Japan House celebrated a milestone birthday this past weekend. On June 18, 1998, the campus institution opened in its current location off Lincoln Avenue, under the direction of Kimiko Gunji. From Gunji, now a Professor Emeritus:
25 years ago, Japan House was built in the middle of the cornfields, which was the moment of a miracle as well as a dream coming true. A poem by Japanese poet Shinmin Sakamoto says, “Pray, the flowers bloom.” Japan House opened its doors, complete with the generous donation of two tearooms by Dr. Genshitsu Sen, 15th Generation of the Grandmaster Urasenke Tea Tradition and one tearoom from the Japan Illini Club, a UI alumni group in Japan. Now, after 25 years later, it has become the place where people find their differences and similarities and have learned the importance to live with the spirit of harmony and peace. I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations on Japan House staff and many volunteers who have worked assiduously to keep the seed of a flower blooming into such a beautiful full blossom, and I wish its continuing successful in the future.
Five years ago, when they were celebrating 20 years, I spoke with Gunji’s daughter, and current Japan House Director Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud about the history of the facility and her family’s legacy of involvement.