Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TOP STORY >> Students from Japan visit Cabot High School

Leader staff writer

A group of Japanese high school students visited Cabot High School on Monday on the two-year anniversary of the massive earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

The earthquake on March 11, 2011, measured a 9.0 magnitude on the Richter scale, the strongest quake on record in Japan’s history. Three Fukushima power plant reactors melted down after its cooling systems were knocked out by the tsunami. An estimated 19,000 people were killed or missing and 300,000 people were displaced.

The tour group had 19 English language students and their teacher from Kozukata High School in Yahaba, Iwate Prefecture. Their visit was part of the Kizuna (bonds of friendship) project between the Laurasian Institution in Seattle and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. The project provided fully funded two-week study tours to Japanese and American youth. The program’s purpose was to promote an understanding about the current situation in Japan and the recovery efforts after the earthquake and tsunami. It also allows first-hand experiences with each country and their cultures.

Last year a group of 23 Cabot students visited Japan as a part of the program.

The Japanese students spent three days in Cabot with host families. They live in the mountainous northern part of Japan. Their cities are a few hundred miles away from the off-shore epicenter of the huge quake and Fukushima. They were not affected by the tsunami since they were so far inland. They did, however, feel the shaking of the quake.

Minami Wada of Morioka and Kuzuki Yamaguchi of Hanamaki are both 10th graders at Kozukata High School.

“It was very scary. We had blackouts,” Wada said.

“No electricity for three days,” Yamaguchi said.

They said the junior high school had some of the roads were damaged.

Wada is a member of the school choir, famous in Japan. The choir travels to relief camps in disaster areas and performs. Wada said singing raises the spirits of the displaced. The people are moved by the music, they become emotional and then smile.

Cabot High School 12th graders Melissa Mosqueda and Mark Kingan went on the group trip to Japan last year. Mark said in one of the areas they toured, the sea salt turned the trees red.

Kozukata is a traditional Japanese school. The girls said they have to wear uniforms to school. They cannot wear make-up, color their hair or paint their nails or wear jewelry.

Japanese schools do not have a school bus. Yamaguchi takes a 30-minute train ride. Wada takes the city bus for a 90-minute ride. They cannot drive to school. Their classrooms are not air conditioned.

Students do not change classrooms. They stay in a home room and the teachers change. A class has 42 students and is for 45 minutes. They start school at 8:25 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities until 6 or 7 p.m.

One similarity to Cabot is their high school is 10th through 12th grades and has about 1,000 students.

After graduating from high school Yamaguchi would like to be an ambassador. Wada would like to help the needy in other countries. Yamaguchi’s favorite subject is English. Wada likes English and math. Wada’s parents are elementary school teachers. Yamaguchi’s mom is an office worker.

For both Wada and Yamaguchi it was their first visit to the United States.

“I was very excited. It’s very delicious and has very beautiful views,” Yamaguchi said.

Wada said salespeople were very friendly.

During their trip to the students visited schools and universities in Seattle and San Francisco. The group’s stop in Cabot was brief. They arrived on Saturday night and left early Tuesday morning.

Wada host family played card games. On Sunday they went to church and ate out.

Yamaguchi host family took her on Saturday night to Walmart and a Starbucks.

On Sunday they went to the International House of Pancakes. She visited Little Rock Air Force Base and then went shopping at Park Plaza Mall. On the way back they ate at On the Border. It was her first time eating Mexican food and she liked it. Yamaguchi said salsa is hotter than wasabi.

The group of students spent Monday at Cabot High School. They gave presentations, participated in AFJROTC marching practice, ate in the cafeteria and shadowed their host family’s students sitting in on some of their classes. A catfish dinner for the students was held in the evening.