Corona del Mar Middle School students welcomed a group of exchange students from Okazaki, Japan at an assembly today that included music, dance, cheerleading and calligraphy demonstrations.
“It’s going great,” said Thomas Robertson, a freshman who visited Japan last summer as part of the 29-year-old program funded by the Newport Balboa Rotary Club and the Newport Beach Sister City Association. “He’s really enjoying school. He likes cross country.”
Yuta Ohura, Thomas said, is the seventh-fastest middle school student in Japan in the 400 meter.
“Coach (Bill) Sumner almost starting filling out forms until he found out he’d only be here three days,” Thomas said.
The CdM Middle School students attending the assembly today watched as the school’s cheerleaders and drum corps performed. Then the Japanese students demonstrated calligraphy, drawing their dreams that they then explained to the crowd. Yuta said he wanted to participate in the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. The other students described dreams of becoming a doctor, a pastry chef and a police officer.
The Japanese students performed a dance, and Yuta led the audience in the National Anthem. Then Principal Guy Olguin took student questions about the exchange program. The school day has six periods and is six hours, they said, and yes, they do clean the school without the help of custodians.
Chiho Ogino said her favorite part of the visit was “seeing everything.” Her friend, Natsumi Shibata, said everything seemed “very big.”
The students will visit Disneyland on Saturday, and they already have toured Los Angeles. The group will visit San Francisco before returning home, they said.
Corona del Mar High School dance teacher Cami Marsei showed the girls her Japanese nail art.
“They screamed,” she said.
Parent Laura Stevens said her daughter, Laura, was on the school’s surf team — so their exchange student, Maya, was up at 5 a.m. Wednesday and spent the morning watching the team surf.
“We had six girls in the car, surfboards piled up, rushing to shower, wet hair to school,” Stevens said. “She was looking around like, ‘Are you serious? This is how you live?’ She was just beaming, laughing with the girls.”
School staff presented each student, along with their principal and a teacher chaperone, with gifts.
Then the CdM students described their favorite parts of their Japanese visit.
Jenny Conde described visiting a deer park, where deer would go right up to you and let you pet them. Another student described visiting a Japanese amusement park, saying that the rides were “a lot better than in America.”
All the students said the language barrier was not a problem, and that learning about Japanese culture by living with families was incredible. Jenny said she struggled with chopsticks and was amazed there were no knives or napkins at the table.
“They laugh at you, but you’re laughing too, just having fun,” she said.
“They are so genuine and friendly,” Thomas said. “I wish Americans were more like that.”