Exchange program resumes after two year break due to weather, economy

For many years, it was a tradition for students and chaperones from Lake Oswego's Japanese sister city, Yoshikawa, to visit our city each spring to learn about American culture. The trip was cancelled in 2010 due to the world economic crisis and then again due to the tsunami in 2011.

As good fortune would have it, eleven 13 to 15 year olds and three adult chaperones came to Lake Oswego on March 30 and spent the week learning all they could about life in the United States.

The group toured the Columbia Gorge, stopping to see the sights at Crown Point and Multnomah Falls. In Lake Oswego they met Mayor Jack Hoffman at city hall, visited George Rogers Park, the adult community center, police and fire departments. They conducted price comparison studies at Safeway, visited the Oregon Zoo and the Oregon Historical Society Museum.

The Japanese guests stayed with host families and attended school at Lake Oswego Junior High.

'It is just a great experience for your family to see how others live and share our life with them,' said Mimi Beem, who works at LOJ and was hosting a Japanese student. Her family has hosted exchange students before and her husband speaks Japanese. 'It is amazing … we took her to the coast, to Voodoo doughnuts and we all got to ride the tram (up to OHSU). We're trying to give her as much 'Oregon' as we can.' She said they shared their tradition of dying Easter eggs with their guest. 'She loved dying the eggs. It is just a great experience. We have more in common than you would think.'

During the lunch breaks on Wednesday the young visitors sang popular Japanese songs and danced for their American peers then taught them to fold origami birds and to calligraphy.

'This is a great experience for all the kids to have the Japanese students spend time in the classes,' said principal Ann Gerson. 'They get to know each other a bit better. I hope some day we can go see them.'

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