30th Year Celebration of the Montana/Kumamoto Sister State Relationship
The 30th year anniversary celebration of the Montana/Kumamoto sister state relationship in Kumamoto City, Japan, was also the occasion of a memorable reunion of the University of Montana alumni and alumnae residing in the area. The gathering was organized by Ms. Mako Sakaguchi, State of Montana Japan Trade Office representative with the help of alumni Jiro Murayama (Class of 1997) and Kentaro Hara (Class of 2000). The fourteen member Montana delegation that travelled to Kumamoto included the following University of Montana representatives: Dr. Teresa Branch, Vice President of Student Affairs; Effie Koehn, Director of Foreign Student and Scholar Services; Julie Cahill, Assistant Director of International Marketing & Recruitment; and, Mika Watanabe, Coordinator, Disability Services for Students.
The Kumamoto UM alumni gathering and dinner was held on October 6, 2012, at the Oden Restaurant. Around forty persons attended the event, along with Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger, himself a UM alumnus, three American UM alumni who teach English at local schools, and UM exchange student, Grace Yon, who is spending the 2012-13 academic year at Kumamoto University. Japanese UM alumni and alumnae included Jiro Murayama, owner of Oden Restaurant; Kentaro Hara, a well-established artist whose painting adorns the airport conference room in Helena, MT; Shiro Nonagase ('96) Bayer Crop Science in Kyushu; Chinatsu Iwanaga ('80s) Kumamoto Prefectural Government; Hiroshi Habu (80's ) retired English high school teacher; Shiki Miyazaki, 2011-12 Kumamoto University exchange student at UM; and Kumamoto University exchange faculty at UM, Renichi Suzuki (2007-08), Mija Park (2003-04) and Masahiro Isogai (2001-02). It was a memorable reunion with good food and company, and plenty of UM memorabilia to go around.
As a side note, on the way to Kumamoto, a smaller alumni gathering took place at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. It was organized by Yoshiyuki Shimizu (Class of 1998) President of the UM Alum Association, and hosted by alumna Yoko Takeuchi (Class of 1988), President of Human Synergistics International.