10-day U.S. tour brings Japanese students to Shaler






Students from two Japanese high schools visited Shaler Area High School for three days as part of a 10-day tour of the United States and shared their culture and traditions with students and community members.

Their visit was part of the Kakehashi Project, an initiative of the Japanese government to promote youth exchanges and foster relationships and understanding between the United States and Japan. Kakehashi means “bridge building� in Japanese.

“We’re trying to reintroduce Japan to the American public,â€� said Helen von Gohren, guide for the Japanese students and a representative of the Laurasian Institute.

The Laurasian Institute, based in Seattle, arranged the trip.

The visiting students, who ranged in age from 16 to 18, gave presentations on traditional Japanese culture and everyday life as a high school student at a community event March 23 in the high school auditorium. The 24 students were from Igusa High School and Suginami Sogo High School in Tokyo.

More than 100 people attended the event, which also featured a performance by Pittsburgh Taiko, a traditional Japanese drum-performance troupe.

A Japanese student commutes to and from school via public transportation or bike. They stay with their homeroom class for most of the school day, eat lunch in their classroom during a mid-day break, and participate in clubs and sports after school.

Steve Balsamico, Shaler Area High School Japanese-language teacher, said his students were finding a lot more similarities than they expected between American and Japanese teen culture. For instance, the Japanese students spend their free time studying, reading books, going shopping, talking with friends and playing games on their phones.

The visit was well-received by the Shaler high school students, Balsamico said, and might have sparked more interest in the Japanese-language program at the high school.

“There’s been a positive response to it,â€� he said.

The visiting Japanese students spoke English at varying skill levels, so communication wasn’t a problem. Balsamico said it’s mandatory for Japanese students to learn English, although the focus is more on the written word than spoken.

Von Gohren said the visiting students loved their visit to Shaler Area. One student introduced the Shaler Area students to futsal, a variation on soccer, in gym class, while another got to work with wood in shop class.

“They love it,â€� she said. “They think it’s very intense, but they’re having so much fun.â€�

Hikaru Shirai, 18, a student at Suginami Sogo High School, said he was enjoying the trip and that America was much bigger than he expected.

“So fun,� he said. “Pittsburgh is a very nice city.�

The Japanese students stayed with Shaler Area families and left early March 26 to finish their American tour in San Francisco.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.





































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10-day U.S. tour brings Japanese students to Shaler
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