Navigating the Nihongo Wave: Japanese Language and Culture in Florida Over the Years

Professor Shigeko Honda

On April 1, Consul General Kazuhiro Nakai, Consulate General of Japan in Miami presented the certificate and medal of “the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays” to Professor Shigeko Honda of the University of West Florida (UWF), who has made tremendous contributions to enhance ties between Japan and Florida/Pensacola.

Professor Shigeko Honda

We are grateful that the UWF has one of the most renowned courses on Japanese language and culture in Florida, and it was Prof. Honda who started them in 1987. Till she retired in 2013, she diligently taught in UWF for twenty-seven years, producing many JET participants and those who had successful careers with Japanese skills from its graduates.

The conferment ceremony was held in the UWF “Japan House” which has one of the most authentic tea ceremony rooms and plays an important role in introducing a variety of Japan’s culture to UWF students and the local community. Prof. Honda applied for a cultural grant fund in Japan and successfully established it in 2004. Together with her conferment, guests also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the UWF “Japan House”.

Professor Shigeko Honda

The UWF has successful overseas engagement programs, and the “Jikei America Center” has contributed to them by promoting academic exchanges with Japan. Consul General Nakai informed the guests that Prof. Honda orchestrated it when the UWF started the academic partnership with the Jikei Gakuen Group in 1989.

Outside of her work with UWF, she has also been very engaged in advancing grassroots friendship between Japan and Florida. One of her most important achievements was the establishment of the Japan America Society of Northwest Florida in 1994, which has always been a very active branch ever since, facilitating business with Japan and organizing a variety of culture events.

Prof. Honda was also the catalyst for starting a grassroots exchange between Gero City (then Hagiwara City) and Pensacola City in 1994, which culminated into the Gero-Pensacola sister city partnership. This partnership is now one of the most successful ones in Florida, implementing annual student and leader exchanges and other activities. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Gero-Pensacola grassroot exchanges, and Consul General Nakai was very pleased that the ceremony was attended by 20 junior high school students from Gero city, who were visiting Pensacola in their exchange program.

The efforts of Prof. Honda have extended beyond the Gero-Pensacola Sister City Relationship, encompassing significant contributions to initiate substantial programs and events of the Florida-Wakayama Sister State Agreement (1995), including the visit of the then First Lady Columba Bush to Wakayama in 2005.

Consul General Nakai expressed his sincere congratulations to Prof. Honda for the Emperor’s decoration upon her in recognition of her enormous achievements to promote Japan’s ties with Florida/Pensacola and wished her continued success and development in the future.

Professor Shigeko Honda

Photos: UWF Global Quarter