2015 / Forgotten school song resurrected at 90th anniversary event of Japanese Institute of Sawtelle in West Los Angeles

More than 300 people including 165 students, school staffs, their parents, supporters and dignitaries packed the auditorium for the 90th anniversary of Japanese Institute of Sawtelle or Sawtelle Gakuin. (Cultural News Photo)

More than 300 people including 165 students, school staffs, their parents, supporters and dignitaries packed the auditorium for the 90th anniversary of Japanese Institute of Sawtelle or Sawtelle Gakuin. (Cultural News Photo)

Japanese Institute of Sawtelle, or Sawtelle Gakuin in West Los Angeles celebrated its 90th anniversary on Saturday, Dec. 12 in its auditorium located at 2110 Corinth Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025. More than 300 people including 165 students, school staffs, their parents, supporters and dignitaries packed the auditorium for the three hours program with bento box lunch.

One of highlights of the 90th anniversary programs was the resurrection of the forgotten school song of the Sawtelle Gakuin. The school song was supposed to sing around 1925 when the Sawtelle Gakuin opened. The song expresses Isseis’ deep hope that one day they and their families would be able to go back and forth between Japan and America.

But after World War II, the school song was forgotten. Ten years ago when the school’s 80th anniversary celebration booklet was edited, the lyrics of the school song was rediscovered in the school documents with the help of Sawtelle Gakuin graduate Nancy Baba.

Although the original melody has been lost to history, the school staffs and graduates consider the meaning and feeling of the lyrics still resonates with Japanese Americans nowadays. And in conjunction with the 90th anniversary event, the school commissioned Japan-based composer Kunihiko Murai to write a new melody for current and future generations of the Sawtelle Gakuin to appreciate.

By October 2015, the resurrected Sawtelle Gakuin school song was completed with generous contributions and efforts of composer Murai, arranger Shinichiro Murayama, and singer Junko Yagami. On Dec. 12, composer Murai and arranger Murayama attended the anniversary event and led the school song singing with the Sawtelle students before the public for the first time.

To view Sawtelle Gakuin School Song in YouTube video, click the following links:

With English explanation https://youtu.be/KuKsXrboVSI

With Japanese explanation https://youtu.be/xu74YsrcTJw

The Sawtelle Gakuin 90th anniversary event was opened by mater of ceremony Dr. Tritia Toyota, current UCLA professor and former TV news anchors. On behalf of the school, board director Dr. Masakazu Jack Fujimoto and principal Miwa Takahashi welcomed participants. Takahashi said “Japanese language school is not only a language school but also a cultural experience. Through Sawtelle Gakuin program, students learn Japanese culture. I like invite you to look at students how they appreciate Japanese culture.”

Congratulatory recognitions were delivered by Japanese consul general Harry Horinouchi, Gil and Sukey Garcetti on behalf of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, and Los Angeles city councilman Mike Bonin in persons.

The Sawtelle Gakuin recognized Dr. Paul Ichiro Terasaki, Dr. Masakazu Jack Fujimoto, Judy Okita and Lou & Ikuko Visco for their contributions to the school.

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