Japan

2020 March 19
Solemn Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

Dear Lasallians in the Frontlines,

Greetings of peace and well-being! We salute and support your gallant efforts to quell COVID-19 as you perform your responsibilities beyond the call of duty while putting yourselves at great risk. We stand in solidarity with you as part of the health and medical team directly assisting the sick and infected, or as researchers and scientists pressed to review test results or find effective antidotes to the virus, or as round-the-clock logistics and security forces, public servants and volunteers doing your share to reassure the public, restore and maintain order and provide much needed services to everyone.

We are one with you during this very challenging time and assure you of our fervent prayers as your fellow Lasallians in East Asia. We will especially remember you as we pause for a few minutes of quiet prayer daily to remember all Lasallians in the frontlines and to intercede for all those who are working earnestly in many different ways to provide solutions and address the challenges we face.

For you, all Lasallians in East Asia will gather together and by association in their respective homes and communities at around 5:00 p.m. beginning today March 19, feast of St. Joseph, Protector of our Lasallian Institute, and ending on May 15, feast of our Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle. May the good Lord ever keep you in the palm of His hand. Live Jesus in our hearts, forever!

Fraternally yours,

Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC

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Loving Father, our Lasallian Family draws near to you in fervent prayer for all those affected by COVID-19. 

In FAITH, we lift up to you our fears and anxieties and the sufferings of those who have been infected always remembering that even in our darkest hours we are in your most holy presence. 

In SERVICE, we beg you for strength and wisdom to do all that needs to be done knowing that we can be channels of your healing grace when we do all our actions for the love of you. 

In COMMUNION, we stand in solidarity with all the frontliners who risk their lives for others and pray for all medical teams and support personnel who earnestly seek its cure and provide remedy and comfort to those who are sick and most vulnerable. Most Loving Father we entrust our lives and the health and well-being of our families and communities to your care and protection for with you we will be safe and secure.

Amen.

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The Sector of Japan held its annual assembly last 2020 October 17. The assembly started with 8 degrees celsius in Hakodate, 20 in Kagoshima and around 30 in Manila and Singapore. Despite the differences in climate, Brothers Fermin, Rodrigo, Domingo, Aikee, Nico and from the leadership team Br. Armin, Visitor, and Br. Antonio gathered together to share life, to dialogue, and to take action on the issues that are important to the Sector of Japan.

After each Brother gave a short sharing about what was happening with him in the mission, we moved on to discuss and evaluate the seven resolutions taken from the 2019 Assembly. After three hours, and short breaks in between, we were able to identify the next steps and how to be accountable in delivering the resolutions reached during the assembly.

Br. Armin’s final remarks invited the Brothers to keep the Lasallian Mission relevant in Japan and challenged us to explore new ways of serving those in need, apart from the school’s setting.

Thank you Brothers of Japan for making the assembly a meaningful experience. (Text: Br. Antonio Cubillas FSC, Photo: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC)

Excerpts from the Article:

The Brothers of the Christian Schools have a network that stretches across 80 countries, which includes 4,000 Brothers, 90,000 lay colleagues, and 850,000 students.

Last December, two Lasallian schools from across the world connected, as Hakodate La Salle High School spent a week at Christian Brothers Academy for the second year in a row.

Hailing from Hokkaido, Japan, 80 Hakodate students and 10 faculty members, including Brother Fermin Martinez, immersed themselves in the CBA community. Over 40 current CBA families volunteered to serve as host families for the Hakodate boys, and additional CBA students were “day hosts” to show the Hakodate students around the Academy.

The Hakodate students spent each day with their host CBA students, attending classes, lunch and extracurriculars with them. The Academy hosted a short welcome assembly on Monday and a grand farewell ceremony on Friday, which was filled with presentations from both the CBA and Hakodate students and faculty members.

The CBA Pipes & Drums band performed for the Hakodate students, before they returned the favor by playing the CBA alma mater and Star Spangled Banner on the recorder for the CBA community.

The Hakodate students departed CBA with a commemorative “Lasallians Without Borders” shirt, as well as a special certificate to recognize the cultural achievement. 

The unity between the two schools – 6,000 plus miles apart – was impressive to say the least, all thanks to the Lasallian bonds that transcend culture. 

“This week would not be possible without our CBA families,” Brother Frank said. “We are the first Lasallian school to welcome the Hakodate students for this experience. Our parents and students did a tremendous job stepping up to support this unique and tremendous opportunity.”

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What the Students Said About This Cultural Experience

“At first, I was overwhelmed by the idea [of hosting four Hakodate students]. What really made this week worthwhile was the school day. It was funny how relatable we were to each other, even though we live over 6,000 miles apart. Just because they may speak differently and look differently, does not mean that we are different. The connections and international friendships created from this event are something that will be remembered for the rest of our lives.” – senior Saverio Caruso

“I was nervous when I found out I would be hosting at my house. I thought ‘what could I have in common with someone from the other side of the world?’ As the week progressed, however, I found the answer was quite a lot. Sharing a passion for music, sports and games, I learned that we live very similar lives, and above all, live by the same principals that LaSallian education instilled in us. By the end of the week, we were no longer strangers, we were brothers.” – senior Jack Hipschman

“Welcoming two Hakodate students, Koki and Yudai, into our family for a week was an amazing experience. Our family was not only able to show Koki and Yudai American culture in our daily life, but we were able to learn about the values they upheld. This experience gave me a deeper appreciation for Japanese culture and I am grateful for spending time, sharing laughs with, and making lasting bonds with our Hakodate brothers.” – senior Aedan Moran

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(https://www.cbalincroftnj.org/news/worldwide-brotherhood-hakodate-lasalle-returns)

The Hakodate La Salle Mission Club had their weekend training camp last September 26-27 at the Laura Farm in Hakodate, Hokkaido. It was a day of prayer, games, reflection and community building attended by 8 students, Mr. Deok Bosco Han and Br. Rodrigo Treviño FSC. With the theme, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’, 22 Vietnamese internship trainees who are active in the local parish also interacted with the students and staff. Despite a forecast of strong winds and rains, the weather was clear until the end of the activity. (Text: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC; Photos: Mr. Deok Bosco Han)

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September 13, 2020. Since arriving in Japan, much has been shared to me about La Salle Gakuen’s taiikusai—the school’s yearly athletics festival. The pictures from before were impressive but I was also sure that having the first-hand experience would be incomparable! However, such excitement was dampened with the threat of the coronavirus as the school year started.

The school’s stakeholders worked together to make sure that the taiikusai pushes through but it was obvious that the same taiikusai would take on a “different face” for this year. With the understanding and cooperation of everyone, measures had to be taken to prevent a coronavirus infection. The taiikusai would be closed for outside guests, including the students’ families and friends.

This “different face” did not seem to bother anyone during the day. It was “refreshing” to see our students outside of their classrooms and out in the sun. The games were fun and competitive. The families and friends watching via livestream were in for a treat since the students gave quite a spectacle during the cheering competition that they can be truly proud of!

This year, the white team won against the red team but the real winners for this year’s taiikusaiwere the La Salle Gakuen’s students who did not give in to the uncertainty and fear surrounding them but rather showed their zeal to celebrate and live the Lasallian Family Spirit! (Text: Br. Nico Mariano FSC; Photos: La Salle Japan Facebook Page)

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Last February 19, the members of our English Debate Club in La Salle Gakuen had an online interaction with the members of the Zobel Parliament Debate Society. They were able to exchange stories related to the practice of English debate and ask questions about each other’s culture. Special thanks to Ms. Addie Zaballero and Mrs. Nette Torrato of De La Salle Santiago Zobel School!

Here are some of the comments of the students from Kagoshima:

“It was fun but I was very nervous.” “They were friendly and kind so I hope that the interaction will continue. We hope to visit the Philippines or that they visit Kagoshima whenever possible.”

“I felt the Lasallian family spirit. There are many schools in La Salle worldwide and we hope we could have more opportunities to interact with students from different countries.”

(Text & Photos: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC)

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Brother Armin visited Hakodate La Salle, the most northern school and community in LEAD, from February 12 to 15. He arrived via Tokyo on the 12th in the middle of winter. Since he comes from the “paradisiac Manila” he brought some warm wind that might have made the temperature rise to nine degrees during those days --- a rather unusual temperature for the season; and curiously enough, after he went back, the weather forecast was more “snow again!”.

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During his visit, Brother Armin addressed the staff of the school during the daily morning general meeting. His words will remain in the memory of some of the teachers, especially those who feel how Hakodate La Salle could be more integrated to our school network as an “association for the educational mission” for the youth in The Lasallian World. The presence of Brother Visitor has become indeed AN ICON OF HOPE for us here in Hakodate.

Brother Visitor also joined us during morning prayer at school. Four or more boys came to pray at the school chapel. There, Brother Armin greeted a student and a teacher who had been to the Philippines as volunteers.

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Brother Armin had the opportunity to meet the two Brothers in the community as the main purpose of his pastoral visit. Different issues were discussed namely, the future of education in Japan (specifically in our boarding school), the strengthening of association and collaboration within LEAD and Japan, religious education, Inter-LEAD exchange programs, Lasallian formation and our commitment with La Salle Home in Sendai.

The vice principal and the head teacher joined us for dinner at the Brothers house. The barriers of language soon faded away and the Lasallian “language” gained strength and understanding as we shared our meals.

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Hakodate La Salle High School was founded by the French Canadian Brothers in 1960. After four years, it became a boarding school only for boys and has remained providing the same brotherly environment till now. 21 years ago we opened the junior high section for teenagers and now two thirds of the students spend 6 years with us. Needless to say, at the end of their Lasallian experience, all these students feel they are brothers with a common new family name: Lasallians.

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Moreover, we took Brother Armin to pay his respects to the founding Brothers at their tomb.

We cannot thank the Brother Visitor enough for coming. We will be expecting Brother Armin's return to this community with his choice from any of the four seasons we enjoy here. (Text & Photos: Br. Fermin Martinez FSC)

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I have always been curious how people outside truly perceive our school. While it is said that the school is well known, I was lucky to have witnessed how a television company covered and told the story about our school to the public. As far as I know, we did not pay anything for this nationwide program so I thought that it was a good chance for an objective appreciation. The 2-hour special program by BS TV Tokyo was called, ‘The名門校:日本全国すごい学校名鑑’ (The prestigious school: a list of Japan’s amazing schools). The teaser online said, “Many famous schools are not just schools with high numerical standards. We will show you the school’s teaching styles, rules, facilities, extra-curricular activities, and alumni network. We will also show you the secrets of super high schools such as Kaisei and La Salle. Discover the foundation behind the amazing high schools who currently shape not only universities but also modern Japan!” So last January 5, I rushed home just so I could catch the show at 7:00 p.m.

Five schools were featured – Hokurei HS (Sapporo), Yokohama Suiran HS, Kaisei HS and Seijo HS (both in Tokyo) and fortunately of course, our school in the far-flung city of Kagoshima. The school feature started with the boys happily singing the school anthem aboard the ship for a field trip and of course it showed interviews and snaps of the students’ daily life in school. They talked to famous alumni (a former government minister, a corporation president) and a doctor who was an alumnus and our current PTA Chairman. His father was also an old boy and his son currently studies in the school. He said he loves the school because it is in the rural area (maybe because the atmosphere allows students to concentrate on studying), and that because of the diversity of students who come from various prefectures, many experiences are possible.

One interesting point I thought they highlighted was how the blackboards are very long. I didn't know it was unusual until I watched the show. The students related that tests are very frequent - weekly, especially for the senior high school. The worldwide nature of De La Salle as a religious congregation was also featured and its two schools in in Japan, the other being in Hakodate. As Br. Domingo, the current Principal, showed the Brothers’ House, he was also able to introduce the Founder, and explain the values of Faith, Service and Fraternity (Communion), and ‘family spirit’, a popular invocation in the Japanese Lasallian Family.

A considerable amount of time was spent to feature the dormitory life of more than half of our students. There is a cut-off time for them to exit the dormitory so that they wouldn’t be late in the morning and the camera crew even caught the students who were so late, they were not able to wear their socks properly. It showed the size of the common bath and the scale of the laundry services. They focused on one student who is such a huge fan of a female celebrity, he has covered his walls with her posters and his cabinets with fan stuff. On the other hand, rules in the dormitory were also explained e.g. ban on mobile phones, private TV sets and comic books. When this was said, the hosts of the show seemed surprised. It also showed that while there was mandatory study time at the common area in the evening, some students still continue studying privately in their rooms and even wake up early in the morning to study again for at least two hours.

The ‘other side’ of course was presented, with students enjoying the famous sports festival in the region and the walk around the Sakurajima volcano in December, among other extra curricular activities. The feature ended with meaningful reflections from the students. One said that being in La Salle enabled him to have many amazing experiences. Another said that the dormitory life taught him cooperation, friendship, and brotherhood among his classmates. I wasn’t too sure in the end if any secret to the success has been revealed but I thought that the highlighted parts of the school were of course very noteworthy to the eyes of the Japanese people. Surely, this was a good kick-off to start the year and of course, a beginning reflection as we honor the achievements of the Brothers and Partners who have worked hard ahead of us. May this inspire all members of the Lasallian Family in Japan as we anticipate the 70th Founding Anniversary of La Salle High School in Kagoshima and 60th Anniversary of Hakodate La Salle, both in April of this year!

JAPAN - On July 28, the Hakodate La Salle Mission Club extended help to 25 foreign technical trainees who were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers and students pooled resources to buy food supplies and distributed it to those in need. The said club participates in the international immersion program by the diocese annually but has since been postponed due to the travel restrictions. (Text: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC; Photos: La Salle Japan Facebook Page)

Hakodate La Salle Mission Club Helps Out

Hakodate La Salle Mission Club Helps Out

On January 14, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, junior high school students and teachers of La Salle Gakuen, Kagoshima, formed the image of St. La Salle at the school field. Without a separate practice day, they asked the students to line up, to trace the provided trail, to stand and to wave at the cameras – all in 35 minutes. Efficient as always! (Text & Photo: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC)

JAPAN - As featured in a regional newspaper, Br. Rodrigo and the other members of the Catholic Church in Hakodate expressed solidarity and extended help to mostly Vietnamese and Filipino workers in the midst of the COVID-19 woes. Coordinated by Yunokawa Parish and together with Lasallians from Hakodate La Salle, they checked on the foreign workers, collected and distributed food supplies to those who needed it. (Text: Br. Aikee Esmeli FSC; Photo: Hokkaido Shimbun / Hokkaido News)

The First Four Brothers: (from Left to Right) Br. Marcel, Br. Laurent, Br. Daniel, and Br. Liguori

22 OCTOBER 1932 - PRESENT

Excerpts from Br. Andre Labelle’s article, “Japan - 80 Years of Lasallian Presence"

Four Brothers from French speaking Canada (Montreal) came to Hakodate in northern Japan, at the invitation of the Canadian Dominican Fathers responsible of the Catholic Church in that region in order to open a Catholic school for boys in that city. In 1934, a nice and wide piece of land was bought and plans were discussed. Unfortunately for various social reasons, to open a school was impossible, and the Brothers transferred to Sendai in 1936. A small language school was opened there, but soon, in 1936 and 1940, two of the Brothers were sent to different cities in Manchuria (China) joining other Brothers coming directly from Canada to teach in seminaries held by French or Canadian missionaries. A third Brother of the four was sent with the first Japanese postulant to Indochina, for his novitiate, and remained in Kuala Lumpur so he could come back with him at the end of the novitiate in 1941. But in 1941, war began in South East Asia.

“The foreign missionaries were incarcerated in concentration camps, either in Japan or Manchuria from December 1941 to August 1945. One of the two Brothers in Manchuria died in 1943 in the concentration camp. As for the Brother in Malaysia, he was not allowed to go back to Japan till after the war. Those four years were, for all, very difficult ones. It was only in 1946 that a work began for a new. First, an orphanage in Sendai in 1948 came up, then a school in the south of Japan, Kagoshima, in 1950. It was followed by a Brothers’ House in Tokyo, with an attached university students dormitory, which later were transferred to Hino, a suburb of Tokyo. And, at last, the desired school of Hakodate could open in 1960, after 28 years of waiting. Among those 28 years, 10 years were needed for the land, bought before the war, to be given back to the Brothers. And with God’ grace, organized by our Alumni, the school celebrated, in 2010, its golden jubilee.