Japanese exchange student etches her mark on community

By Kylie Cordell For Clay Today
Posted 3/23/23

FLEMING ISLAND – “My name is Sakura Inoue. I’m from Aichi Prefecture, which is in the middle part of Japan,” she said straightforwardly.

Inoue came to the United States in January. She …

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Japanese exchange student etches her mark on community


FLEMING ISLAND – “My name is Sakura Inoue. I’m from Aichi Prefecture, which is in the middle part of Japan,” she said straightforwardly.

Inoue came to the United States in January. She lives with her host parents in Middleburg and attends Fleming Island High through a partnership with Green Greenheart Exchange. This non-profit organization finds host families for international high school students.

In about two months, Sakura has significantly impacted her new community, painting calligraphy for Koushinryou Curry and Sando, a local Japanese Restaurant in Jacksonville. Koushinryou specializes in Japanese sandwiches and curry, the national dish of Japan, and is located in Pablo Station.

An employee familiar with Inoue’s work from local events offered to put Chef Levi Broadwell in touch with Inoue to do calligraphy for the restaurant.

“I wasn’t sure if she would be interested in it or not, but I asked her for her contact information, and to my surprise, she was super excited,” Broadwell said.

Broadwell had been looking for someone to do calligraphy for his new restaurant sign. Inoue did the work for the sign, and she drew calligraphy on the back of the seats.

“Since the beginning of 2023, I went to Mr. Levi’s restaurant three or four times,” Inoue said. “I worked on the signs, and I worked on the tables and backs of chairs. For almost two or three months, I have been working on calligraphy work at the restaurant.”

Japanese Calligraphy, or Shodo, is “the way of artistic handwriting or beautiful writing.” It is traditionally done with ink and brush, the tools which create the form’s flowing, cursive style.

The art came from China around 2000 years ago but was adopted by Japan. It is still widely taught in traditional Japanese elementary schools.

“The most important role of calligraphy was communicating, but now we don’t use it to communicate as much. It’s more of a symbol of Japanese culture. It was important for communication many years ago, but now it is more symbolic,” Inoue said.

However, many families enroll their children in calligraphy classes to improve handwriting skills, a symbol of both education and professionalism. Inoue started taking private calligraphy lessons nine years ago.

“When I was in Japan, in my private class, I would have to work on my calligraphy for two or three hours. It was very long. And when I went to my calligraphy camp, I would have to work almost all day long. I got used to a lot of work,” she said.

“My calligraphy teacher was really strict, but thanks to him, my calligraphy skills really improved. Calligraphy has been a hobby and a big interest of mine for many years.”

Now her calligraphy will be on display for years.

Besides being an artist, Sakura is an A student taking English, government and American history. She is on the track team and loves her yearbook class.

“I have been taking those classes since the beginning of the year. My teachers and my friends are very kind to me. There are many differences between my Japanese school and Fleming Island High School, but it has been really great so far,” she said.

Inoue also participated in World of Nations, an annual international festival in Jacksonville and one of North Florida’s largest multicultural festivals, featuring exhibitions and events from various countries.

“There are many countries at the event and I was working on Calligraphy at the Japanese booth. It was very exciting,” she said.

After graduating from high school, Sakura plans to pursue international relations and diplomacy.

“I want to learn about international relationships between many countries so that we can make a peaceful world. I am learning a lot about the relationship between America and Japan,” she said. “I don’t think calligraphy is going to be my work. It’s more like a hobby, but from this experience, I get to introduce my calligraphy to the world. It became part of my dream.”

Many foreign exchange students come to the United States for an American high school experience and English language immersion. They embrace our culture and share their own.

“This is just one example of that,” said Greenheart High Exchange Coordinator Coordinator, Wanda Cox.

“If anyone is interested in becoming a host, they can go to www.hostwithgreenheart.org. They will come up to a screen that says, ‘I am interested in hosting,’ and they can fill that out. We reach out to them and start the conversation,” she said. “We are always on the lookout for host families because without them, we can’t bring these students here.”


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