Reflecting on 30 years of The Yoshi Hattori Scholarship

Reflecting on 30 years of The Yoshi Hattori Scholarship

We wanted to share a few inspiring highlights, courtesy of AFS-Japan, from an event held in Japan on October 8th, 2022 by the founders of the Yoshi Hattori scholarship, which has been awarded to U.S. students going to Japan for a year long AFS program for three decades.

The Hattori family has established a full scholarship to study in Japan through AFS in the memory of their late son Yoshihiro Hattori, who was killed in a shooting while on exchange in the U.S. in 1992. Since then, over 20 USA students have received Yoshi Hattori scholarship award.

At the event, Mr. and Mrs. Hattori reflected on the past 30 years following this tragic incident that has forever changed their lives, and the work they have done through the Yoshi Foundation to support high school education and gun control efforts.

Yoshi’s father, Masa, shared that the scholarship was launched in response to the decreasing number of exchange students from the U.S. to Japan. One of the scholarships goals was to keep promoting mutual understanding between the two countries.

Being asked, “[w]hat do you think ‘peace’ is? How do you define ‘peace’?”, Yoshi’s mother Mieko answered, “If you have compassion for others, a conflict will subside. Empathy is needed. Not the self-centered attitude but if having a different point of view or another point of view there will be empathy and peace.”

Prior to the event, Matthew, a 2007 Yoshi scholarship alumnus shared the following in an interview for the Japanese media: “The greatest treasure is that I have acquired the ability to understand the viewpoints of people who think differently from myself. I recognized that there are many people in the world with different ways of thinking and different values, as they say, ‘Ten different colors’.”

According to AFS-Japan, the event received significant media traction; it was covered by eight major media outlets. HERE is a link to one of the media stories and for any Japanese-speaking staff attached is an article in Japanese that AFS Japan shared with us.

AFS-Japan shared that while it may be less known to today’s AFS-USA community, at the time the 1992 shooting shook Japanese society. The media stories posed a serious threat to not only the image of AFS-Japan, but to their ability to continue with AFS programing. One voluntary effort to address the safety concerns came from AFS-Japan alumni, who started giving safety tips to their sending students. With the help of AFS International this initiative evolved into the development of safety guidelines for the participants across the AFS network, which still exist today.

We find the above highlights a powerful reminder of human beings’ resiliency, and that it signifies yet another testament to the importance of AFS’s continuing mission.

Last but not the least, the event also featured a speech by the most recent Yoshi Hattori scholarship winner, Avonlea Harwood, currently on the AFS program in Japan and a couple of Yoshi Hattori scholarship alumni from the U.S. were able to attend the event virtually.