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Area students fly overseas to learn about life in Japan

By Emily Peck
epeck@decaturdaily.com · 340-2408

It’s sushi and kimono time for 13 area high school seniors.

Participants in the Daikin homestay program flew out Thursday bound for Osaka, Japan.

Lauren Johnson of Lawrence County, for one, is excited for the food.

“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is eating sushi,” said Johnson at the farewell reception at Daikin America on Wednesday.

The annual program pays for all the students’ travel expenses during the course of 10 days and arranges for the group to spend three of those days with a Japanese family.

“I can’t wait to show them some Southern hospitality,” said Katrina Treadway of East Lawrence.

Treadway said she’s only half packed but excited and ready to go. She has been communicating with her family via e-mail and said they speak some English.

“I bought sports car toys for the kids because those tend to be really expensive over there,” said Treadway.

Her host family includes two children below the age of 5.

Drew Holmes, 17, of Danville is taking a Monopoly game, Bazooka bubble gum and T-shirts to share with his family.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Holmes, “but I’m really excited to meet my family.” This will be his first trip outside the country.

While in Japan, students will meet the president and vice president of Daikin’s Yodogawa plant. They will also attend a Kendo martial arts workshop, visit a Japanese high school and ride a train to Kyoto.

Japan’s transportation system is one of the new cultural experiences David Naito hopes the students will enjoy.

Former president of Daikin, Naito founded the homestay program 14 years ago. He addressed participants at the send-off reception.

Among the other guest speakers at the reception was Decatur City Schools Superintendent Sam Houston.

“This is one of the brightest groups we’ve ever had,” said Houston.

He congratulated students for being selected, calling them people of substance, maturity, sensitivity and perspective.

Chaperone Jeanne Ellen Stroh of Austin said she couldn’t ask for a better group.

“The kids are the top of the line,” said Stroh. “The selection process is very difficult.”

Stroh will accompany students to Japan, but for her this will be a return trip. Stroh was a journeyman missionary in Japan for two years.

“I love the people, and the country is so beautiful,” she said.

Despite her experience, Stroh said, she’s almost as lost as the students when it comes to speaking the language.

“Just a little” is among the Japanese phrases students learned in preparation for the journey. Katie Bennett of Hartselle says this is key so she can tell her host mom when she has had enough to eat.

Other students going on the trip are Katelyn Bennett, Austin; Lauren Estes, Falkville; Brooke Kinney, Brewer; Jared Miller, Decatur; John Moore, Decatur; Mandy Robinson, West Morgan; Lindsey Rogers, Austin; David South, Hartselle; and Josh Wright, Brewer.

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