’s “The New World” as part of the Yatsugatake music series in a very nice music hall in Takane.  It was an emotional experience to hear Japanese musicians play with such gusto a piece written about America.concert.jpg

Back in room 201 of the old lodge, which has a remarkable charm, I took the below photograph from our bedroom window.


NOTE:  We are now approaching Tokyo on our way back from Narita toward Seisen-ryo.  Everyone arrived safely on their three different flights (one each on two and 16 on the third).  A light supper will await them at Seisen-ryo and a good night’s sleep before a whirlwind five days start tomorrow.


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KEEP, ACK Joint Board Meetings

Most of the last two days has been spent in very informative and, I think, productive joint meetings between the boards of directors of the Kiyosata Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) and the American Committee for KEEP (ACK), of which I am a new member attending my first meeting.


I have posted before about this remarkable place, the life’s labor of a remarkable Kentuckian, Dr. Paul Rusch, who fell in love with the land and the people of the Yatsugatake Highlands.  A resident of Louisville, he came here in the 30’s and stayed until interred at the start of World War II.  He was repatriated in 1942 and came back to Japan as an officer on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur.   After he separated from the service, he found this place in post war Japan.  He impacted the lives of the people in this part of Japan in a profound way before his death in 1979.   His legacy and legend lives on in KEEP, which is focused on the environment, health, and helping people help themselves.   In the latter regard, KEEP has been engaged in significant work around the globe; most notably in the Philippines and Tanzania.  Paul Rusch’s work did more than make him an object of near reverence, it also put Kentucky in the minds of the area populace in a very positive way.   Check out the name of this meeting room at the KEEP Discovery Center, a remarkable conferencing facility.




My first visit here was in 1998 and it changed my world view.  Now I serve on a board that can help it move forward.


Both KEEP and the ACK are strapped for cash.   This is primarily because of the massive investment of resources into a new lodge that is truly a world class facility.   A photo of part of our suite is below. Most of the discussion of the last two days have centered on how the KEEP and ACK boards can work together to put the hard economic times behind us and to further the vision of Paul Rusch.  We concluded that we would work together in two areas:


1)      We will pursue networking another means to help encourage more international visitors to KEEP, particularly from the USA.   This is one of those you must see to believe experiences.

2)      We will explore opportunities to carry KEEP’s work internationally in the realms of health and the environment, two cornerstones of Paul Rusch’s  vision.



In the right hand photo, you see Rinno-san, a banker from Kofu and the member of the KEEP Board most focused on finances, me, Teturo Kuroda, a long-time friend and member of the KEEP Board, and Tetsuo Chino, President of the KEEP Board and past CEO of Honda of America.







It may come a surprise that not all the work here is unpleasant.   Here is my good friend Yoshiku Koshimizu, a member of the KEEP Board, relaxing at an Irish pub he introduced to in the Japanese countryside.   Alongside, are a couple of folks from Richmond, KY, sitting at a Hallowe’en season display in a park-like shopping area in Kiyosato.



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To Japan - 2010

Joanne and I are into the fourth day of our visit to Japan.   We left Richmond at 4 a.m. Friday (Oct 1) morning, escorted by the apparently willing Joey Foster, who volunteered to take us to the airport.   If I had a decent bone in my body, I would have refused his offer.

We have become accustomed to the trip over; or as accustomed as one can get to a 13 hour flight.  Getting through Japanese immigration and customs, changing money, and the bus ride to our downtown (Shinjuku Hilton) hotel took us three hours and put us at the hotel at 6 p.m. Tokyo time.   That was 5 a.m. at home and, at that point, we had been up for 29 hours.  After a light meal, we slept well.

Sunday, we did a little exploring and spotted one of many of the ubiquitous golden signs of American culture in Tokyo.  


That evening we took the Chikatetsu (Tokyo subway) to the Rippongi Itchome station where we were met by EKU grad Kirby Easterling who walked us to his home.   There we spent some delightful time with wife Teresa, also an EKU alum, and their three daughters, Kourtney, Kassidy, and Kennedy.   Kirby and Teresa are originally from Pikeville and in what they think is the last year of a three-year tour in Tokyo where Kirby is a senior executive (Global Planning Manager) with Corning.  That evening we dined with Kirby and Teresa at the Panic, which he described as a famous Tokyo teppanyaki restaurant.   Famous or not, the 24-seat place was wonderful with all the cooking done in front of us by a husband and wife team.  Kirby and Teresa posed by the “sign.”   Afterward, it was back to their home for Teresa’s wonderful homemade peanut butter pie.



Monday, we made our third visit to Rikkyo University.   I believe we have made some headway in our efforts to make this fine institution our first partner in Tokyo.   As before, my friend Herbert L. Donovan III proved invaluable in making introductions.   Since our trip in May 2009, they have a new president and almost every other officer in the institutional leadership has changed.  With Herb’s help, we visited with President Tomoya Yoshioka, Executive Board member and Vice President, Dr. Jong Won Lee, Professor Koichiro Matsuda, Director of the Center for International Studies, Ruriko Sasaki, Administrative Director for the Center for International Studies and the Rev. Professor Renta Nishihara, a member of the Executive Board and Vice President.  The message that Herb had planted strongly before our arrival and I repeated is this:  Rikkyo has some very fine American institutions as partners.   These include both public and private research institutions and private liberal arts colleges.   They do not have a comprehensive public university on their list of partners and I have one identified for them.   It is the one that has a list of accomplishments that is unique among all American universities.   Take a look at www.eku.edu if you know not of what I speak.  We exchanged our standard draft initial agreements and I truly believe we will have a new partner in Japan before too much more time passes.   Here Joanne and I stand with Herb (far left) and Professor Matsuda.


That evening, we had a delightful tempura dinner with Jiro Hashimoto and his lovely wife Kumiko.   Jiro has been Kentucky’s economic development person in Japan for the past 25 years.   Next week, when we will still be in Japan, he will be in Kentucky working to help bring another new business hopefully to Madison County.   We will see Kumiko, a member of the Paul Rusch Society, next week at the Paul Rusch Yatsugatake County Fair (see blogs from two years ago)

This morning, Tuesday, Joanne and I went a few blocks from our hotel to the bus stop in front of the Nishi Shinjuku Building to catch the bus to Seisen-ryo.   Take a look at my blog from two years ago for the background on this remarkable facility that is a dream brought to fruition by the late Paul Rusch, a Kentuckian from Louisville.   It is part of KEEP (Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project).   I am a new member of the American Committee for KEEP and tomorrow I will participate in my first joint meeting of the ACK and KEEP boards.  I hope this will lead to significant service opportunities and international experiences for EKU students.


This part of our stay at Seisen-ryo will be in the new lodge.   Next week, we will be in the most rustic, but every charming original lodge.   The three pretty ladies in this photo are Charlotte Troutvetter, 10 month old daughter of Jennifer Corwin Trautvetter and her husband Bob, Kanae Meshino and my bride of 42-years today (it’s our anniversary), Joanne.


Next week, the balance of the sister region delegation from Madison County will join Joanne and me here.   In between, I have three days of board meetings and the weekend to enjoy in nearby Kofu, home of our existing Japanese partner institution, Yamanashi University.

Jaa matta ato de.



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Another Trip to Korea

Right after the Governor’s Conference on Trusteeship, I was off alone for another visit to Daegu Haany University.   This was at the invitation of our partner institution.   They asked for me to attend their 30th anniversary of the school’s founding and their vision declaration which is setting the stage for the future of this fine institution.   

The trip was arduous, but my hosts had provided business class travel which took some of the edge off leaving Chicago at 1 a.m. and landing in Seoul at 5:30 a.m. the next day.

The visit was wonderful.   It gave me an opportunity to meet with Daegu Haany University’s new president, Dr. LEE, Joon Koo and to strike up a relationship with the president of the National University of Mongolia, Dr. TUMUR-OCHIR, Sanjbegz.   It was also good to see Honorary President Byun, my friends Miss Kim and Mr. Baik, and, of course, retired EKU faculty member/dean, Dr. Danny Robinette who has taught there for the past several years.

The celebration was a remarkable series of events and I could not help but note the similarities between what DHU organized and conducted like similar events I have seen at many American universities.   They honored distinguished graduates, they honored faculty and staff, they celebrated their past and set aspirations for their future.  

Generally, Korean institutions are younger than their American counterparts.   As noted above, DHU is 30 years old.   In visiting with several of their honored graduates, I was struck by the fact that the bond between graduate and alma mater is the same both in America and Korea.

The more I travel, the more I realize that the differences among and between peoples are superficial.

Friday, Joanne and I are off on another trip to Japan.   I will try to maintain a blog presence from their again.  Another visit to Rikkyo University is on our agenda, as is my first meeting as a member of the American Committee for KEEP board.   There is some information on KEEP in my earlier blogs from Japan.   On the 12th, we will help greet the balance of the delegation from Madison County and will participate in a sister region visit through the 19th.

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