What is Fujilina... and why do Japanese square dancers visit North Carolina?

by Ri-Shea Schlitter, August 20, 2018

Short Version...

Over the past three years, Christopher and I have made four trips to Yamanashi Prefecture (home to Mt. Fuji), where our daughter was teaching English. On our first trip, in the spring of 2015, we visited a couple of clubs. The next spring (2016), we visited even more clubs and attended a “Dosado Party.” By then, Yamanashi felt like a second home, where our international friends lived and danced.

Our daughter came home to NC a few months later, but we visited Yamanashi the following spring (2017) anyway and danced at every club that our schedule allowed (12 out of 14).

We visited again that autumn (2017) and brought friends with us. The callers and dancers were so inspired by our frequent trips just to square dance with them (in a rural area where no international visitors had ever danced before) that they decided to plan their own tour to meet and dance with North Carolinians! We created Fujilina (a portmanteau of Mt. Fuji and North Carolina) to foster international friendship through Square Dance between Yamanashi Prefecture and North Carolina.

The Full Story...

Christopher and I have been interested in Japan for a long time. My parents were born and raised in Taiwan when it was a Japanese colony, and they passed down their love of Japanese culture to me. Christopher became interested in Japan when he took a course on Japanese politics his first year in college and decided to study the language during the summer session. When he met some “real” Japanese exchange students that summer, he fell in love with Japan. A year later, he became an exchange student himself and studied for a year in Japan. In his senior year, Christopher’s dorm held a “roommate-chooses-your-blind-date” Square Dance Party, and I was his lucky victim. Christopher was already the president of our college Japan Club when we met, and I soon became a very active member (and later president) of the club as well.

Fast forward a few years... When our children were young, we watched (subtitled) Japanese TV shows, hosted Japanese exchange students, listened to Japanese pop songs, involved our children in the Shotokan Karate dojo that we managed, and ate mostly Japanese food. We were not surprised that our daughter Cheryl ended up majoring in Japanese Language (and Cello Performance). After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, she moved to Japan to teach English in public schools as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. She was assigned to the city of Fuefuki in Yamanashi Prefecture, an agricultural region near Mt. Fuji, similar in character and climate to North Carolina.

In her second year in Japan (2015), we visited Cheryl. We danced with a club in neighboring Kofu (the capital of Yamanashi Prefecture), and one in Fuefuki. Their callers, Hideo Kawasaki and “Sean” Yamamoto, thought our emailed request to visit was a hoax at first. International dancers visit Tokyo-area clubs all the time, but no international visitor had ever danced in Yamanashi! We had a great time, and when we returned to Japan the following year (2016), we visited even more clubs near Kofu and also attended their annual Dosado Party, a 6-hour event that celebrates the graduation of all the new dancers in the area. We were surprised and impressed to find over 120 dancers attending a Basic dance! The dancing was fun and exciting.

The Yamanashi clubs on the “other side” of the local mountain range (closer to Mt. Fuji) felt left out because we didn’t visit their clubs. So the following year (2017), we visited every club on that side of the mountain range and even more on the Kofu side. And the Dosado Party that year was even bigger, with 179 attendees (over 22 squares)! Kawasaki-san was perplexed as to why we continued to visit their little part of the world. By then, Cheryl had returned to the US and was no longer living in Yamanashi.

During that third trip, we were inspired to bring other Americans to enjoy Square Dance in Japan, and the seed for Fujilina was planted. In the meantime, the Japanese callers were inspired to travel to the US to dance with Americans. Kawasaki-san announced at the Dosado Party that we would be returning with more Americans. In August (2017) we brought Jack and Lois Snyder on our fourth trip, which was when Kawasaki-san told us he would soon send a formal request via email, presumably to plan a trip to North Carolina. Unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks later. Kawasaki-san’s dream was kept alive by ten callers and dancers, who asked us to arrange a trip for them to visit North Carolina. The plan became real when plane tickets were purchased.

Fujilina took advantage of the travel dates of the Japanese dancers to join forces with the Squar-N-Aders (Lexington, NC) and turn their Annual Dance into an International Friendship Dance. The venue (Richard Childress Racing Museum Auditorium) is beautiful and large enough to support such a momentous event. (It’s very large! Help us fill it!)

The Japanese dancers and callers are very excited about their upcoming trip. We will meet them in Washington D.C. when they arrive on October 26. They get to play tourist in D.C., and capital-area callers will host a Special Dance for them that weekend. After that, we’ll bring them down to North Carolina for a week of visitations at Triangle-area clubs, Halloween, and some day-time tours and activities. We’ll end the week in Lexington for the International Friendship Dance.

Follow us on Facebook or at www.Fujilina.com as we reveal the details of their trip. We’d love to have you join us at the International Friendship Dance. Let us know if you are interested in participating in any of their other scheduled activities.

If you have ideas (or connections!) for fun things for the Japanese to do, let us know! Send your ideas to .