Exchange program brings Japanese visitors to Tecumseh schools

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Students take part in a Rock Paper Scissors-type game called the Janken Train.

A delegation of students and their teachers from Moriyama, Japan, visited classrooms at Tecumseh Public Schools on Friday, Nov. 1. The program is coordinated by Cindy Kojima at the Lenawee Intermediate School District, and a delegation of Lenawee County youths will visit Moriyama in the spring.

The Lenawee-Moriyama, Japan Middle School Exchange Program aims to improve understanding between Japan and Lenawee County through active experiences and direct contact with a peer of another culture. During the short-term exchange, County students are chosen to host students from Moriyama.

In its 19th year of exchanges, the Japanese delegation visits the U.S. around Halloween each year to give students and their families a chance to share several days of their lives around a fun season. The Japanese students enjoy Halloween because they do not celebrate the tradition there.

The group arrived on Sunday, Oct. 27 and stayed until early Saturday, Nov. 2. This year, the Moriyama Superintendent of Schools, Hiroshi Ueji served as group leader, and the delegation spent some time at Tecumseh Middle School on Friday.

“The middle school exchange is an educational one, so the greatest impact is in helping young people from both countries to learn about the similarities and differences,” said Kojima. “It broadens their knowledge of a culture not their own.”

The delegation visited the classroom of 8th grade U.S. History teacher Scott McCarley and their presentation included basic instruction on origami and katakana (one component of the Japanese writing system); a Japanese version of Rock, Paper, Scissors called “The Janken Train,” where losers must join the end of the train until there is only one long train; a traditional play about a ninja/samurai warrior who saves a young lady; and teaching two traditional Japanese songs.

“They came to my room because I’m part of the Lenawee Moriyama exchange program this year,” said McCarley. “I will help chaperone a U.S. delegation when we go to Japan in the spring.” He said the group meets one or two Sundays a month to prepare, learning Japanese language and culture. While in Japan, the local students will have an opportunity to learn about family life while staying with the same person they hosted here. The students also visit a Moriyama junior high school and see highlights around the city. They may also make two-day trip to Hiroshima to learn a part of Japan’s history and how the two countries intersected in less peaceful times.

McCarley said the visit sparked a lot of interest in Japanese culture and the visitors had crowds of middle school students surrounding them wherever they went.

“I really want to visit Japan now,” said Aldren Blayer. Elizabeth Wellman said, “I like the way the exchange students interacted with us and taught us about their culture.”

Another student, Morgan Cadmus added, “I like how they taught us how to do origami and write our names in Japanese.”

“It’s cool how they aren’t much different from us,” said Jacob Caywood. Many students exchanged Email or social media information with the intent to become pen pals.

“Cindy Kojima has done an amazing job organizing the exchange program,” said McCarley. “I expect our trip to Japan in the spring to be as eventful as was the visit from the Japanese delegation.”




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