The Keizai Koho Center Fellowship is one of the most desirable and prestigious awards that a social studies teacher can receive.  One major benefit is the cost of touring Japan which is very expensive for public school teachers without trust funds to do.

The award quickly became popular with social studies teachers who applied by the thousands each year to win a coveted place in a nearly three week-long-tour of Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and other locations.

I had applied for five straight years with the hope that I would be selected and have an opportunity to recruit a Japanese high school for the International Business Program (IBP) that I was developing for North Atlanta H. S. and the Atlanta Public Schools.

When the 1999 selection period began, I vowed to submit one more application. If again rejected, I would start saving money to visit Japan on my own.

Fortunately, I was finally accepted, probably because of the global entrepreneurship program that I had developed and exported to seventeen countries. In each, a sister school adapted the concept and curriculum to their unique circumstances and needs.

My hope was to invite a Japanese high school to join the rapidly expanding network that even the International Baccalaureate Program in Cardiff, Wales considered absorbing in 2003.  See; see why they did not.

So, when the following invitation arrived, I was thrilled and excited about the opportunity to learn about Japan and integrate my new knowledge into the International Business Program’s curriculum for North Atlanta and sister schools benefit.

I gratefully accepted and expressed my goals and hopes for this exceptional opportunity.

At the program’s inception, the then vaunted Japanese export machine was gaining significant market share in key US industries such as autos and electronics and causing many Americans to lose their factory jobs.

Japan was becoming viewed as an economic threat by industrial workers in England, Canada, and Australia too.  The Japanese government sought to ease this concern which they viewed as a perception problem.

Targeted countries were the USA, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, countries that had defeated Japan in World War II. Sizable segments of their populations though still felt animosity towards Japan, and growing legions of displaced workers were expressing their anger too.

Japan, the land of the rising sun, also worried its Asian neighbors who expressed concerns about a growing exporting imperium that could lead to regional economic and military dominance.  See which became my Sourcebook contribution.

KKC therefore brought groups of social studies teachers from the select countries to educate them about Japan’s domestic realities and positive global intentions.  The educators, hopefully, would bring back much new information to their communities that would be infused in to state and local educational curricula.

My International Studies Magnet Director described in his endorsement letter how the information I learned would benefit our students and sister schools.


 The following IBP agenda shows how knowledge of Japan would be applied in the IBP curriculum and how students would benefit from exposure.


My proposal to KKC to help me install the IBP to a Japanese high school follows.

All KKC Fellows were expected to contribute to the KKC Sourcebook.  My proposed contribution follows.

KKC Tour Highlights

KKC tour highlight #1 for me was a visit to Miyajima, a small, bucolic, sacred island revered for its offshore Buddhist shrine. The Fellows stayed in an exclusive inn, hiked, walked, or swam, visited the Peace Shrine then feasted on a twenty-eight course-dinner wearing traditional kimonos.

On the ferry over to Miyajima, I am pictured pointing at the sacred island and famous shrine that sits in water right before boat dock.

Miyajima Island’s port where tourists disembark from the ferry and make their way through the idyllic town center to their island destination is pictured.

This is the boat landing for visitors to the famous Japanese religious shrine located right off Miyajima Island.


The Miyajima Hotel feast, a twenty-eight-course meal served while lounging in traditional kimonos, was one of the best eating experiences of my life.

KKC Tour Highlight #2

My late wife Sue Auerbach Heller and I traveled to Tahiti and Bora Bora in 1988 where we met and befriended a lovely Japanese couple who were on their honeymoon.  We stayed in contact over the years so when KKC selected me, the couple – by now blessed with a talented and sweet daughter – took me to Tokyo’s best sushi restaurant.  They would also invite me to a wonderful dinner and sleepover in their lovely home north of the city.

My Japanese friends are posing with me at their favorite Tokyo sushi restaurant.  My reunion with this family after ten years was extremely rewarding.

The following picture is of us dining in their attractive and comfortable home.

KKC Fellows group picture taken in front of Japan’s national TV station and its famous sculpture.

After the tour’s conclusion, KKC circulated flattering publicity releases of my participation and contribution to the Sourcebook.

The itinerary was comprehensive and outstanding. We stayed in top hotels, ate in fine restaurants, visited key cultural attractions, and met with political and business leaders.                      

KKC Tour Highlight #3: Overnight visit with a family in Osaka.

All Fellows were given an opportunity to stay with a Japanese family in Osaka which, for me, represented a very special travel opportunity.  I was lucky to stay with a wonderful couple whom I shared a memorable time with.




My Japanese home stay host was the coolest guy in Osaka.  We became best buds almost immediately.

Originally an architect who worked so late each day that he could not experience his three children growing up, he quit and became an architecture teacher. He completely re-oriented his life to enjoy it and be there for his family.

My host was a great tour guide, cook and instant friend.  A year later, he contacted me after a big hurricane to see if I was safe.

He also inquired about my program’s interest in participating in the Leonids project and we continued to exchange occasional emails for a couple of more years.

In 2001, I invited him and two of his students to participate in Super – Exchange V.

Unfortunately, the government bureaucracy with its maze of regulations prevented that.  I think of him now and then and am sure that he is still taking time to smell the roses.

The Economics Sourcebook Project is described.

All the hotels we stayed in were Japan’s finest.  Our KKC hosts were amazingly hospitable and great food was provided constantly.  An example is our enjoying a sumptuous lunch and two hours later being fed a fabulous sushi snack which no one had room to eat and felt guilty for leaving over.

KKC group photo (above) with the Mayor of Hiroshima who spoke perfect San Diego English where he had gone to college – his joke.    Hiroshima bears a physical and economic resemblance to San Diego.

This large mixed-use development was being constructed on an island in Tokyo Bay and was distinguished by radical architectural forms and designs.

KKC Fellows are pictured in a breakout session with a cross section of Japanese secondary level, social studies teachers from three Tokyo city high schools.

Meeting with important industrial leaders: Mazda Motor Company

The Mazda Motor Company is headquartered in Hiroshima.  We visited the main manufacturing plant and were honored with a question-and-answer session with the Chief Executive Officer.  Mazda was one-third owned by Ford at the time.

Visit to a Japanese high school: Misuzogoaka in Hiroshima. Highlight #3 

A group of Fellows, including me, visited Misuzogoaka High School in Hiroshima.  We were received nicely, observed classroom teachers in action, and met with the principal and social studies department.

I proposed to the principal that Misuzogoaka please join the IBP.  The social studies department looked at him and dramatically awaited his answer.  The teachers were thrilled at the idea of possibly leading student exchanges to Atlanta and elsewhere in the global network but were also realistic about the highly structured Japanese school system. 

After stroking his chin for several seconds, he finally said; “It might be difficult.” That is a polite way of saying unlikely or improbable.

This high school seemed ideal to buy into the IBP mission as the PTSA President was a successful businessman who loved the idea of directly involving teenagers in entrepreneurship and international trade. The gentleman manufactured giftware and novelties that he sold in the school store to raise funds and was a good fit for ACTCo, the IBP’s student run business.

The importance of passing the national exam to get into the best colleges usually worked against taking time away from preparation.

Regardless, I appreciated the nice letter from an English teacher who hosted us:


Misuzogoaka art students painted this mural on a blank wall of a children’s hospital to cheer the sick kids up.  We watched the boys baseball team practice and believed they were the equal of any American high school.

KKC Fellows were amazed to watch Japanese high school students spend the last thirty minutes of their day cleaning up their school and did not appear to mind.  We agreed that American students might complain that they were not janitors.

The principal shared with us that his biggest discipline problem was students purposely mismatching socks, a mild form of teenaged rebellion indeed.

KKC filled our suitcases with excellent educational materials to take back home to our local school districts.  I worked hard to repay my hosts by diligently integrating my new knowledge of Japan into my daily lessons.


KKC select economists provided the Fellows with this explanation of Japan’s status in 1999 after a decade of stagnation.


Twenty-four years later, the current economic situation of low growth with a shrinking and aging population is similar as none of the remedies have really worked, even the doubling of the money supply to jump start growth.  Sales usually rose a bit at first from the stimulus, then flattened again.

I have written about Japan’s lost decades and the country’s search for hot new product lines beyond cars to make the economy sizzle once more.  This was an update for:

The Japanese language is very difficult to learn.  We were given many opportunities to learn and apply basic words and phrases.