Students present their experiences from trip to Okaya, Japan, to city commission
A group of students who traveled to Okaya, Japan, last summer gave a presentation to the Mount Pleasant City Commission on Monday night.
Okaya is the sister city of Mount Pleasant, and six local high school students from Mount Pleasant High School and Coleman High School traveled as delegates to experience the culture for about two weeks.
Rhonda Kohler, a member of International Relations Council of the Mount Pleasant Area, presented a slideshow to the commission, narrating through the different events seen onscreen.
“I think it’s important for Mount Pleasant to understand there is a friendship zone dedicated to Mount Pleasant,” Kohler said. “It’s a pretty large area that they have set aside for trees or statues or what have you from Mount Pleasant.”
The delegates visited local attractions, such as an amusement park, the friendship zone and visited mountains.
Kohler also said the students were more than happy to try cultural foods like small, salted fish.
Each day and night, the group had activities lined up by their welcoming hosts.
“Karaoke is a big deal there, and we were entertained with an evening of karaoke, pop and pizza,” Kohler said.
The students also had the chance to go bobsledding down a mountain on a stainless steel run.
They visited a local high school for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and also learned archery.
One thing the students had not expected was to take part in a large Taiko drumming festival.
The students had lessons planned, and, afterward, they were surprised to be asked to participate with more than 300 drummers in the festival.
“From the time we were there, the kids were on the front of the newspaper every day,” Kohler said. “Yes, they were treated like rock stars.”
Many of the students raved about the host families they each had been assigned to.
“I think the best part about the trip was just spending time with your host family,” Eric Pierson said. “No matter what we did, we always felt like we were a family together, not a stranger. They treated me like their child.”
Elisabeth Eiler also formed a bond with her host family.
“The second day, they took me on a trip to the mountains,” Eiler said. “It was amazing. They were both in their 70s and went hiking with me. My host mom didn’t speak any English, but, before we left, she learned how to say, ‘a present for you’ and gave it to me. That was really special.”
Commissioner Jim Holton asked if anyone had picked up on the language or dialect while visiting Okaya.
Pierson stepped back to the podium and introduced himself in Japanese.
The commission also had a presentation with a quarterly update from the Middle Michigan Development Corporation.
The two action items on the agenda were removed, and the commission held another work session on the possibility of an income tax.
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