The principal of Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Campus recently returned from a trip halfway around the world.

Principal Brett Findley traveled to Miyoshi, Japan, for 10 days in October as part of a long-standing relationship the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has with the Miyoshi school district.

Findley, who represented BCSC as its education ambassador, stayed at the home of retired principal Yasuhiro Ochi and his wife, Yumi, and was able to visit 10 schools during his stay.

The trip was his first to Japan, Findley said. He was accompanied by translators although he used the trip as an opportunity to brush up on his skills speaking Japanese, which he had taken as a foreign language in high school.

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A group of adults and students from Miyoshi traveled to Columbus in August, and spent some time at the Columbus Learning Center during the solar eclipse.

Findley said he was surprised at the cultural differences in Japan, noting that there is more of an emphasis on technology in BCSC’s classrooms, which feature Smartboards and laptops.

In contrast, classrooms in Miyoshi have chalkboards and students are required to wear uniforms, while teachers rotate classrooms throughout the day.

He received a warm reception by those he encountered on his trip. Many of the schools he visited offered an assortment of gifts, including tea, pottery and other items.

“It’s a really big deal when someone comes and shares their culture,” Findley said.

The trip wasn’t without some surprises — Findley said every elementary school he visited had an outdoor swimming pool.  In addition, he was also able to witness a sumo competition that has been a 32-year tradition at one elementary school, he said.

Eating Japanese cuisine was also an important part of the trip, including a homemade dinner by Yumi Ochi that featured eggs, bacon and squid.

“It was my favorite meal,” Findley said.

He offered some advice for the next individual selected by BCSC to go to Miyoshi next year.

“Be open-minded … and make the most of your trip,” Findley said. “If you’re going to go do something like that, you need to go all out.”

Janice Montgomery, a retired educator with BCSC, was the first education ambassador to be selected in 1996 as part of the partnership between the two districts. She plans to accompany 14 high school students from Columbus East and Columbus North next summer on their trip to Miyoshi June 14 to 28 which will include a stop in Tokyo.

Montgomery and the students will be joined by Elizabeth Bays, who teaches Japanese at Columbus North, on the trip.

Montgomery said the partnership has resulted in the district hosting many teachers and students over the years.

Findley also said he is particularly thankful to the Ochis who hosted him during his trip and the hospitality he received. The couple is planning a trip of their own to Columbus in two years.

“I’m hoping I can repay them when they come here,” Findley said. “They are wonderful people and made sure I had an incredible trip.”

About the BCSC, Miyoshi partnership

The partnership between the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and the Miyoshi school district dates back to the mid- to late 1990s.

The formal relationship between the cities occurred July 5, 1994, with the signing of a cultural partnership agreement by then-Mayor Bob Stewart and Mayor Michio Tsukamoto.

Source: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com