The photos have been sorted through, uploaded, and watermarked, which means I can finally make this long overdue post. Before I do, I must announce to those who haven’t heard that Purple SKY will no longer be updated. I’m currently looking for writing opportunities, and that may affect the content of this blog in the future. I’ll keep everyone posted. Now onto our regular schedule programming.
From August 28 to September 3, North Texas hosted a delegation of over 150 Japanese visitors for the 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit. I’ve already written about the inspiration behind the Summit, the friendship between John Manjiro Nakahama and Captain William H. Whitfield. The John Manjiro Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange and the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth worked together with fifteen cities to give the visitors an unforgettable experience.
I wasn’t able to participate in the first day’s activities due to work, but the Summit got off to a great start with Japan-America Friendship Night at the Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays game. Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, along with the rest of the team and gloops International, Inc., helped sponsor the Ishinomaki Little Senior team. They were one of the three youth groups from Tohoku visiting through the TOMODACHI Initiative. I’ve never really been a fan of baseball, but I definitely support the Rangers for their kindness.
Wednesday night was the Opening Ceremony at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth. A lot of big names were present, including many of the DFW mayors, a former ambassador to Japan, the Consul-General of Japan in Houston, and descendants of Commodore Matthew C. Perry (pictured below), Manjiro, and Captain Whitfield. The Kesennuma youth group made a very touching presentation about surviving the tsunami. Then the mood was lifted with barbecue and line dance lessons.
I found it odd that the food wasn’t labeled and had to instruct a couple of people on the purpose of gravy. After overhearing one of the guests mistaking a jalapeño for some eggplant-like vegetable, I tried to do a bit of damage control. Another thing I overheard was the bartender not understanding a boy asking for “cola”. Somebody should have told them that in Texas, “coke” can mean a lot of different things.
The visitors spent a little more time in Fort Worth before splitting up to the various host cities the next day. I helped welcome Southlake’s ten-member delegation at city hall before accompanying them on a tour of the DPS. There was a retired fire chief in the group so it was interesting to hear from him what was different about American firefighters and fire stations.
That evening, the city held a reception where two of the visitors performed a traditional Japanese dance. Since I knew one of the dancers (I met her while I was a JET and my family was hosting her), I wound up getting recruited to assist them in teaching everyone. I was nervous, but I had some kids from one of the host families by my side and even the mayor wound up jumping in.
There was an after party at a Southlake Sister Cities member’s house. They attempted to do karaoke, but it didn’t really work. One of the visitors, an old monk who had been soaking up every minute of the Summit, did sing the Japanese version of “Tennessee Waltz” a capella. The guy knew how to live life to the fullest.
Friday began with an optional tour of Central Market. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant that also served ramen. I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of this idea because while I personally don’t like Tex-Mex, it is a huge part of Texas. Our visitors seemed to want a taste of home, but I don’t think anyone was really impressed by the meal. I took the rest of the day off since I had no interest in going across the metroplex to attend a high school football game even if it was the first game at a new $60 million stadium.
On Saturday, we met up with a couple other host families for a big American breakfast. Then all the Southlake hosts and guests drove two hours to Morgan Creek Ranch in Corsicana. The owner of the ranch opened the place up for our group and the one in Irving. Although I wasn’t thrilled about the drive and the heat, I had a good time. There were all sort of the things you could learn and do, like horseback riding, ATVing, lassoing, or feeding the animals.
The ranch hands also put together a cutting demonstration (cutting is an equestrian event based on the ability to separate a cow away from the herd… hey, I wound up learning things about “Texas culture”). By the end of the day, I was wishing we could’ve hung around longer to try out more things, but we had to get ready for our last day with the guests.
The Closing Ceremony was held at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. I liked how the setting provided a foil to the Opening Ceremony, as Dallas is more urban and Fort Worth is reminiscent of the Old West. In addition to a bunch of speeches, there were performances by the SMU Belle Tones and the Gyozan-ryu Mitobe Shishi-Odori Preservation Group.
Members of the delegation from Shimane also took the stage to introduce their prefecture, which would host the 2013 Grassroots Summit. After a completely unnecessary introduction of the Dallas Arts District (guests and host families alike were falling asleep), we got to explore some of the nearby museums. Something also worth noting was that the visitors’ hotel was across the street from AnimeFest so a couple of people expressed both surprise and amusement at the sight of cosplayers walking around.
The Japan-America Grassroots Summit was a fantastic experience. It did come at a bad point in time for me so I regret not being as sociable. I found out that I’m better at talking to people younger than me probably due to my experiences as a JET. In any case, everybody had a good time. I definitely recommend volunteering for the Summit if it ever is in your neck of the woods.
For the rest of the photos, click here.
Listening to: “Blues Drive Monster” by The Pillows