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Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute marks milestone

Thu., Sept. 6, 2012

10,000 students strong

Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute celebrated its 10,000th student and its new executive vice president at a tree planting ceremony last week.

The private women’s college just west of Spokane is the United States branch campus of Japan’s Mukogawa Women’s University. It opened in 1990.

There are 54 students at Mukogawa and when they gathered last Thursday they knew one of them was the 10,000th, but the school didn’t reveal who it was until the ceremony.

When Remi Masuda’s name was announced, everyone cheered and clapped and got their smartphones out to take pictures for friends and family back home in Japan.

Masuda received a special diploma, a sash and a tiara before she joined outgoing executive vice president Kinya Masugata and incoming executive vice president Goro Murahata in planting a Crimson King maple on a campus lawn.

“We could not do what we do without the support and friendship of the Spokane community,” Murahata said. “Ten thousand students is a lot. Many Japanese universities used to have campuses overseas, but they stopped because of lack of support from the community.”

Outgoing president Masugata said he had enjoyed his time in Spokane.

“I will miss the weather, the big blue skies and the beautiful campus,” Masugata said, adding that he’s looking forward to moving back to Japan and to spending more time with his hobbies, photography and gardening.

“But I will miss this,” he said, gesturing toward the students who had gathered.

Mukogawa has a strong tree planting tradition encouraging every semester group to plant a tree on campus. The trees are marked with a plaque that names the class and the year.

“They’ve planted cherry trees and evergreen trees,” said Janet Sahlin, director of academic programs at Mukogawa. “After 10,000 students here we are populating the campus with trees.”

As part of the tree planting ceremony students also buried a time capsule.

“Every student has written a blessing or a wish or a hope for future students on a little piece of paper and put it into the capsule,” Sahlin said. “The plan is to dig it up when we reach 20,000 students.”

Watch Pia Hallenberg talk about this story on KHQ

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