Honoka Saito, who hopes to use film to tell stories that inspire Japan to think big, has been named the winner of a Dilena Takeyama Center scholarship.
The $8,000 scholarship will assist Saito’s studies at San Francisco State University, where she is studying cinema because of a lifelong fascination with storytelling and the power it has to transform one’s thinking.
“I have always loved reading books ever since I was a little kid,” she explained. “I feel like I’ve been drawn into the story, and I feel like I become the main character.” Now she would like to turn her passion for storytelling to the art of filmmaking, and she chose San Francisco State University because of its program in cinema studies.
“My life goal is to help people all over the world, including Japanese people, to realize the potential and the value of Japan through storytelling,” she explained in her application. “…I feel that Japanese people, especially the younger generation, tend to hesitate to be proud of their own country because they often think that foreign countries are better in many ways than Japan. This stereotyped belief hinders Japan’s growth not only in economics and politics, but also in terms of culture.”
For now, one of Saito’s first challenges is to adjust to life in San Francisco – her only other time in the U.S. was a vacation in Hawaii. She described herself as being “30 percent excited and 70 percent nervous,” especially after seeing the city’s crowded and bustling downtown area. “This is the first time for me to live alone, and I’m doing it in a foreign country,” she said.
Those feelings may have influenced her directorial debut at San Francisco State. Saito and a team of students produced a short film, “Flow,” that utilizes time lapse photography to capture the fast pace of life in contemporary times. A woman in the film poses a series of questions: “What are you thinking? Why are you here? What are you going to do next?” Saito and her colleagues entered the film into the Campus Movie Fest competition, where it was well received.
“Because I love Japan, I believe that Japan can be a bigger country,” said Saito. “I want the Japanese to understand that they have a bigger potential. I hope to do this with my film.”
The Dilena Takeyama Center launched the scholarship program to assist students in the U.S. and Japan who plan to utilize their studies and future careers in ways that promote improved relations between the two countries.