The Japan America Society of San Antonio (JASSA) was formed as a direct result of the rapidly increasing mutual interest and contacts between San Antonio and Japan in the early 1980s. Awareness on the part of local civic and business leaders of the advantages of joint projects resulted in a receptive atmosphere for Japanese business in San Antonio.
The first Japan Week activities in October, which included restoring the name of the Japanese Tea Garden in Brackenridge Park
A trip to Japan by a San Antonio delegation led by Mayor Henry Cisneros, provided the impetus for the formation of JASSA.
Under the sponsorship of the Society, Japan Week has prospered and expanded to present various facets of Japanese culture to the community. Held in October of each year, the celebration has included film festivals, cultural displays; and activities throughout San Antonio. The Japanese Matsuri traditionally ends the week’s festivities.
During the visit of the Musashino City Junior Ambassadors Friendship Mission, the Society, the San Antonio Sesquicentennial Committee, and the Daughters of The Republic of Texas co-sponsored the rededication of the Japanese Monument at the Alamo.
The Society also helped to plan and present the monument’s 75th anniversary celebration in November
In December, San Antonio and Kumamoto City signed an agreement establishing a sister city relationship. In part, they agreed that exchanges in the fields of education, culture, industry, and technology would help to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Japan. Also, City of San Antonio Mayor, Henry Cisneros visits Kumamoto to meet with Mayor Yasumoto Tajiri and sign the San Antonio-Kumamoto Sister City Agreement.
In March, Kumamoto City joins with San Antonio in the construction of the Japanese Garden in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Most materials were shipped from Kumamoto along with a team of experts and gardeners to oversee its design and construction.
In December 1994, the City of San Antonio reconstructs an authentic Pioneer cabin and Native American Indian teepee at the Kumamoto City Zoo and Botanical Garden.
JASSA celebrated its 10th anniversary. Volunteer members visited schools, businesses, and museums to tell JASSA’s story and present “a little of Japan” to our community. The mid-1990s were reminiscent of earlier years as many events were conducted throughout the city.
The 10th anniversary of the San Antonio-Kumamoto Sister City
Agreement was celebratedthis year when the mayor of Kumamoto made
an official visit to San Antonio.
The 75th anniversary of the donation of the Japanese Monument at the Alamo occurred in 1989. Dr. Margit Nagy, President of JASSA and professor of history at Our Lady of the Lake University, accomplished a study of the history of the monument, visited the family of the donor of the monument, Professor Shiga and brought them from Japan to San Antonio for a commemoration ceremony.
2000 - A New Millennium
Some of the most exciting programs are those in the field of
education. Since the inception of the sister-city relationship, San Antonio and
Kumamoto have participated in an exchange program for high school and
university students. Many young American educators and recent college graduates
have gone to Japan to work under the auspices of the Japan Exchange and
Teaching (JET) Program. Kumamoto City annually sends a group of teachers to San
Antonio for intensive English language training. JASSA assists in these
programs by providing not only hospitality and housing but also referrals and
counseling. The Society also assists the Japanese Supplemental School in San Antonio
(Hoshuko) operated by the Japanese Companies Association of San Antonio.
In September, Kumamoto City college baseball teams visit San Antonio to
participate in the "1st International Tournament of Nanshiki
During this new decade JASSA continues to support annual events and develop new venues to promote the cultural interchange between Japan and San Antonio.
JASSA participated for the first time as an
organization at the Texas Folklife Festival held by the Institute of Texan
Cultures and placed 3rd in food category.
In June 2001, Kumamoto country music singer,
Charlie Nagatani visits San Antonio. Then in September, Kumamoto
City hosts the "2nd International Tournament of Nanshiki Baseball"
and invites San Antonio college baseball teams to participate.
2002The 15th anniversary of the Kumamoto Sister City relationship was celebrated by a reciprocal exchange of JASSA and Kumamoto delegations between the two cities. That year also marked the homecoming vitit of the "Kimi" Eizo Jingu Family to the Japanese Tea Garden in Brackenridge Park.
JASSA and the San Antonio Public Library pooled resources to co-host the October Matsuri at the Central Library. This cooperation was successful and continues to this day.
2004In September, JASSA members attended a Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the Marriott, one of JASSA’s corporate members, where Mr. T. J. Tajima discussed plans for the San Antonio Toyota plant. JASSA member Dr. Katsuhiko Shimizu discussed “Doing Business with Japan” at a lecture held in October.
August sees the Kumamoto City Medical Association Delegation
visit to San Antonio to meet with local physicians. City of San Antonio Delegation visits Kumamoto City to meet with Kumamoto Mayor
and City Council and discuss Sister City Exchange Programs.
The Society also participated in the planning
sessions for Japan Nohgaku Association’s San Antonio performance of Noh and
Kyogen sponsored by the Japan Foundation, the Consul General of Japan, the City
of San Antonio, and Arts San Antonio. Society members personally welcomed
the performers with a luncheon and provided translation service at a workshop
held at the International School of Art.
2005As JASSA celebrates its 20th anniversary, it continues to work closely with the community. The Institute of Texan Cultures sponsored the Japanese quilt exhibit “Transcending 9/11: Quilters’ Reflections” in January. Over 100 pieces made by Japanese and Texan quilters expressing their sympathy for the 9/11 tragedy were displayed. JASSA assisted by translating the Japanese on the quilt pieces and sponsoring an opening reception.
In January, a Kumamoto-En Garden Inspection Team
visits San Antonio to inspect and assess cost of needed repairs for
Kumamoto-En Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. The McNay Art Museum opened the “Taisho Chic”
exhibit in March to show examples of western influences in Japan from the early
20th century. JASSA members assisted in the planning, reception, flower
arrangement, and tea ceremony.
The McNay Museum’s "Family Day"
featured JASSA members performing Japanese and Okinawa dance as well as Ryukyu
Taiko Drum. In April, JASSA and the San Antonio International Affairs
Department co-hosted Mr. Masaaki Imai’s “Kaizen” lecture at San Antonio’s
International Center. In June, the Society won 2nd prize in
food category at the Folklife Festival.
In July, Kumamoto citizens "Wings of
Friendship" delegation visits San Antonio. In November, San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, presents Honorary Citizen
Certificate to the President of the Kumamoto Gardeners' Association, Mr.
Kensuke Yoshimura and unveils the Plaque commemorating the renewal of the
The Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing at
the San Antonio Museum of Art opened with 15,000 square feet of Japanese, Chinese,
Indian, and Korean exhibits and artifacts.
In December, the Kumamoto City Medical
Association Delegation visits San Antonio to attend the Annual Kumamoto Sister
City Medical Exchange. This training exposes Kumamoto professionals to
treatment and care for cancer patients in the United States.
2006 begins with a very successful Shinenkai at the Girl
Scout Office. The Asian Festival in February is heavily attended, and JASSA
provides a successful food booth.
On February 28, Mrs Shirane is
recognized as Citizen of the Year by the World Affairs Council. JASSA sponsors
a table and has over a dozen members attend the gala at the convention center.
JASSA is accepted as a member of the National Association of Japan
America Societies, joining the societies in Austin, Dallas, Ft Worth. Over 55
volunteers participate in the Kumamoto-En children's day on May 6.
Two weeks later, the Makhelat Hashachar Japanese
Christian Chorus from Kyoto conducts a concert at the Josephine theater.
JASSA supports the golf tournament sponsored by
the Japanese companies to support the Hoshuko Japanese school on June 17.
On Sep 22, many JASSA members supported an evening of Japanese Dance, Art and Culture" at the Radius, for the San Antonio Dance Umbrella organization. The fourth Matsuri festival at the San Antonio Public Library on Oct 14 is a great success.
On October 26, JASSA conducted a Corporate Membership Drive
and Social at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Dignitaries included Mrs Anita
Perry, First Lady of the State of Texas, Consul-General Kamo, Mrs Miho Tajima
and other representatives from Toyota. The event raised over $10,000 for future
JASSA work and helped to raise the visibility of JASSA in the business community.
In 2006, JASSA established noncredit Japanese language evening classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for both students and adults. These began in the spring of 2006 at the San Antonio City Ferrari Learning Center, and due to growth, moved to the St Anthony High School in August 2008.
On November 17, Mike Nishimuta represented JASSA along with
400 invited guests to the "Line Off" of the first Toyota Tundra at
the new south side plant. JASSA President Norio Seki is among JASSA members who
are working in support of Toyota or its 21 onsite supplier companies.
On November 18, JASSA supported the 3rd annual Asian
American Chamber of Commerce Awards Presentation Gala at the Hilton Hotel.
Dignitaries including Dr Henry Cisneros, Mayor Hardberger, and Judge Nelson
Wolff were on hand as Mrs Naoka Shirane was presented with a lifetime
achievement award. In his remarks resenting the award, Dr Cisneros emphasized
the role of Mrs Shirane in the important groundwork which is now coming to
fruition with the opening of the Toyota Factory. He said the Japanese community
will be even more important in this community in the coming years.
2006 concluded with the annual Bonenkai dinner at
Sushi-Zushi restaurant, and a presentation to outgoing president Norio Seki by
incoming president Rosemary Kowalski.
2007 began with the annual Shinenkai Dinner at Trinity Baptist Church, with over 80 participants, and presentation of the newly installed officers and board members.Ms Rosemary Kowalski, as returning president, led a group to the Houston Regional meeting of the National Association of Japan-America Societies.
In February, JASSA supported the UTSA fundraising
"Great Conversations" event at the Institute of Texan Culture. Ms
Naoko Shirane was the table discussion leader for the table that JASSA and the
RK Group sponsored.
Also in February, the Kumamoto Chamber of Commerce sends a
business delegation to visit San Antonio and learn about successful business
models based on the partnership between educational facilities/universities and
In the Spring of 2007, JASSA was notified that it was
selected to receive one of the Outreach Coordinators sponsored by the Japan
Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the Laurasian Institution. Ms
Tamaki Masuda is to assist JASSA for the next two years in public outreach and
support of JASSA goals.
City of San Antonio Delegation visits Toyota City to meet
with Toyota representatives and Kumamoto City in March for the 400th
anniversary celebration of the Kumamoto Castle.
Mr Tom Willems orchestrated a gala evening to bid farewell to Consul General Kasuhiko Kamo and his wife, who are ending their time in Houston.
A large crowd of civic leaders, including Dr Henry and
Councilmember-Elect Alice Cisneros, Ms Naoko Shirane, local business leaders,
and members of JASSA honored Consul General with a stunning gala. The new
President of Toyota Manufacturing Texas, Mr Ken Fukuta, joined JASSA for this
In November, 2007, Mr. Max Navarro chaired a fund raising event for the JASSA Educational Scholarship fund, raising over $53,000 in donations. Mr. Ken Fukuta, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, serves as Honorary Chairman, and Ms. Suzanne Peterson of Frost Bank is the Scholarship Committee Chair for the fund to will be used by local students for Asian Studies.
The annual Shinenkai was held at the new Girl Scout Regional
In February, President Rosemary Kowalski and VP of Business and Economic Development, Mitsu Yamazaki, attended the 6th International Symposium of Japan-America Societies in Washington D.C., where they attended a reception with Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato.
Also in February, Kumamoto City Medical Association
Delegation visits San Antonio to attend the Annual Kumamoto Sister City Medical
JASSA members participated in the 2008 Asian Festival to celebrate the year of the Rat.
In March, JASSA participated in the re-opening of the
Japanese Tea Gardens at Brackenridge Park. The $1.6M restoration to the
gardens and ponds was marked by the return of Mabel Jingu Enkoji and 15 of her
The 2008 Japanese speech contest is now held in each of the four Texas cities each year. San Antonio was the only city to have contestants from elementary and middle schools.
In May, future Kumamoto City Mayor Kohyama presents to the
City of San Antonio a "Peace Dove" as symbol of the Peace Dove
Initiative. Kumamoto City hosts the "2006 World Conference on Women
and Sports" and invites City of San Antonio officials.
June brings Kumamoto University PhD student, Satoshi Ishida, visits San Antonio to research on the urban renewal of the River Walk in San Antonio.
JASSA members continued the annual tradition of an
award-winning booth at the Texas Folklife Festival in June, with numerous
volunteers contributing to the popular booth with various Japanese foods and
JASSA participated in the opening of the "Counter-Photography Contemporary Japanese Photography" exhibition at the Blue Srar Art Center, and Kuji Kobe gave an instructional Kiki-Zake Matsuri in October.
In August, the Kumamoto City Medical Association Delegation
visits San Antonio to meet with the Bexar County Medical Society.
The annual Matsuri festival drew record crowds to the San Antonio Central LIbrary in October, with over 30 separate performances, booths, and demonstrations by JASSA members.
JASSA hosted the showing of the Documentary Film "Gift
of Beate" and Rakugo Comedy presentation at the University of the
In November, a delegation of 80 visitors from Kumamoto arrived for a "Wings of Friendship" visit. JASSA hosted the visitors at the Tejas Rodeo Company for a BBQ lunch and a rich Texas experience with horses and lariats. In the evening, JASSA joined the visitors and the City of San Antonio International Office viewing of the River Parade. The city council surprised all by pulling out Japanese flags as they passed by.
The Radius Cafe was the home for the December Bonenkai, hosted by Sushi Zushi, with music performed by Tomiko Warren on the Koto.
The annual Shinenkai was held at the Girl Scout Regional
Headquarters, with new President Taeg Nishimoto greeting the membership.
The Asian Festival in January was extremely well attended, with all food vendors selling out of food before the close of the event.
Howard Hu, the new VP for Business and Economic Development,
hosted a corporate social and membership meeting at Sushihana in January.
In February a record number of students participated in the Japanese Language Speech Contest, and several winners from San Antonio traveled to the State contest.
In May, JASSA participated in the 20th anniversary of the
construction of the Kumamoto-en Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and
the 85th anniversary of the San Antonio Conservation Society at the Japanese
UTSA students of College of Architecture visited Kumamoto City in June. and in November, UTSA participated in an International College Presidents' Conference at Kumamoto
In September, Kumamoto University and UTSA signed exchange
UTSA Japanese language students visited Kumamoto City Office
and Kumamoto University in May.