Opening Messages

Summer in JAPAN President and Founder: Mari Hirotsuru

Opening Speech Summer in JAPAN 2022

I am very pleased and honored to officially open Summer in JAPAN 2022 here in Oita City. After a long break, we have returned to face-to-face just in time to celebrate our 10th anniversary! It is hard to believe, but we have now been on this journey together for a decade. Without the support of everyone, we would not have been able to reach this point.

I would like to welcome our Mayor, Mr. Sato, SIJ board member Me. Murakami, parents, students, as well as our Team Oita staff members and Team Harvard instructors, representing more than ten different countries around the world. Team Harvard, welcome to Japan! We have selected you for your passion, creativity and leadership. We hope you can share this with all the students at SIJ this year.

In my life, I have faced many challenges. Every year’s new experiences have taught me three keys to living a great life.

First, travel as much as you can. Trips you take in your teens or 20s are very different from the ones you take later in your life. Having those experiences while you are young will help you broaden your horizons and grow into a strong, dynamic individual.

Second, plant the seeds of your future along the way. When I started my own business, I had to work on literally everything, from mission, service, product, sales, PR, finance, customer service and more. While studying and enjoying your youth, you can learn useful skills, meet dynamic people, and have inspiring ideas. You can carry these things with you into adulthood, and by nurturing them, they can help advance your career.

Third, become fluent in a foreign language. Despite living in Japan for almost my entire life, I spend half my time speaking, reading and writing in English. Having a second language enables you to become friends with so many people from different countries, which makes you more aware of global issues you have to resolve.

While participating in SIJ 2022 with us, I hope you can take my advice to heart. Our time is limited, but our lives are not if we are open to new opportunities and believe that we can do anything. I want everyone, participating students, team Harvard and Oita, to please take advantage of this moment. Do something new everyday. Nurture a lifelong love for learning. Your education is not limited to your time in school. The world is quickly changing, you must find your gift and use it to shape your path.
Let us conclude with SIJ’s motto, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Thank you and good luck.


Opening Speech Summer in JAPAN 2021

Dear SIJ students and parents, Team Harvard, consisting of current students and graduates, Team Oita staff members, and distinguished guests of honor, I am very happy to announce the commencement of the 9th Summer in JAPAN seminar, our second ONLINE summer school, which was made possible by the creativity and flexibility of our team.
Today I brought this picture from a very popular anime named “Sazae san” , which is a story of a typical Japanese family. This woman, Fune, is in her 50s just like me. She stays home as a housewife to take care of her family. Next to Fune is Namihei, her husband Namihei, aged 54 who works for a company in Tokyo to support his family. The fact that this TV anime, with its dated 1950s gender stereotypes, is still the most popular program in Japan demonstrates that these ideas persist today.
However, as I look at today’s youth , I see more and more women who don’t want to stay at home, who want to go out and change the world. And now we are in the year 2021, and so many things have changed: the number of working women has increased, the number of babies being born has decreased, and the number of people who consider marriage important has gone down.

Due to the advances of medical technology and healthcare, biologically speaking, Namihei’s 54 years of age in 1950 is the equivalent of being 74 years today. We now live a “100- year life” and to make the most of that, we need a clear vision of education, career and relationships. You start learning from birth, but you’ll find that over the course of your life, you often need to revise and adjust your thinking over and over again, to catch up with the changing needs of our society. From the time you start working, you will need to learn to market yourself in the ever-evolving economic battleground, all the while maintaining friendships with your old classmates and utilizing the high communicative skills needed to make new friends in every situation throughout the rest of your life.
And like Namihei, the kind of life you live will be seen by those who come after. We need to build a culture of lifelong-learning, to guide and inspire the youth of the future. My goal at SIJ is to ignite a passion for learning in everyone’s heart. A fire that I hope will still burn when you are 100.
I hope all the SIJ students take full advantage of this opportunity to enjoy learning, to discover what you love doing, and establish a lifelong love of learning under the guidance of our Team Harvard members: Allen, Jason, Mario, Sumire, Teddy, and Ton-Nu, and with the help of our members from Team Oita.
Finally, in 2022, when I host Summer in JAPAN to commemorate our 10th anniversary, let’s all meet in Oita City, in person, face-to-face, and enjoy the local foods, soak in the hot springs, dance at the festivals, practice Zen at the temples, and make a difference in education with your new friends.