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ST. MARYS — As one group of St. Marys youths arrived home, a group of Japanese youths came to visit as well.
The six St. Marys youth delegates and two chaperones arrived home from Awaji City, Japan, Monday evening, with the 11 youth delegates and two chaperones from Japan arriving in St. Marys Monday evening as well.
St. Marys Council President Dan Hoelscher welcomed Moeka Sakurai, Honami Hayashi, Makoto Miyamoto, Fumina Fukutani, Ayaka Shiromoto, Ryoko Ito, Ryo Niioka, Yuki Matsura, Haruna Morita, Shohei Komizo, Tori Nagano and their two chaperones, Toru Fudo and Kayo Hishitani to St. Marys on Tuesday.
“As president, I would like to welcome the delegates of Awaji City to our community,” Hoelscher said, noting Shiromoto was in his normal council seat. “The mayor has asked me to give his apologies this morning. He unfortunately was called out of town on an emergency.”
Hoelscher spoke on the relationship the city has had with Awaji City — one that extends before Awaji City was just Awaji City.
“The city of St. Marys has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with first Hokudan Cho,” Hoelscher said. “We started in 1985, and this ran through 2005 when four communities along with Hokudan Cho merged to form Awaji City. At that point, the city again asked for Sister City status, which was granted, and it has carried on through this day and we hope to carry on in the future.”
He noted the amount of delegates the two cities have shared through the Sister City relationship.
“The city has been proud to host many youth and adult groups, first from Hokudan Cho and then from Awaji City over the last 27 years,” Hoelscher said. “You will be joining a group of over 500 individuals including members of our community who have taken part in homestays over the last 27 years. You all are truly instrumental in helping us solidify our friendship with members of your community back in Japan.”
He encouraged the group to enjoy their stay and start lasting friendships with those in St. Marys, as well as enjoy the many activities, including this weekend’s SummerFest, while in the area.
“On behalf of the mayor and myself, I would like to welcome you to St. Marys, and I hope you enjoy your stay here,” Hoelscher said, encouraging the delegates to open their gifts from the city, which included a booklet about St. Marys and stationery.
To represent Awaji City, Miyamoto spoke about his family’s history with the Sister City.
“Thank you so much for welcoming us,” he said. “I have been looking forward to meeting the people in St. Marys and to see the site of our Sister City.”
When he was younger, he noted his home hosted a St. Marys delegate for the first time.
“Since then, we have enjoyed hosting some delegates,” Miyamoto said. “I had a lot of fun when they visited us and stayed with me. This experience made me want to come to see St. Marys.”
He noted he was supposed to come over with the delegation three years ago but the trip was canceled because of the swine flu, and then he wanted to visit two years ago but he was too busy studying for his entrance exams to attend university.
“But now I have finally come here,” Miyamoto said. “I have long wanted to visit St. Marys, and I am grateful to be here and I would like to thank you for inviting us to this beautiful place. Thank you very much.”
Next, Hishitani presented Hoelscher with a variety of gifts from Japan — including paintings from a Japanese elementary school and pottery from their area.
Following the welcoming, the 13 delegates had a full schedule on Monday.
“They’re going to tour Memorial Park and Heritage Park and then lunch here in council chambers,” St. Marys Awaji City Sister City Organization President Rita Daugherty said. “Then we are going to putter golf, we’re going to go to the fire department — they take them up in the lift — and then they will see Whitney museum and dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
The group of 13 Japanese delegates will stay in St. Marys until Sunday, with a slew of activities marking their stay.
The group of eight from St. Marys who traveled to Awaji City included Evan Bader, McKenzie Newbauer, Jacquelyn Bayham, Julianna Bayham, Aleksandria Boyd and Bailey Fenwick-Miller, with Robert Bayham and Kristy Miller as chaperones.
While there, the students also had a full schedule of activities.
“We did tie-dying with onions,” Bader said. “We went to an earthquake memorial for an earthquake that happened 15 years ago.”
He added the students also visited Japanese schools.
“We went to a kindergarten class, we went to an elementary school,” Bader said, noting they made paper. “We did a tea ceremony.”
He said he enjoyed “all of it” regarding his trip.
Newbauer noted they did learn how to fold origami.
“We went to the oldest shrine in Japan,” Newbauer said. “We did so much stuff I can’t remember it all.”
She noted there is less crime over in Japan.
“There’s a lot less crime, you can leave your stuff anywhere,” she said.
Bader noted the homes are smaller.
“The houses are smaller and they’re cramped together,” he said.