Toyota's move to North Texas brings more interest in Japanese schooling

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by JOBIN PANICKER

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WFAA

Posted on June 26, 2014 at 10:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 26 at 10:45 PM

CARROLLTON -- When the school week ends for most kids, it’s just getting started on a Saturday at Ted Polk Middle School in Carrollton, where the Japanese School of Dallas holds classes on the weekends.

Four hundred Japanese and Japanese-American children gather first in the gym for an assembly. After a series of school songs and announcements, it’s off to the classroom.

“They come here to catch up with the Japanese curriculum,” said Yukiko Willoughby, a parent.

Students come here to find workbooks in Japanese and teachers who only speak Japanese. Willoughby tells us most of the children have parents who are expatriates, who temporarily work in the U.S. The school gives children who are missing out on the Japanese curriculum a chance to keep up.

The Dallas Japanese Association started the program in 1989 to introduce Japanese customs and culture through the teaching of the language. Some students are American-born, whose parents want to keep the Japanese traditions alive.

Principal Munetake Yamamura tells us many people are surprised to see that there is a school in North Texas.

“For most of the Japanese people, Texas is an unknown state,” Yamamura said.

But it may not be unknown for very long. Especially as one of the world’s largest companies, Toyota, takes its U.S. headquarters to Plano.

“I was like ‘Great! Toyota is coming,’” Willoughby said.

Toyota will move its North American headquarters for manufacturing, sales and marketing, and corporate operations to a single, "state-of-the-art" campus in Plano over the next three years. The Honorary Counsel General of Japan, John Stich, would call Toyota’s move a “no brainer.”

“From a headquarters standpoint, this is a very convenient location,” Stich said.

North Texas offers the local Japanese a major international airport and a Major League Baseball team with a high-profile Japanese player in Yu Darvish.

“We’re reaching out very much to Japan and I think it’s paying dividends,” Stich said.

In a year or so, these students will have more company -- in fact, parents are already calling. The school is expecting another 150 kids over the next two years.

Principal Yamamura even took a call from a vice president of Toyota.

“We should be ready to accept students,” Yamamura said.

Some of the students will be short term, while others for the long haul. It all depends on the length of their parents' business contracts.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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