2008 Trip Diary

The following document was compiled in Japanese for the Ikata International Exchange Assocation and these selections were translated by Jessamine Jensen.


In 2008, the 8th annual adult Friendship Delegation and the 13th annual junior high school Student Delegation visited Red Wing, sponsored by the Ikata International Exchange Association. The Friendship Delegation, while reaping the fruit of a warm relationship built up between our two cities over the years, further promoted friendship and mutual understanding. Meanwhile, the students were also able to experience a different culture through their homestays, and were able to further international understanding at that level.

In providing some trip diaries from the delegation programs, we hope to be of some assistance in furthering the cultural sensitivity of all readers.

We have high expectations for the future activities of all members of the Friendship and Student Delegations, who have built up so many friendships through the program. We would like to continue efforts to raise international awareness in Ikata through programs like this, and to raise talented young people deserving of the epithet global citizen.

Beginning with the Red Wing Sister City Commission and all those to whom we are indebted for their care in Red Wing, we would like to thank everyone for their hard work and cooperation. We hope to rely on their support even now that the exchange is finished.


Junior High School Student Overseas Delegation Report
The Warmth of Human Kindness
By Shin’ichi Ochi, Seto JHS Principal

Finally, Immigrations Inspection!

It has been 16 hours since we left Ikata. In Japan it’s already past 10 o’clock at night. Yet for Los Angeles, it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning. My body has no sense of the time change and is showing signs of exhaustion.

I pass my passport and immigration paper to the female officer and wait.

“You are Japanese?”


I get a good feeling, that this is a nice person. Next, she asks about the length of my stay. The purpose of my visit? I think this is the last question and then I will be allowed to enter the US.

Ganko desuka?”

I hear the words, but can’t believe my ears. When she asks again, it’s the same: ganko desuka? When my face shows my incomprehension, I can see her face growing stiff. When asked ganko desuka, should I simply reply ganko desu, and will I thereby receive clearance to enter the country? When I ask Aaron, who has already cleared immigration, I finally discover it wasn’t ganko desuka (are you stubborn?) but kankō desuka (are you sightseeing?) that I was being asked. Since a lot of Japanese people come through Los Angeles, sometimes questions are also asked in Japanese. I relax with a renewed trust in people.

During my stay, members of the Sister Cities Commission and various host families came to meet me at the hotel every day, and took excellent care of me, showing me around the city and to the homes of all the host families. One thing I realized during this time period was the frequency with which I heard the word “volunteer.” Many people are proud of volunteering and make it their life’s work. Americans have a highly developed view of their own individual lives, and after retirement, while living in peace and quiet, they also volunteer. Therefore, they can really give their all for others, I reflected. 

Particularly memorable was the story of one of the commission members, Cathy, who was planning to go to Mexico this September to volunteer as a teacher; she had done it before, and sounded very excited about going again. She was studying Spanish for the trip now. 

There were many events going on in the community, and many of them were supported by the cooperation of volunteers. People polish their characters by becoming volunteers from a young age. Therefore, volunteerism has naturally taken root. This is different from the America presented in the daily news. I feel that I have observed the warm and hospitable heart of America. When I spoke to people I had just met, they would respond with a friendly and encouraging smile. Also when I visited the homes of the students’ host families, they would prepare home-cooked meals and sit down to talk with us in broken English. We came up with words that everyone would understand. During those all-too-short moments I felt quite at home, and perceived the warmth of my hosts. It was a stirring experience of America that is not within the scope of mere sightseeing.

On this trip, it was refreshing to take part in casual conversation and see people’s kindness at work in many different places. I had thought that Japan has the monopoly on hospitality, but even though Americans' traditions differ from ours, the importance they place on hospitality and the relationship between people is exactly the same. I spent a very meaningful two weeks abroad, during which I experienced the value of communication and the splendid thoughtfulness that is cultivated by volunteerism.

Thank you very much for allowing me to take part in this invaluable experience.


Our Overseas Delegation at an End
By Sakura Takahashi, Seto JHS 9th Grade

I went on a homestay in Red Wing and was able to meet a lot of different people there. Of course this included my host family, as well as people in the neighborhood and other host families, too. I also learned about a number of traditions. Just as I thought, in America food and drink are served in large amounts, and sometimes I couldn’t finish everything.

I went to see an American school, a high school. However you looked at it, it was a huge, broad place. The number of classrooms weren’t that different from high schools in Japan, but there were a lot of facilities. It looked like the students could enjoy a lot of different sports at their school.

I tried a lot of things in America, but the two that most surprised me were house parties and baths. When you say you’ll host a party in America, you host a big party. Not just your family, but your cousins and your cousins’ families, and grandparents come for it. At the party I was at, everyone was as kind to me as if they were really my own family.

As far as the bath, in America people don’t soak in it—they prefer to just take a shower—and it’s also usual to shower in the morning instead of at night. I discovered this sort of difference from Japanese culture and talked about it with my host family, and in that way I think I had a really valuable experience.

I am grateful to the people from Town Hall and to my host family for working to make my experience so wonderful. But most of all I would like to thank my parents and my grandparents. Thank you very much. This experience will be a good influence on the rest of my life.

Thank You So Much
By Hazuki Sasayama, Misaki JHS 9th Grade 
On our departure day, I left Japan with mixed feelings of worry and expectation. I arrived at Minneapolis Airport exhausted from the transfer at Los Angeles, among other things. In Minneapolis, Mr. Walch and his family and Kou came to meet us. The road from Minneapolis Airport to Red Wing was surprisingly beautiful. When we got to Red Wing, all the host families were there to greet us. Briana’s family, with whom I would be staying, met us with warm smiles. Thanks to that a little of my worry went away.

Each day of the ten I spent in Red Wing was full. At first, I didn’t really like the food, and whatever I did I wasn’t able to adapt to my environment. Briana’s family were so kind and considerate, though, and I am very grateful to them. They were afraid we might get bored, so they always took us somewhere when we had a free day. Thanks to them I was never bored.

Even if someone asked me what the most memorable part of my stay was, I don’t think I could answer—everything was memorable, everything was fun. Skating with everyone, playing with everyone, meeting Briana’s friends, seeing an American boy who looked just like my brother except with golden hair, eating big pizzas and steak, talking late into the night with Mai while eating chips, watching Harry Potter in English, riding Emily’s horse, teaching Japanese to Michelle… all of them are precious memories.

The ten days I spent in Red Wing have become a priceless treasure to me. I am so thankful for Briana’s family, my family, and the friends and teachers who supported me. I will do my best to study English so that I can go back to Red Wing and meet with all those wonderful people again someday.