Japan’s Hokkaido High School visits Kaiser for another cultural exchange

Hosting foreign students is nothing new for Kaiser High. For the past decade, the school has been playing host to exchange students from all around the world. In this year’s cultural exchange, 308 students and honored guests from Hokkaido Sapporo Intercultural and Technological High School visited campus on Oct. 20. By visiting Kaiser, these foreign students hoped to gain a better understanding of how their American counterparts spend a typical school day. The international exchange involved the participation of numerous parties, including all four leadership classes, both schools’ bands, and 96 Japanese-speaking Kaiser students.

The Hokkaido students were arranged into 32 groups based on similar interests and each group was led by three to four Kaiser student ambassadors. Twelve groups were situated in the gym, ten in the library, eight in the cafeteria, and two in classrooms. Hokkaido students presented different aspects of Japanese culture. “Their presentations were built on different cultural aspects like festivals in Hokkaido and amusement parks. They were talking about Tokyo Disney and really intense roller coasters,” sophomore leadership teacher Jillian Oyama said. “The main purpose was to have an exchange where the students got to share and that’s why their presentations were based on different cultural features.”

At the assembly, appointed guest speakers from both Japan and Hawaii went up to the podium. Among the speakers were Hawaii’s first lady, Dawn Amano-Ige, and Vice Governor of Hawaii, Shan Tsutsui. The Hokkaido students’ presented a collaboration between their school marching band and the Naginata (sword-dancing) club, a choir, and a staged martial arts match. Kaiser reciprocated with a performance by sophomore Karlie Goya and seniors Joshua Kay, Dylan Wacksman, Kody Kiyokawa, and Nick Marabella. “It was amazing. Kaiser and Hokkaido were trading cultures and showing each other the worlds they came from,” senior leadership teacher Paul Balazs said. The assembly concluded with the singing of Hokkaido and Kaiser’s alma mater accompanied by the Kaiser Cougars Band.  

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Throughout the day, participants of the exchange found many similarities between American and Japanese students. “One group was actually interested in dollar stores. They have 100 yen stores and they wanted to know about the [American version],” Oyama said. “If you have a bunch of kids who are all interested in something common, conversation comes a little easier.”

As for the significance of the cultural exchange, she said, “I think it’s important as an IB school, we teach an international-mindedness and I think especially right now, there’s so much going on in this world. A lot of it comes from not understanding and not having the opportunity to try to understand. What helps the students understand different cultures is the fact that they have things in common with each other [even though] we’re coming from totally different backgrounds. I think that really advances the student’s ability to see more worldly.”

The Hokkaido visit ended with promises from the students to stay in touch with one another. Although their stay was short, Kaiser and Hokkaido students alike gained something from the event. In Japan, at school we usually only interact with the people in the same age group and the same grade. However, here it’s different. Today, I saw people of all ages talking and were all friendly to each other and that was amazing to me,” Hokkaido junior Moemi Tamura said.

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