Renison’s Sakura Japanese Language School Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Friday, May 7, 2021

When we think about a typical Saturday afternoon for a Renison student, we might think of late-risers getting up for lunch in the Renison cafeteria. On Saturday afternoons, however, instead of young adults strolling through the atrium, you may see a crowd of young children. They are getting ready to participate in the Sakura Japanese Language School, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Since April of 2020, Sakura students have been studying online and this milestone, like many over the past year, was marked by a special online event last weekend.

Participants of the Sakura tenth anniversary on a video call.

Renison’s Sakura Japanese Language School began in 2011, championed by Keiko Belair, a long-time Renison community member, instructor, donor, and Honorary Senior fellow. The school is among the first in Canada to be associated with a university or college, and has flourished at Renison. The program teaches children ages 4-10 the fundamentals of reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Japanese, as well as Japanese culture.

The event opened with remarks from Renison President Dr. Wendy L. Fletcher, and included remarks from Mr. Takuya Sasayama (Consul-General, Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto), Ms. Yuko Shimizu (Executive Director, The Japan Foundation, Toronto), Mr. Dave Jaworsky (Mayor, City of Waterloo), and Sakura alumni Hana Sargolzaei and Kohana Trybus. The celebration continued with presentations from each class, followed by remarks from Ms. Caroline Tanswell (Former Director of External Relations and Internal Communications, Renison University College). The event concluded with a few words from Mrs. Belair, along with her daughter Miya.

Renison sign with Sakura on either side.

When the Sakura Japanese Language school first opened in 2011, Renison received a Sakura (Japanese for Cherry Blossom) tree from the Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto. These blossoms are the national flower of Japan, and are symbolic of renewal, rebirth, and the beauty and fragility of life. Like the tree from which it takes its name, the school has grown strong roots at Renison and this is, no doubt, the first of many milestone anniversaries to come.

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