Archive for Thursday, July 29, 1999

JAPANESE ENJOY SLICE OF MIDWEST CULTURE

July 29, 1999

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Students from Hiratsuka, Japan, are visiting Lawrence on the ninth annual sister-city exchange.

The ninth annual student delegation from Lawrence's sister city Hiratsuka, Japan, started its tour Wednesday clad in T-shirts advertising the 14th annual exchange.

No one knew why the T-shirts were wrong, Friends of Hiratsuka President Berta Woolard said, but nobody cared.

The 20 Japanese students arrived Tuesday and will stay with Lawrence families while they learn about American culture and tour the area.

The trip has a lasting effect on the junior high to high school children and host families involved, said Mickey Woolard, who has helped organize the program with his wife the last five years.

"It's very hard to say goodbye (at the end)," he said. "We still get letters from kids we hosted years ago."

One of the adults with the Japanese group, Takako Inomata, came to Lawrence with the program seven years ago. She said the trip forced her to use her English.

"I couldn't speak English very well, but here I had to just try it," Inomata said.

The program grows by word of mouth each year when delegates from Lawrence, who visit in June, and Hiratsuka, who visit in July, return home and tell friends, Mickey Woolard said.

Akitomo Kimura, another of the Hiratsuka leaders, said he became interested in the trip after hearing from those who went last year.

"Everything is very wide and beautiful," Kimura said of the landscape. "Everyone has been very kind in America."

Wednesday morning the group was officially received by the city, and Mayor Erv Hodges accepted gifts.

Then two Lawrence police officers and a firefighter told the group about their jobs and answered questions through an interpreter, also from Hiratsuka, who attends Kansas University as part of a one-year exchange program.

During their stay the students will visit the Statehouse in Topeka, Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Mo., and Lawrence schools.

-- Josh Funk's phone message number 832-7222. His e-mail is jfunk@ljworld.com.

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