‘Third Culture’ grads of American School in Japan celebrate 45th reunion in Rancho Santa Fe


While Rancho Santa Fe is no stranger to things international, whether it’s foreign nationals enjoying this area or international events being held in the Rancho Santa Fe community, a recent event at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe probably marked the first time alumni of an international high school over 5,000 miles away selected Rancho Santa Fe as its venue for a major reunion.

Graduates of the American School in Japan’s (ASIJ) high school class of 1968, their significant others and several friends from other ASIJ classes – 66 people in all, including 43 ASIJ alumni – gathered recently at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe to celebrate the class’ 45th reunion. The graduating class had 105 graduates, including students originally from the U.S., Japan and at least a dozen other nations.

The group made the most of the beautiful Rancho Santa Fe location, with a Friday night barbeque at Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club and two Saturday walks, one around the main village area led by Historical Society guide Dana Hanson, and one around the golf course.

A highlight of the three-day celebration was a Saturday afternoon presentation by classmate Toni Dyktor Mullen on “Third Culture Kids,” a term for persons who spend a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture, usually because of parents relocating.

Mullen, who followed up her international school education with a career as an international school teacher in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Engham, England, said, “Our parents were missionaries, business executives, artists and diplomats, and we followed them to Japan. As a result, we had different experiences from kids who grew up in America, and those experiences led us to develop very different strengths and weaknesses.”

Among those differences, reunion attendees agreed, was an inability to do well in trivia questions from the 1960s and a general confusion regarding rice that isn’t sticky. More seriously, Third Culture Kids, ASIJ grads included, are generally quick to make new friends and are very accepting of other cultures, but also may carry feelings of unresolved grief and lack a sense of “home” because of relocations during their formative years.

Five authors in the class also were recognized: Daigaku Rummé, author of “The Essence of Zen”; Laer Pearce, author of “Crazifornia, Tales from the Tarnished State”; Grenda Penhollow Moss, author of “Sweet and Saucy, A Family Treasury of Recipes”; Mara Purl, author of the Milford-Haven series of novels and several plays, screenplays and nonfiction works; and Peter Tsukahira, author of “Culture of the Kingdom, a Journey of Restoration” and other Christian books.

Tsukahira was the Class of ’68 graduate traveling the farthest to the reunion, coming from Haifa, Israel, where he and his wife Rita are directors of Kehilat HaCarmel, a Christian ministry center. Peter was frequently seen in deep conversations with Rummé, who is the senior priest at the Los Angeles Buddhist Temple.

Reunion organizers were Kathy Chih (San Diego), Glenn Colville (Alamo, Calif.), Toni Dyktor Mullen (England), Frank Terschan (Milwaukee Wisc.), Nicholas Connor (Del Mar) and Marty Honda (Los Altos). Kathy Reese at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe was the reunion coordinator.