Duluth families host Japanese students through Sister Cities exchangeTo prepare for the hosting of a Japanese student in his home beginning today, Brian Barber and his wife took a Japanese language and culture class at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
To prepare for the hosting of a Japanese student in his home beginning today, Brian Barber and his wife took a Japanese language and culture class at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
“To be honest, it was hard,” Barber said, noting the language barrier may prove a challenge during the 10-day stay. But the cultural gains for both the Japanese students and the American families are immeasurable, he said.
Barber’s family is hosting one of the 14 students between the ages of 12 and 15 and two teachers from Ohara-Isumi City, Japan; one of Duluth’s four sister cities. Duluth has had a relationship with the city, which is 50 miles southeast of Tokyo, since 1990. An ancient Buddhist temple bell found in Duluth after World War II was returned to Ohara in 1954. The city gave Duluth a replica — housed near Enger Tower — in 1993. The student exchange program has been in existence for at least 15 years, said Duluth Sister Cities International volunteer Steve Knauss, who has traveled to Japan twice as part of the exchange and is in his second year of hosting.
The students from Ohara will be immersed in American culture for 10 days. Barbecues and camping, trips to Valley Fair and the Mall of America, a cabin, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and a visit to the Japanese Bell Garden at Enger Tower are all planned. They also get to meet the mayor.
“For the kids, it’s a huge adventure,” Barber said, whose own son traveled to Japan last year. “Confidence is one big thing they get if they can take something like this on.”
For the Duluth students who travel to Japan — many who are less traveled than the Japanese students, Knauss said — surviving and thriving overseas is impressive.
“Think of it this way: (in Japan) you’re illiterate,” he said. “But the Japanese host families, their level of generosity exceeds anything I have ever seen. This program is well worth the effort.”