Japanese teens soaked up the California life for 10 days, sampling a Modesto Nuts game, bowling, beading and barbecue before heading back to Kurume, Modesto’s sister city in Japan, this week.
Crafting bracelets at Beads of Contentment on Monday, a half-dozen teens on the Modesto Sister Cities exchange said they found Americans more open and louder than Japanese, and very friendly.
The best part, said Miniami Kajiwara, 15, was “shopping with my host family.”
Taking pictures was a constant. Takumi Sakamaki, 17, clicking away as friends mixed and matched beads, said he had taken more than 900 images in nine days. He liked the dry heat, very different from the humidity of southern Japan.
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One of the hosts, Vicky Takenaga, said her visitor was getting a taste of Mexican food for the first time. “I like their enthusiasm. They’re eager to learn things,” Takenaga said.
Teen observations included social differences. Yuke Saita, 17, said he was amazed by the mix of races here, even within families, calling it “very wonderful.”
In Japan, anyone with a non-Japanese parent could be seen as a foreigner, said chaperone Kaoru Fukuda, a teacher in Kurume. “Life in Japan is very different from here, so they see there is another way of life,” she said.
“The best thing for them is staying with an American family,” Fukuda said.
The reverse is true, said members of Modesto Sister Cities who facilitate trips to and from Modesto’s seven sister locales.
“I like to say Modesto Sister Cities brings the world to Modesto and brings Modesto to the world,” said President Adrian Harrell.
“What’s most interesting for the students is not the differences, it’s the similarities,” she said. Parents notice a maturity when students return, Harrell said. “It brings a real understanding of self.”
Students from Aguascalientes, Mexico, will arrive in October, and more from Vernon, Canada, will arrive in the spring, said Nancy Holmes, who coordinated the visit from Japan.