San Dieguito Academy students meet Japanese prime minister


Senior Linden Amundsen and seven other students from San Dieguito Academy were among a small group that met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month in Los Angeles. Not only that, Amundsen got the opportunity to ask him a question.

“It was amazing,” said Amundsen last week. She’s the co-president of the Japanese National Honors Society at San Dieguito Academy and also soon to graduate.

“I never thought that would happen.”

Abe appeared May 2 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, where he spoke to students from San Dieguito and three other schools about the Kakehashi Project, an initiative to promote youth exchanges and understanding between the U.S. and Japan.

As part of the Kakehashi Project, 23 San Dieguito Academy students traveled to Japan last summer to learn about history and current affairs, and students shared their experiences during the May 2 event.

“My favorite part of the trip was staying with a Japanese host family and really experiencing the culture,” Amundsen said.

To make the May 2 event even more special, the four schools each submitted a question for Abe, and San Dieguito’s was picked.

Amundsen got to ask Abe San Dieguito’s question: “What do you believe is the largest challenge Japan is currently facing and how do you plan to approach it?”

She said Abe cited Japan’s declining birthrate. As one solution, Abe said, Japan is trying to promote women in the workforce by expanding day care offerings and encouraging flexible work schedules. That way, women don’t have to choose between raising children or working.

“I was really impressed with how much thought he put into his answer,” Amundsen said.

During Abe’s recent trip to the U.S., he also met with business leaders in Silicon Valley, addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress and more.

Amundsen said she was in disbelief when she found out Abe would be attending the May 2 event. San Dieguito was invited because it’s part of the Kakehashi Project.

“Originally, I thought only I was going from San Dieguito, but then more students were invited, which was really exciting,” she said.

After returning from last summer’s trip to Japan, the Japanese National Honors Society has made a big push to promote Japanese culture locally.

The society puts on Japanese movie nights for the community, helps with the annual Japan Festival and most recently participated in Ocean Night at Cardiff Elementary by demonstrating Japanese Gyotaku fish painting. The centuries-old technique, developed by Japanese fishermen to show proof of their catch, involves rubbing fish against paper to develop a print representation.

For its role in spreading Japanese culture, the society is due to receive a proclamation from the Encinitas City Council at 6 p.m. on June 10 at City Hall.

Amundsen said taking part in the Kakehashi Project has solidified her dreams of one day becoming a diplomat.

“Learning about other cultures is fascinating to me,” she said.