First lady of Japan visits SF public elementary school

Mike Koozmin/SF ExaminerOn April 30

Mike Koozmin/SF ExaminerOn April 30

Japan first lady Akie Abe visited one of two public elementary schools in San Francisco that offer Japanese, as part of a short visit to The City on Thursday.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students at Rosa Parks Elementary School greeted Abe in Japanese, and demonstrated how they can count in the language. In a tightly guarded classroom, members of the media were not allowed to ask Abe questions as she watched the students speak Japanese.

Rosa Parks Elementary has four native Japanese-speaking teachers, or senseis, who teach the language and culture for an hour each day. Founded in 1973, the San Francisco Unified School District’s Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program is offered at Clarendon Elementary as well.

“It’s really important that we show our foreign guests how diverse we are,” said Board of Education President Emily Murase, whose parents helped found the district’s Japanese program more than 40 years ago.

Although it was Abe’s first visit to Rosa Parks Elementary, that school along with Clarendon have received recognition from the Japanese foreign ministry for educating American students about Japanese culture and education, Murase noted.

Fifth-grade student Anjali Blacker was among those who spoke to Abe in Japanese. Blacker said she has learned Japanese since she was in preschool, even though no one else in her family speaks the language. “A lot of my friends have Japanese backgrounds, so it’s fun because I’m not Japanese at all,” Anjali said.

After Rosa Parks Elementary, Abe was expected to visit the Kimochi Home, a senior center for Japanese residents. Her husband, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was also in the Bay Area on Thursday.

Akie AbeBay Area NewseducationFirst LadyJapan

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