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Japanese children from sister city spent week of summer taking in Indiana, Columbus culture

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Sixteen middle school students from Miyoshi, Japan, immersed themselves in their sister city’s culture for a week, experiencing the best of summer in Columbus and Indiana.

The students and teachers from four different schools in Japan lived with local families during their visit and brought some Japanese traditions to share with their hosts.

This was the 20th year the sister cities of Miyoshi and Columbus have shared the cultural exchange and the student visit.

Central Middle School eighth-grade student Luke Harpring hosted Yuma Toyoshima and Keisuke Ito from Minami Middle School in Miyoshi.

“It’s been great because they can learn pretty much what the daily life is that we go around doing,” he said. “We exchange a lot of gifts so we get a glimpse of what Japanese culture is like.”

Three Miyoshi faculty members also made the trip to Columbus and stayed with host faculty members from Central and Northside middle schools, said Central Middle School principal Randy Gratz.

The experience was geared to help them learn what it’s like to be a Hoosier.

The Miyoshi teachers watched an Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field in Indianapolis and took in a rock concert at the Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, he said.

“One of the host teachers took her Miyoshi teacher to see Def Leppard and KISS. When I asked her about that she said ‘Oh! Very loud, very loud!’” he said. “They just do what we do. It’s fun.”

A committee of about 10 people organizes the Miyoshi student and faculty visit every year. In exchange, an ambassador from the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. will go to Miyoshi for about a week and a half.

The language barrier takes about a day or two to break down, Gratz said. By the end of the week, most of the students and teachers from Miyoshi had no problem communicating with their host students and faculty.

The Miyoshi faculty also had the chance to teach Columbus students.

Asami Sekikawa, who is in her third year as an English teacher in Miyoshi, presented a lesson to Melinda Summers’ seventh-grade language arts class at Central Middle School.

Sekikawa talked about Miyoshi and showed students how to write different Japanese symbols with black paint on special paper. She said while she was excited to go home, she would miss Columbus.

“This is the second time I’ve been to visit America and first time to Columbus,” she said. “The people have been very kind, and the students are very friendly.”

The Miyoshi students were in class with their host students most of the time, but they were also busy experiencing different parts of Columbus and southern Indiana, Gratz said.

On Aug. 22, the students met Mayor Kristen Brown at city hall where she explained the structure and operation of city government.

The students then took a tour of the Columbus Police Department and attended a pizza party with the Columbus North High School Japanese Club.

The students also had the chance to go to Spring Hill Camps in Seymour where they got to use the rock-climbing facility and a zip line, Gratz said. Their last day in Columbus was Wednesday.

“Basically you have two seemingly two different cultures, so let’s do some team building and get them to further understand how similar we are and how close we are. That was a great experience,” he said.

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