Ryuta’s Story

Ryuta has a memory of running around playing when he was two years old. It is rare for a person to remember something from such a young age, but this experience really stuck with him. His head smacked through a glass window while he ran. Shards of glass stuck out of his head. He’ll never forget this.

Even now that he is sixteen years old, he remains adventurous and determined. He sees himself as a video game programmer after he finishes high school. His goal is to make a game similar to Dragon Quest, his favorite game. Even now he is working hard to achieve his dream. Aside from gaining experience at ITNAV, he is the president of the programming club as his school. Sometimes he recruits ITNAV to come in and teach aspects of programming.  

Ryuta appreciates the combination of the city and nature in Ishinomaki. Aside from programming, he has a passion for fishing. But, ironically, he doesn’t like fish at all. He prefers chocolate; anything he buys at the convenience store has chocolate in some form.

For such a young age, he has insightful advice for anyone interested in programming. He says although programming has an image of being inaccessible, anyone should give it a shot and play around because it is not as difficult as its reputation suggests. Another piece of wisdom he had was that programming requires a lot of creativity. He believes it is the most important skill for the field. If you have any trace of a creative idea, he advises you don’t give up on it. Think about the idea in different ways, and it may turn into something.

Brown’s Story


My given Japanese name is Tetsuya Ouchi; my English name is Jonah, but everyone calls me Brown. I am 21 years old. I’ve been working at ITNAV as an intern since February of 2017. In my free time, I enjoy programming, video gaming, and reading books and manga. I grew up an only child, with just my mom and dad. My mom pushed me to learn English growing up, even though I did not always put in effort.

My given Japanese name is Tetsuya Ouchi; my English name is Jonah, but everyone calls me Brown. I am 21 years old. I’ve been working at ITNAV as an intern since February of 2017. In my free time, I enjoy programming, video gaming, and reading books and manga. I grew up an only child, with just my mom and dad. My mom pushed me to learn English growing up, even though I did not always put in effort.

I’m not originally from Ishinomaki. I was born and raised in Sendai, a nearby city. Sendai was much more convenient because there were many more supermarkets and convenience stores, but if you get used to Ishinomaki, it’s okay living here.

Although I am learning programming here at ITNAV, it is not what I will do in the future. I am leaving ITNAV this upcoming July to work at a sales promotion company. Before I came to ITNAV in February, I attended a university in Canada learning carpentry skills and trade. I realized that wasn’t what I was interested in, so I came back to Japan. The reason I think it is important to learn programming is because it can be combined with infinite ideas and will be useful for me in the future.

My advice to younger students is this: You can learn programming on your own through the internet, but as a beginner it’s still hard. For me, it is very helpful to have people around to ask questions when I am unsure of something. ITNAV makes learning programming much easier than doing it on your own. I want to tell others that ITNAV is open so welcome.

Learning programming for me is to get the most powerful means to express ideas and self. My final goal for now is to express all of my thoughts and self with this.

Tama’s Story


My name is Saori Chiba and my nickname here at ITNAV is Tama. I’m a graduate student studying business at Ishinomaki Senshu University. I came to know about ITNAV because my professor is an acquaintance of the company’s CEO, Furuyama-san. He suggested I apply here. There were many things I wanted to learn that I thought ITNAV would be able to teach me, so I decided to come here. My main job is android app development. I’ve created a watch application and an anniversary tracker application. After graduation, I’d like to stay in Ishinomaki as create my own IT company.

I’m originally from Ishinomaki and have lived here all my life. Ishinomaki has really good food and there are plenty of cool places like ITNAV. I honestly love everything about ITNAV. The people here are really interesting, like Furuyama-san for example.

The place where I lived wasn’t affected as much by the 3.11 disaster. There was food at home and water was still accessible, so I didn’t really realize how severe the destruction was. I only understood the severity of the situation a week afterward when I visited my high school and saw the devastation with my own two eyes. I can only remember how shocked I was then.

Because of the disaster, I was unable to go to Sendai University like I originally planned. This led me to attend university here in Ishinomaki, which is how I ended up meeting my professor and working at ITNAV. I want to use my experiences here at ITNAV to found my own company one day and benefit the city.

Favorite Song: CQCQ by Kamisama, boku wa kidzuiteshimatta

Kaito Abe’s Story

Hi, my name is Kaito Abe and I am 17 years old. I live with my brother, mother, and father. In my free time, I enjoy kendo, playing games, watching videos, and reading.

I was born and raised in Ishinomaki, but I plan on leaving my hometown. After high school, I want to go to a vocational school for game programming and eventually create my own game. However, I would like to eventually come back to my hometown and teach programming to students or continue programming with ITNAV. I like Ishinomaki because it has become more and more convenient. There have also been more people coming into Ishinomaki, so exchanges among people have increased.

I got involved with ITNAV a month ago, but I was interested in programming since I was 14. I heard about ITNAV from a hackathon event at my school in which I participated and learned from. When programming, I like that I can quickly shape my thoughts and place them onto the screen.

My advice for other youth is once you decide what you want to do, research and learn about it and act on it.

Sendai Excursion-5/19/17

The view from Aoba castle was breathtaking.
Here is the statue of Date Masamune on his horse.
This was also seen on the land the castle used to be on. Although the sun makes it hard to see, there is a giant eagle in front of the turret.
We showed our Michigan pride with the university’s flag.
If we were a rap group, this would be our album cover.
The Guardians of the Galaxy poster taken in the movie theater.

Brad led the ITNAV group and Ishinomaki Lab Group around his favorite city in Japan, Sendai. The weather was hot and the sun was blazing, but that didn’t stop us from having fun.
First we went to the War Reconsturction Memorial Museum. This place tells the story of Sendai during and after World War II. Sendai was unfortunately a victim of fire bombing from the U.S. Most of the buildings in the city today had to be completely rebuilt in the early 50’s. Despite this misfortune, the city emanates hope and ambition for the future.
During a reflection session we had in the museum, we discussed our privelege as Americans in Japan. This brought up other questions of nationality. Some members of our group weren’t born in the U.S. and are not sure of whether they should claim the history and heritage of the U.S.. We did not have an answer, however we all had something to think about for the rest of the day.
After the museum we hiked up a hill to see where Aoba palace once was. Now it is an expanse of land overlooking the city with a gorgeous view. We also saw the famous statue of Date Masamune riding a horse. Luckily for us, there were role-playing historical samurai figures in front of the statue that kept shouting. It was very amusing.
By late afternoon, we were finished exploring. Some people from the Makigumi group took a train to meet up, and we went to the movie theater to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy. What a night!

ITNAV Walking Tour

We started our Monday by breaking into smaller groups to do a walking tour of downtown Ishinomaki. Some places we visited include the Ishinomori Manga Museum, a local coffee shop, a temple, the Hagurosantoriya Shrine, and the Makigumi house — a house renovated by one of our other community partners, Makigumi. Namaste, one of the ITNAV members, treated Rachel P. and Rhea to coffee. So far our ITNAV hosts have been extremely welcoming and excited about our work together.
We also learned about an interesting business called Funade. This small shop of handmade accessories and pants was started by the wives of fishermen to create jobs after the tsunami hit in 2011. Everything in the shop is made  from flags of wrecked boats. This is one of the many initiatives taken to support the community.
Many shops and restaurants are situated along Ishinomaki’s traditional side streets, such as the restaurant Hiyori Kitchen and an upcycle store that turns junk into unique showpieces. These side streets are also home to sharehouses, occupied by many of the youth who came to Ishinomaki after the disaster to volunteer. One of these sharehouses has been transformed into a beautiful work of art after having been the site of an art festival.
One of our tour guides, U.K., also shared information about Ishinomaki’s history as we explored the city. According to U.K., Ishinomaki has traditionally been a fishing village was once a significant international trading city. The area was also a part of feudal lord named Date Masamune’s domain during the 1500s.
All in all, we found Ishinomaki to be a peaceful seaside town filled with interesting underlying histories and sincere people. As we walked down the cobblestone streets, we were greeted by each and every person we saw. Sometimes, it was with a slight nod of the head while other times, they launched into full-blown conversations with us. Seeing this city that rose up from a severe disaster through the support of everyone was an inspiring experience that will continue to live on with us and has continued to encourage us to add our support to their cause.

Fisherman Japan (12 May 2017)

Today we went to the Sanriku Fukko National Park, which was located at the tip of the peninsula. Our bus ride was long, but so worth it!

It was very windy at the top of the mountain, but the view of the ocean was gorgeous.

Caroline regretting wearing shorts on a very cold, windy day:

The view from the top of the hill was insane. We explored the area for awhile and then ate lunch picnic style together very happily despite the cold breeze.

Side note: rice balls!!

Alongside the trails in the park were numerous playgrounds. We had fun on different swings, slides, and even sledding. And we discovered Molly’s true self: a seven-year-old girl trapped in a grown woman’s body.

There was also a cool bridge that we found on the way!

After the park and bridge, we headed over to meet Fisherman Japan. They are a group that are dedicated to promoting the fishing industry within Japan. Currently, the average age of a fisherman is in the 60s. However, following the events of the 2011 tsunami, this organization has not only pushed for the increase of the fishing industry, but also have made efforts to recruit young people into the occupation. While Fisherman Japan is currently based within the Miyagi Prefecture, we are excited to see how their impact will grow and expand to the rest of Japan and even to other parts of Asia.

After we said farewell to Fisherman Japan, we met a new shy friend.

Who eventually moved away from us…

But it’s okay, because we ended our day with a very big boat!

Walking back, we saw flowers..

.. and these cool statues.

And fell asleep on our long way back to Ishinomaki.


Yesterday for our first excursion the group visited the GRA (General Reconstruction Association) strawberry farm. During our visit, we listened to a presentation by one of GRAs employees in which he explained the history and the vision of the company. After losing 95% of its strawberry farms during the Tohoku earthquake in 2011  the GRA started to support efforts to revive strawberry farming in Yamamoto. The GRA has committed to hire 10,000 employees in 100 different companies within the next 10 years.  To rebuild the region, the GRA believes they must have strong industry but more specifically employment.

MIGAKI-ICHIGO meaning “polishing strawberries” is a brand of high-quality strawberries produced in Yamamoto-cho, Miyagi using a variety of different technological and production methods. 

After listening to the presentation we had the pleasure of picking and eating some of the strawberries sold under the MIGAKI-ICHIGO brand.  I’ve had plenty of strawberry in my 21 years of life but yesterday was like eating a strawberry for the first time.


Getting into the strawberry spirit
A visual depiction of how much we all enjoyed the strawberries

Brightmoor Bento Brainstorm!


For our first workshop, we divided our participants into 3 groups, each with a Brightmoor Makers facilitator to ask one another several questions:


1. What is your earliest memory ?

2. Describe Brightmoor to our visitors from U-M.

3. Describe a place in your community that is special to you–it can be a family place, a neighborhood place, a church. But tell each other what it is and why it is special to you.



The responses were a range of places to eat and shop. The big favorites? Rouge Park and the Detroit Zoo.




Following the identification of these special community places, we asked everyone to think of ways that they could make those places even better

We talked, we drew, everyone shared their ideas in groups. Here are some of the drawings:

After a short break (with Cottage Inn pizza!) our guest, Mike Haag from Herman Miller told our group about the city of Ishinomaki, Japan, and some of the events that followed the 3/11/11 Tsunami. Mike described the destruction of much of the housing, the businesses and the conditions people lived within. When Herman Miller employees and volunteers arrived in Ishinomaki, one of their observations was that the temporary housing that had been provided was set on the wet ground on blocks. The effect of this was that in order for the residents to hang their clothes to dry they had to pile things on top of each other to get to the roof. This was a challenge for a relatively short population already suffering from fatigue and cold, and social isolation.

One of the projects jointly developed by Herman Miller and the nascent DIY furniture enterprise that grew into Ishinomaki Laboratory was a bench that served both as a stepping stool and a unit of social cohesion where people could gather outside their houses. Mike described other simple yet elegant design solutions that were designed and built and still in production, including a tool box, a trestle leg and a shelf.

We then all looked at the beautiful Bento DIY kit–and started to ask our participants how they might envision such a kit impacting Brightmoor. The Bento DIY Kit from Ishinomaki is composed of relatively simple geometric shapes cut from pine, sanded and waxed, several with a wood burned insignia. The kit and its well designed instructions enable most anyone of all ages and abilities to build several projects using the enclosed components and simple hand tools.



We had a terrific session of brainstorming , sketching ideas and hearing from everyone in the group before trying to find some common areas of interest and overlap.



Then, we asked one person from each group to present to the whole workshop.



Pro Chair. Transform your protest sign into a chair.







Bender. Transforms from a bench into a ladder.




Treehouse + Birdhouse. This is an experience with an object. The first stage is to build a habitable tree house in either the Detroit Zoo or Rouge Park so you can spend time with birds (also has a component where you can zipline trhough the trees, and possibly swim with dolphins (if at the Zoo.). Then, the kit would contain the parts for building a birdhouse with notes about local birds so you could replicate the experience at home.

After the workshop, we compiled everyones’ ideas into a plan to build Brightmoor Bento kits that can be used to develop a Maker Playground in Brightmoor. Here are some of our early sketches…

Now, it’s off to Ishinomaki to build our Brightmoor Bento prototype! Stay tuned!