When I first met Mayor Norihiko Fukuda in Kawasaki City several years ago, he shared two important values that he embraces. They are “diversity brings strength and greater possibilities” and “recognizing differences is beneficial.” I also learned of the three pillars of Kawasaki’s industrial policy. They are life innovation, green innovation, and welfare innovation. I was struck by his vision that was shaped by his education in both Japan and the United States, and began discussions with him about the development of an online course for high school students in Kawasaki that would introduce topics related to diversity and entrepreneurship. Stanford e-Kawasaki was launched in 2019.
The opening ceremony for the third-year offering of Stanford e-Kawasaki was held on September 23, 2021. Mayor Fukuda addressed the new students, saying, “Today, I am very happy that many of you have decided to participate in this program. I think that the willingness to challenge yourselves is a very important mindset for you to embrace as you prepare for the future.” He continued,
Stanford e-Kawasaki Instructor Maiko Tamagawa Bacha and I represented SPICE during the opening ceremony. During the ceremony, Bacha informed her 20 students from Kawasaki High School and Tachibana High School that they will be encouraged to think critically about issues related to diversity and entrepreneurship. Stanford scholars and leading entrepreneurs have been invited as speakers. Among the lineup of speakers are Dr. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Stanford University, and Sukemasa Kabayama, Founder and CEO of Uplift Labs in Silicon Valley and former President and Representative Officer, Telsa Motors, Japan. Reflecting on her first two years of serving as the Instructor of Stanford e-Kawasaki, Bacha noted, “Because I have family ties to Kawasaki City, formerly worked for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in San Francisco, and currently live in the United States, I feel both a personal and professional connection to Stanford e-Kawasaki. I hope that the course will inspire my students to pursue studies and work in U.S.–Japan relations as I have done.”
Bacha introduced the course requirements, including the development of final projects, and noted that the top two performing students will be invited to Stanford University for a ceremony during which they will be honored along with the top two students in SPICE’s four other regional programs in Japan. Earlier this year, two of the students in the 2020–21 Stanford e-Kawasaki course were honored. They were Eric Silang, whose final project was titled “Humor and America,” and Shunya Tani, whose final project was titled “Possible Ways to Promote Renewable Energy in Japan and the U.S.” Silang’s project noted the importance of considering diversity through the lens of cultural differences in humor, and Tani’s project stressed the need for Japan and the United States to cooperate, rather than compete, in promoting the use of renewable energy to tackle climate change.
I am most grateful to Mayor Norihiko Fukuda for his vision and for making this course possible. I would also like to express my appreciation to Mr. Nihei and Mr. Katsurayama from the Kawasaki Board of Education; and Mr. Abe, Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Kawato, and especially Mr. Inoue from Kawasaki City for their unwavering support. Importantly, I would like to express my appreciation to Principal Iwaki and his staff of Kawasaki High School and Principal Takai and his staff from Tachibana High School for their engagement with Stanford e-Kawasaki.