International House Japan

13th January 2019 – Tokyo

International House Japan, is part of the I-House family but is not an I-House as most of you would know it. After New York, Berkeley, Chicago and Paris were completed, Tokyo was high on Harry’s ambitions for having an I-House and it seems that the educational establishment in Japan was also keen. So in 1937 Harry set off to Japan on the invitation of the Cultural Relations Society in Japan. He spent 3 months in Japan working on finding a site and drawing up plans. He also returned in 1939. Unfortunately due to the outbreak of WWII the plans were put on hold much to Harry’s frustration.

In the post war era Kabayama Aisuke and J.D Rockefeller III revived the idea and in 1955 International House Japan was opened. It is a cultural centre with accommodation for its members, a library and a cafe and restaurant open to the public with the most beautiful garden.

Despite it being winter in Tokyo it was warm enough to open all the doors of our conference room and sit outside to share I-House stories. My visit to Tokyo had co-incided with Denise Jorgens, the current Director of I-House Chicago’s visit. So Denise and her husband Anil Trivedi, who is both an NYC and Chicago I-House alum, were able to join the event and share their first hand experience of running a House.

Mami Urano, arrived in the most beautiful Kimono in our honour, it was a family ‘hand me down’, or to me just exquisite.

Mami had also bought the relay candles for the event which were hand painted with Sakura (cherry blossom).

Despite the small but perfectly formed size of the group discussion over tea about the spirit of I-House was lively and full of stories. Thank you to all my new Tokyo friends.

Story Snippets…

No Norwegians – Anil shared that at a candle ceremony the different country groups were gathering so they could say the pledge in their language and a Pakistani was organising a group to say it in Urdu and invited another Pakistani man to join them. The man looked around and said that he saw there were no Norwegians represented and as he spoke fluent Norwegian he would like to say the pledge as the Norwegian representative.

The Kissing Bench – My partner Chris was sharing the story about how the doors between the men and women’s accommodation at Berkeley I-House were mysteriously removed in the 1960s and never went back up, which was followed by Denise sharing that at I-House Chicago there is a ‘Kissing Bench’ as this was where many a kiss was shared before the couple had to go their separate ways into their part of the building (men and women being housed apart). Anil then shared that those using the bench were those not willing to pay the 50c bribe to the desk staff for a blind eye to be turned…

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