This is a story about a brilliantly crazy idea involving a small island located in a lake almost exactly in the center of Northern Ireland. The name of the lake is Lough Erne. This particular island is located very close to Enniskillen, a small town at the southernmost point of Lough Erne.

By Greg Culos

Enniskillen is named after a goddess. Wounded in battle, she tried to escape by swimming across the Erne. She perished. So, for completely unrelated reasons, on an island in those very waters, Aoba-Japan International School is about to make an impact on the lives of children, as well as one very happy couple, on the other side of the world.

Everything that has taken place, and all that is about to happen, is the complete responsibility of two adventurous Irish children, Sunee and Taeya. They are the children of Hannah and Dylan. Sunee and Taeya are nine and eleven years old. These small details almost explain how such a brilliantly crazy idea came to be.

“Marrying Mum and Dad” is a popular reality show on the BBC Children’s Channel. It is also a favorite of Sunee and Taeya, so much so that they decided to approach the program with their idea. The premise of “Marrying Mum and Dad” is to have children plan their parents’ weddings, in full, and in any which way they choose. Each episode is based on the plans of one lucky application out of hundreds. In this case, the CBBC chose Sunee and Taeya’s. One past episode followed an alien invader theme. Sunee and Taeya’s is all about Japanese culture.

They needed help.

So, Sunee, Taeya, and the CBBC set out to find children of the same age in Japan who would be willing to help Sunee and Taeya’s wishes come true. The CBBC approached A-JIS in late March, during spring break, with what at first seemed to be an impossible proposition: could Grade 3 students at Aoba create 1000 cranes, participate in a cultural exchange and language sharing exercise, and take part in a filming project? The production would have to be complete within a week. The products of the exercise would have to arrive on the island in Lough Erne no later than April 9 – in time for Hannah and Dylan’s wedding.


What happened next? Well, an entire school chipped in to support the Grade 3 students to complete what was, while not necessarily impossible, a very big job. The Grade 3 students were the stars of the show. They made cranes, memorized scripts, and survived take after take of filmwork directed by the friendly but firm BBC producer, Hiroo-san. Beside them, the entire elementary school, their teachers, principals, nurses, and librarians all made cranes. In addition to that, the secondary students, under the guidance of the Student Council, strung the cranes. Within three days, and just in time for everything to arrive safely in Ireland, everything was done. Fifteen hundred cranes, and far more wishes than expected, were boxed up and sent off.

Hannah and Dylan were married on April 10, 2016. They had their cranes. They were, in fact, showered with more cranes than Sunee and Taeya had initially anticipated. They were congratulated in Japanese, and in English, by an excited group of Grade 3s from Japan; and, among other things only the episode will reveal, they apparently rode in a giant origami boat towards their rest of their lives. For the rest, we’ll have to wait until August when this particular episode of “Marrying Mum and Dad” airs.

As the Grade 3 children repeatedly said: “Good job Sunee and Taeya!” Congratulations Dylan and Hannah. Thank you Hiroo-san. Thank you to the CBBC. And thank you to all of the students and staff of A-JIS who made something wonderful possible: people from two very distant places and cultures coming together to celebrate something brilliantly crazy common to all of us.


Greg Culos is Director of Development at Aoba-Japan International School