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Santa Barbara, Japanese Students Exchange Cultural Experiences

Santa Barbara's sister city organization completes an exchange program for four local students and their Japanese counterparts.

Article Image
Toba, Japan, exchange students join their chaperones on the steps of Santa Barbara City Hall on July 28 as Mayor Marty Blum welcomed the international visitors to Santa Barbara. Participants were front row, from left, Michelle Nicole Kee, Sofia Airi Dose, Fuki Terada and Eishin Ueno; middle row, from left, Jill Stassinos, Rieko Sugimoto and Satoshi Kamegawa; back row, from left, Douglas Clinton Throop II and Colin Lancashire. (Santa Barbara-Toba, Japan Sister City Organization photo)

The Santa Barbara-Toba, Japan Sister City Organization has completed a successful student exchange program for four local junior high school students and their four Japanese counterparts. The students returned from Toba, Japan, on Sunday after hosting the Japanese students earlier in the summer.

Participants included chaperone Jill Stassinos; Michelle Nicole Kee, 14, of Solvang; Sofia Vazquez, 15, of Los Alamos; and Colin Lancashire,14, and Douglas Clinton Throop II, 14, both of Santa Barbara. On the Japanese side were chaperone Rieko Sugimoto and students Airi Dose, 13, Fuki Terada, 13, Eishin Ueno, 13, and Satoshi Kamegawa, 13.

Sponsored by the Santa Barbara-Toba Sister City Organization, the family-to-family exchange program started in 1991. Students from Japan visited Santa Barbara first. Their trip coincided with Old Spanish Days/Fiesta and lasted for about 10 days. This year the students enjoyed an overnight stay in a yurt at Cachuma Lake, horseback riding, a pool party and barbecue, and riding on the Righetti Float in the Fiesta parade in addition to visiting standard Santa Barbara sites such as Stearns Wharf.

A few days after the Japanese students returned home, the Santa Barbara students flew to Japan for a reciprocal visit of equal length. The scheduling allowed for participating in Obon festivals. Held in mid-August, Obon is the nationwide celebration of honoring one’s ancestors.

Much like its Santa Barbara sister, Toba is well-known for its natural beauty, comfortable climate, delicious cuisine and warm hospitality. Nestled on the Pacific coast against the mountains, Toba is 250 miles south of the Tokyo, Japan’s capital city, and a two-hour train ride from Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital. Internationally, Toba may be best known as the home of Mikimoto Pearls. Pearl diving shows, a pearl museum, and Mikimoto Pearl Island are popular tourist attractions. Additionally, Japan’s largest marine aquarium also calls Toba home.

Founded in 1966, the Santa Barbara-Toba Sister City Organization is the oldest sister city organization in Santa Barbara. Along with other local sister city groups, Santa Barbara-Toba is affiliated with Sister Cities International and a member of the Santa Barbara Sister Cities board. Santa Barbara-Toba is a self-supporting, nonprofit corporation and receives no funding from the city of Santa Barbara or any public agency.

Applications are being taken for the summer 2009 Santa Barbara-Toba Japan Exchange Program. Contact Mary Turley at 805.963.3851 or [email protected]

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