A drumline and cheerleaders welcomed six visiting Japanese exchange students to Corona del Mar Middle School on Friday.
An assembly in a
packed gymnasium recognized the visitors from Okazaki. The Japanese students are taking their turn in the U.S. after hosting Newport Beach students over the summer. They leave on Monday for San Francisco.
The visiting delegation wrote in calligraphy, shared their dreams and performed traditional dance. Japanese student Yuta Ohura sang the U.S. national anthem for the first time.
"I sing the American nation anthem, but I can't sing well, so let's sing together," he told the audience, who joined him in song and then broke into applause.
CdM students asked plenty of questions about school life in Okazaki. They wanted to know how long the school day is (six hours), if the students are responsible for keeping the school clean (yes), which sports are played (gymnastics, track, soccer and martial arts) and how many students are in a classroom (40).
The program is part of the Wendell Fish Student Exchange Program, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Newport-Balboa and the Newport Beach Sister City Assn.
The exchange started between Wendell Fish of the Rotary Club and his counterpart at the Okazaki Rotary, said Rotary board member Marc Aarons.
Over a 60-year period, what started as a friendship between two men now is an exchange between students, city officials and a partnership between the two cities.
"I think it is a program that really needs to continue on because it really impacts the students," Aarons said.
The Newport students also shared their memories from Japan. For freshman Lauren Stevens, 14, the highlight was the food — especially the sushi.
"They treated me like their own child," she said of her host family's hospitality.
Freshman Thomas Robertson, 14, said traveling and living without his parents helped him mature.
"It's really a unique experience," he said. "I was able to connect with someone from a different culture."
While in town, the Japanese students will roast hot dogs and marshmallows at Big Corona, take a harbor cruise and attend the Rotary's annual barbecue, where firefighters grill and teens carve pumpkins, said host mother Darla Conde.
No trip to California, though, would be complete without a stop to Anaheim's most famous locale.
"I'm excited to show [Yuta] Disneyland tomorrow," Thomas said.