JETAANY JET30 Gala at The Dumbo Loft
JETAA New York hosted a gala event on Saturday, February 3rd, at The Dumbo Loft in Brooklyn to celebrate 30 years of the JET Programme.
Over 130 alumni, Friends of JET, and members of the US-Japan community gathered for an evening of music, speeches, awards, and fellowship, enjoying a wonderful buffet dinner, drinks, and a tempting selection of desserts. Participants included representatives from JETAANY's subchapters in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh as well as from six US chapters, along with two of three US Country Reps, the new Executive Director and several Board members from USJETAA (the national nonprofit umbrella organization), and staff from JLGC / CLAIR New York and the Consulate.
Alumni participation spanned all 30 years of JET and 38 of Japan's 47 prefectures.
After welcoming remarks by JETAANY President Wendy Ikemoto and the evening's MCs, Lee-Sean Huang and Zach Piper, the evening kicked off with a rousing taiko performance by Taiko Aiko Kai, with assistance from students at Columbia University's Teachers College, followed by a kagami-biraki ceremony with a Kampai!, and dinner. Then came a keynote speech by Mr. Masaru Sato, Deputy Consul General and Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate, and remarks by Mr. Wataru Tozawa, Executive Director of JLGC New York, and the Reverend Earl Ikeda, Resident Minister at the New York Buddhist Church.
After this, awards were presented to Sue Brown, the founding president of JETAANY, and to Monica Yuki, former president and currently a JETAANY Board member and US Country Rep, for Exceptional Contributions to JETAANY; Steven Horowitz, founder and overlord of JETwit, for Exceptional Contributions to the JET Community; George Rose, Director of Pacific Rim Operations for the New York Yankees, and Jim Gannon, Executive Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange, for Exceptional Contributions to US-Japan Relations; and Matthew Gillam, of JLGC, New York, for Exceptional Support of the JET Program and Contributions to the JET Community.
There were also goodwill messages from around the world, a prize drawing, and dancing. And since the event was being held on Setsubun, the Reverend Ikeda spoke about the origins and significance of the holiday and then led participants in the traditional mame-maki exercise, where the two MCs donned oni masks and were pelted with soybeans while everyone chanted, "Oni ha soto! Fuku ha uchi!" Nonetheless, they did not leave the building, and seemed to enjoy the rest of the evening relatively unscathed.
The JETAANY Gala was one of several JET30-themed celebrations held around the US, including the nationwide event hosted by USJETAA last August in Washington, DC. It was exceptional as a chapter event in drawing so many people from all across the country to look back on the growth and successes of JET - and JETAA - and to look forward to another 30 years of continuing to further build on these to strengthen the alumni community.