Shinhidaka Student Exchange - By Marguerite Jouet
Hello I am Marguerite Jouët, I am 14 years old living in Lexington, Kentucky and recently went to Shinhidaka Japan as a foreign exchange student for Lexington Sister Cities. In Japan I got to experience how a family lives their life and explore all the interesting parts of its culture. I loved everything about Japan and I hope I can return again one day.
To begin, our group starts at the airport.
Of course to get to Japan you must brace yourself for lengthy plane ride; which doesn’t seem that bad if you manage to sleep, talk, and (quietly) goof around on the plane with your fellow group members including our wonderful chaperone. But once we arrived and I finally got to meet my counterpart’s family, I was reassured that all this traveling was worth it.
My family's hospitality and kindness was one of my highlights of my trip. They cared for me and made sure I was comfortable at home like my family at home would and made sure that I had fun or at least learned something new when we went out together.
One of my favorite experiences with them was at the amazing arcade in a mall with an array of different photo booths to help anyone look like a model with unrealistically large eyes and perfect skin. (My host brother Hikaru is on the right and his brother is on the left.)
When touring with the group we went to Sapporo, the largest city on Hokkaido. There we went to a shrine. Where our group got to meet the head priest who taught us about why the shrine was built and took us to look at caravans used in parades to carry the gods.
Afterward we went to this huge mall where I got to eat a Hokkaido specialty, Miso ramen. Which was amazing, I even bought some ingredients in Lexington to make it.
Also inside the monster mall was a Pokemon center (!!!!) where I bought some legit Pokemon cards and went to another photo booth.
The following days only got better from there. The group got to tour Shinhidaka where we met with the mayor, rode on a horse (it is our Sister City after all), and observe some "creatively interesting" art work and look at the world’s largest oil painting.
I got to eat at a restaurant featuring a sushi train, and it was as amazing as it sounds. My host family brothers ate at least 8 plates of sushi each, and then some giant ice cream sundaes.
The last days while in we were in Japan there was a summer festival where nearly everyone wore yukatas (a type of summer kimono), ate tons of delicious grilled noodles and other healthy Japanese fair food. And on the final day the Americans got to dance in a parade!
We also visited a kindergarten class, where I felt like a celebrity and had some of my hair ripped out because the children had never seen blond curly hair and wanted a keepsake.
I visited my host students high school earlier that week where I was asked to take so many selfies my cheeks hurt from smiling! The Japanese high school experience is a lot different from ours. The first thing I noticed was you have to wear special shoes and visitors needed to wear slippers, which were too small for my feet so I brought my own. The group also got to make our own udon noodles in the schools kitchen. Yummy indeed.
In the end there were many tears of happiness and sadness. Japan was a beautiful place to live and I hope that many more people in the future can have an experience just as great as mine. I can't wait to bring my family to Japan.