After a much needed winter break, ISAK students and faculty have returned to campus from their holidays around the globe, and it’s a winter wonderland here in Karuizawa! Today is the beginning of the 3rd academic quarter of the school year and we wish everyone the best as they begin their studies anew this week. Happy New Year and happy learning to all!
In celebration of our diversity, ISAK hosted its annual International Day Festival on November 19. The festival was a chance to celebrate and share the many cultures of ISAK with the greater Karuizawa community and was entirely planned by students. With 39 countries home countries represented on campus this year, it was bigger than ever!
The festival was held in the ISAK gymnasium, which was festively decorated with international flags, artwork, and international greetings. Students created booths to showcase different cultures and countries, and many wore traditional clothing from their countries. Visitors browsed through the booths, interacting with students, and learned about the clothing, customs, food, and geographic locations of countries around the globe.
ISAK’s cooking club, now in it’s third year, spent Friday night and Saturday morning prepping and cooking a global feast for guests to sample including Nepali momos, Taiwan pancakes, French crepes, Vietnamese spring rolls, Indian samosas, Japanese takoyaki, Thai bread, and more.
The guests enjoyed numerous student performances, dances from Tajikistan, Africa, Chile, Japan, a trick from the Magic Club, acoustic music from BASS, and opera, just to name a few.
In the weeks leading up to the festival, G-10 students in Design Innovation class created fabric artifacts from different cloths they brought from their home countries. Their finished products were put on display at the festival.
One of the highlights for guests was the lively International Fashion Show. Students showed off various styles of dress, including outfits from Tajikistan, Myanmar, China, Japan, Australia, France, Cambodia, India, Bhutan, and Nepal.
A huge congratulations to all of the ISAK students who made this event a huge success and thank you to the Karuizawa community for attending!
Last week students organized an “evening of gratitude”, with activities to encourage everyone to think about and share what we are grateful for. The evening coincided with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and our wonderful Cezar’s Kitchen team, lead by Chef Adi, prepared a typical American Thanksgiving feast including turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
Students and faculty were encouraged to dress up and the Special Events club volunteered as wait staff, transforming the commons into a full service restaurant for the evening! It was a memorable evening for all and we are excited to see more holidays from around the world celebrated school-wide as the year progresses.
A handful of students and faculty, guided by school counselor Hashimoto-sensei, held an ikebana workshop on Saturday. Ikebana is a traditional Japanese art form of flower arrangement that dates as far back as the 7th century. According to the Ikebana International website, Ikebana is more than simply putting flowers in a container. It is a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. It is steeped in the philosophy of developing a closeness with nature.
The group produced several beautiful pieces which are now displayed in various spots in campus buildings.
Yesterday, from 9:30 to 13:30, many teachers and students watched the US presidential election live results unfold using various news live streams and live maps projected in the cafeteria. Popcorn, heated discussions, intent watching in awe, and cheers and groans as states turned blue or red filled the cafeteria for the day. Some teachers are planning to use this big event as a topic of discussion in class, to start some honest conversations about the politics of the world.
ISAK offers students many chances to engage with business leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals to tackle real-world problems; yesterday was one such opportunity. Ms. Kanako Takakana, a senior editor with the The Japan Times, sat down with a group of students in the Kamiyama Academic Center to discuss the newspaper and get feedback about how to attract more international students as readers. The Japan Times is Japan’s oldest and only independent language newspaper. Students who are interested in journalism and politics were selected to participate. It was a very fun and informative session for everyone!
We are pleased to announce that our new school building, the Kamiyama Academic Center (KAC), was completed this summer! This beautiful, light-filled building includes classrooms, a library/information center, study areas, meeting rooms, and the main school office. KAC has already become one of the most popular places to study on campus, and it is easy to understand why! Comfy furniture and cozy meeting spaces make this the perfect place to open a book (or a computer) and get to work.
The KAC was part of our phase 2 expansion designed by Coelacanth and Associates, a leader in the field of educational institution design. The architects went to great lengths to design buildings that are enhancing residential life for our entire community.
The 2015-2016 School Year has come to a close and ISAK students are heading home for a well-earned summer break. We wish everyone an enjoyable vacation and we look forward to seeing you back on campus in August!
ISAK is a small, residential school where students and faculty live together as one large extended family. As the school year comes to a close and we prepare to say goodbye to each other for the summer, we thought it would be fun to take a look at what family means at ISAK with our #ISAKfamily photo contest. Students, faculty and staff submitted photos that represented #ISAKfamily and we chose a winner randomly from all of the entries. (Congratulations, Mrs. Hasham, for winning the contest!!!)
What did we learn from the photos? The ISAK family loves to cook and share meals together. They serve others, take care of each other, and sometimes they can be a little crazy! Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. Here are a few of the photos we received:
On April 29-30, ISAK hosted its first annual Parents’ Weekend and, by all accounts, the event was a huge success! For those parents who were unable to attend, here are some highlights:
DAY 1 – Friday, April 29
Parents were greeted upon arrival and enjoyed a welcome reception which was followed by lunch with their sons/daughters. The nice weather enabled many guests to enjoy their meal (and the beautiful view!) outside on the terrace.
Following lunch, an optional tour gave parents a look inside two new buildings under construction, Residence Hall #4 and the Kamiyama Academic Center. Both buildings are on track for completion this summer and will be ready for use in the 2016-2017 school year. (Read more about our Phase 2 construction project here.)
The afternoon also included classroom visits and CAS / Project Week presentations. As many of you know, ISAK students have created an array of complex service and volunteer projects that are making a difference here in Karuizawa and around the world. International student-led projects include helping earthquake victims in Nepal by rebuilding schools, collecting books to start rural libraries in Vietnam, and hosting an English language camp to help Burmese refugee children in Thailand. Closer to campus, students have been visiting elderly people in Karuizawa, promoting a campus wide recycling program, and volunteering at a local elementary school. In all, there are over a dozen major service projects underway by ISAK students.
These student-led projects are something that sets ISAK apart from most other high schools and the presentations were one of the highlights of Parents’ Weekend. It was exciting for parents to learn more about these efforts and how ISAK students are making a difference in the local community and beyond!
After enjoying a reception in the Asama Commons with ISAK faculty, staff and administrators, parents held their own meeting to get to know each other and to learn more about the newly formed ISAK Parent Association. The event-filled day wrapped up with a reception for faculty and parents at the home of ISAK Head of School, Mr. Jemison. This was a wonderful opportunity for parents to chat with the Head of School, engage with other parents in a more social setting, and start planning for upcoming events such as the first ISAK graduation.
DAY 2 – Saturday, April 30
On Saturday, current parents returned to campus and were joined by some of ISAK’s newly accepted students and their parents. Saturday’s events included presentations on topics such as Academics at ISAK, how ISAK is different from others schools (and what to expect), the ISAK Leadership Program, and University Counseling. After lunch, new families joined current families at a reception where they got to meet new friends, exchange contact information, and get answers to many questions about what to expect next year.
At the end of the action-packed weekend, parents headed home with a better understanding of life at ISAK and the many ways their sons and daughters are being empowered to grow, learn, explore, and work for positive change.
All in all, the weekend was a success! Many parents left excited and ready to start planning for the 2017 Parents’ Weekend.
After months of training, G-11 students Hana, Dylan and Wes, are officially ISAK’s first Peer Supporters. The students received training based on the Carl Roger’s Person-Centered Approach and now can offer support to fellow students while maintaining a professional level of confidentiality. The purpose of Peer Supporters is to give students an option to talk to someone who is similar to them in age, experience and comfort zone. The students’ services will be an addition to the current support system which includes advisory, teachers and staff, medical staff and a mental heath counselor.
It’s official – Spring is here! After months of cold weather and snow, the warmer weather brings opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful surroundings at ISAK. To celebrate the change in season, ISAK Head of School, Mr. Jemison, organized a BBQ dinner on Friday night for the entire ISAK family. While some students still found it a bit too cold to eat on the terrace, everyone loved the yummy BBQ’d hamburgers, hotdogs and steak.
– Thank you, Mr. Jemison and Mr. Fitzpatrick, for your grilling expertise!
On March 5, ISAK founding donor, Mr. Kotaro Yamagishi, traveled to campus to share his life story and offer some powerful advice to ISAK students. During his presentation, Mr. Yamagishi talked about his experiences working for tech companies such as NetAge, CNET, and GREE (which he cofounded in 2004). He also shared some details about his latest work as CEO of Keio Innovation Initiative, a new venture capital company that funds start-up companies in association with Keio University.
Mr. Yamagishi talked about both his successes and failures in business, along with the lessons he has learned from working in the ever-changing tech industry. He also shared stories about the people who have profoundly influenced his life, which included diverse individuals from industry CEO’s to his grandfather and a Buddhist monk. The presentation was eye-opening and inspiring for students, since Mr. Yamagishi is just 39 years old!
Two things that drive Mr. Yamagishi are curiosity – “I like watching the beginnings of societal evolution as an insider” – and the desire to control his own life – “I hate being prohibited from doing what I want without reason”. Mr. Yamagishi also shared his personal discipline:
• I do what I should do. I do not run away.
• I make my own decisions. I do not rely on others.
• I do what I can to solve problems. I do not put blame on others.
Thank you, Mr. Yamagishi, for sharing your inspirational story with us!
Last Sunday, ISAK’s Project PEAK, a student-led group focusing on health and wellness, hosted a workshop on campus featuring Mr. Takao Kondo, a former New York Yankees trainer!
The workshop, which was attended by about 20 students, started with a presentation from Mr. Kondo, in which he shared his life story, along with some expert knowledge about how muscles work. The students also got some professional tips about how to stretch properly to avoid injuries during sports and exercise. Then it was off to the gym for a boot-camp style workout with some of the same challenging exercises Mr. Kondo used when working with professional baseball players.
Even though Mr. Kondo no longer helps train baseball players, he is still involved with fitness. He is currently working at a fast-growing tech start-up called FiNC, which aims to create personalized health and wellness services and products.
The Project PEAK students were very inspired to learn about FiNC because the PEAK students share a very similar mission, and their goal is to spread the message of health and wellness: “It is a choice to live healthy.”
Thank you very much, Mr. Kondo, for sharing your expertise and supporting our students!
Winter has arrived in Karuizawa. The first measurable snow of the season fell on campus last night, bringing a small taste of what students can expect as we move forward into the winter months. Ms. Murabayshi’s dog, Fuku-chan, was one of the first members of the ISAK community to say “hello” to winter!
ISAK Summer School kicks off this weekend, and volunteers have been graciously helping prepare the dormitories. One of the helpers is Jim, an ISAK high school student from Somalia. After a year of living on campus and learning leadership, Jim has been astounding the Summer School staff with his growth and maturity. Despite being slightly bewildered by tasks he had never done before, in just a few days Jim has taken the initiative for new responsibilities as he thinks about the needs of the Summer School participants.
When a Summer School staff member found Jim neatly aligning each trash bin on campus with trash bags, she told him, “It’s ok! You don’t have to do that.” Jim responded, “I’m sure there will be people who do not know how to use these bins properly because it will be their first time here. This will help them.”
Drawing from his own experiences living in the campus dormitories, he continued on with his preparations. Jim, we are so grateful for the initiative you take to help out the Summer School students!
On June 7, after our students departed to spend their summer holiday in their home countries, all ISAK faculty members and staff gathered on campus to reflect upon our first school year. （和文は投稿下部）For Jesse Palmer, our teaching fellow, it was time to say goodbye a time for reflection.
When asked to sum up his thoughts about ISAK, Jesse had this to say:
“Everyone here is incredibly committed to the students’ leadership and growth as their number one priority. And I hope we make sure that continues to be the case as an organization. “
Jesse first joined ISAK as a Summer School counselor in 2010 while he was an undergraduate at Stanford University. Since that time, Jesse has served as a role model for hundreds of students who have been a part of ISAK. His passion and commitment have been invaluable, and the ISAK community would not be where it is today without hime.
Thank you, Jesse, for all your hard work over the past five years at ISAK. We wish you the very best of luck for your future!
Last month, thanks to generous donors, ISAk received a new 3D printer! The printer is the Ultimaker 2, the latest 3D printer from Brulé. The Ultimaker 2 is capable of printing at one of the highest resolutions of all 3D printers currently on the market. 3D printers are an expensive item for any school, but students at ISAK will be able to fully utilize the machine, since ISAK’s philosophy emphasizes design innovation; at ISAK, students prototype many times based on feedback until they eventually create the best possible product. Students use the design innovation cycle in most classes and activities, working hard to find what is most important and then prototyping to get the best results. The 3D printer will definitely empower our process by accelerating our prototyping sessions.
Mr. Palmer, our teaching fellow, has been teaching our school Architecture Club the know-hows of the 3D printer and its powerful designing software. Soon, students will be able to handle the machine properly and will begin prototyping their own projects through the cycle of design innovation.
Watch this video to see the first glimpses of the 3D printer in action!
For the last several weeks, a beautiful collection of ornamental dolls has been on display in the Asama Commons (ISAK cafeteria). The dolls, which represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants and court musicians of the Japanese Heian period, are an important part of the Japanese holiday called Hinamatsuri (雛祭り), also known as Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day.
This uniquely Japanese holiday originated nearly 1,000 years ago, and is still celebrated every year on March 3rd. Beginning in mid-February, families with girls bring out their hina dolls and display them on tiered shelves covered with a bold red cloth or carpet. Many of these dolls are family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next.
The dolls are considered caretakers of girls and help to bring them health, happiness and good luck. On March 3rd, families celebrate Girls’ Day with special rice cakes and sweet sake. The holiday is an opportunity to pray for the happiness and well-being of Japanese daughters everywhere.
While there is no specific date for when a family can set up the dolls, tradition holds that the dolls should be put away on March 4th so as not to delay a girl’s marriage.
Today we wish happiness, health and success to all girls!
Students returned to a snowy ISAK campus today after enjoying a well deserved winter break. For 10 of our students, the holiday included a home-stay with host families here in Japan. We are thankful for our generous supporters who opened their homes to these students, sharing their holiday traditions and providing many new and unforgettable experiences.
The new semester begins tomorrow. Welcome back, ISAK students!