It was recently the two-year anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, and on Friday Clarkstown high school students will learn a bit more about the disaster and it’s aftermath from a group of students from a hard hit area of the country.
A group of 24 high school students are visiting Clarkstown this weekend from Miyagi Agricultural High School from Natori in the Miyagi Prefecture on the eastern coat of Japan’s main island, Honshu. The students from Japan will stay with host families in Clarkstown, with 16 staying with students from North and eight staying with students from South.
The students are visiting America as part of the Kizuna Project, which is run by the Japanese government to help the rest of the world understand Japan’s rebuilding efforts since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The students spent three nights in Washington D.C. before arriving in Rockland on Thursday, where they were greeted by a welcoming party in the Clarkstown South library. The group leaves Sunday morning at around 4:30 a.m. to head to Seattle for the last leg of their trip.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students to get to know each other and learn about each other,” said Akiko Uchiyama, the Japanese language teacher at North and South. “They won’t have too many days together, but they’ll be together pretty much the entire time the students are with us. It’ll give them a chance to exchange language and culture. I know the students from Japan want to practice their English, and I’m sure my students want to practice their Japanese.”
In Japanese, “kizuna” means “bond” and Uchiyama said she’s hoping the two schools can form a lasting bond and keep in touch after they’ve returned to Japan.
“Maybe one day we can go visit them,” Uchiyama said.
That probably won’t be for a little while, however, as the school is still being repaired from the 2011 storm, during which water reached the third floor of the school. Last year, a group of 23 students from Clarkstown visited Japan as part of the program, but they didn’t go to Natori. Instead they went to Osaka to learn about storm damage.
On Friday, the students from Japan will all make presentations about the storm and its aftermath at both North and South. Students staying with those from North will make their presentation at a school assembly and students staying with kids from South will give their presentations in social studies classes.
Goro Watanabe and Fumio Iwai, of the Consulate General of Japan in New York, also attended the party on Thursday.
During the welcome party, the cultural exchange already started, as North junior Miskat Rahman made a speech in Japanese to the group and Shohei Kosai, from Miyagi, made a speech in English.
“We experienced it, the Great East Japan Earthquake two years ago, but we can still have a fulfilling school life now,” Kosaid said. “We have joined the Kizuna Project because we want to tell you our experiences with the earthquake. We have looked forward to meeting you. We want to learn about American people and so many other things through this exchange, and we want to see you again, even when we come back to Japan. Please, if you have a chance, visit us anytime.”