National

JETRO retiree delights in U.S. teacher visits

Former Japan External Trade Organization official Akira Moromi has supported for nearly 30 years a program that invites teachers from the United States to Japan in appreciation for educating children of Japanese company employees.

This year marked the 30th annual trip to Japan since the program started in 1975.

It all started when Moromi planned and persuaded skeptical officials, who wondered why JETRO — a special public corporation charged with carrying out overseas market research and publicizing Japanese products — ought to take care of a school matter.

Moromi, then a PR official with JETRO, came up with the idea of thanking schoolteachers for helping non-English-speaking children of Japanese businesspeople stationed in Los Angeles.

He started examining the schools where the kids studied and charted the once-a-year trip to Japan under the auspices of the Japan Business Association of L.A.

He convinced those who were doubtful about the International Educators to Japan Program by telling them of the importance of education for children of employees of Japanese firms making inroads into the United States and other countries.

The program got off the ground in 1975 with 10 teachers traveling to Japan.

“Most of the teachers making the journey to Japan were on their first sojourn in this country,” said Moromi, 62, who retired two years ago and is currently managing director of a JETRO-affiliated welfare association. “They go home pro-Japanese.”

He said that although Japan is an unknown country to many American teachers, they developed a firm outlook on the nation.

Moromi’s philosophy is to refrain from putting himself in a high-profile spot and instead support the program from behind the scenes.

During his posting to London, he drafted a blueprint for a similar program. Almost 900 teachers from four countries, including the U.S. and Britain, had taken part as of last year.

Initially, the program mainly consisted of taking teachers on sightseeing tours. However, lately they have given demonstration lessons in elementary and junior high schools.

Some specialists in the education of autistic children were among the teachers who traveled to Japan this year. Moromi was with the visitors during their two-week stay to be ready to extend a helping hand.

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