CdM gets to know Japanese culture

Students in Newport Beach schools bow and sing with those from sister city of Okazaki, Japan.

October 02, 2010|By Tom Ragan,
  • Exchange student Eimi Ando, 15, performs a traditional Japanese dance during a welcome ceremony at Corona del Mar High intended to introduce students to foreign exchange program Newport Beach has with the city of Okazaki in Japan.
Exchange student Eimi Ando, 15, performs a traditional… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

CORONA DEL MAR — Everybody inside the Corona del Mar High School gym rose as the National Anthem was played on Friday.

But when the Japanese foreign exchange students started to sing John Denver's "Take Me Home," the hundreds of American middle school students there fell relatively silent — some of them not really familiar with the song.

Then Katy Perry's "California Gurls" started playing on the big screen at the front of the gym, and that's when there was a noticeable stir of familiarity as some of the 400-plus students from Corona del Mar Middle School started to sing along.

Welcome to the world of foreign exchange, where cultures not only come together, but occasionally overlap. Japanese students flashed peace signs from the Vietnam era while some Corona del Mar students bowed in respect.

And the meeting of the students from the two different cultures was made possible by the Newport Beach Sister Assn. in conjunction with the Newport-Balboa Rotary Club.


Virtually every year since 1984, a half dozen students from Corona del Mar and Ensign middle schools board jets and cross the great Pacific Ocean during the summer to visit the town of Okazaki, Japan, one of Newport Beach's sister cities.

Then, in the fall, there's the ol' switcheroo, with Japanese students visiting Newport Beach.

The purpose of Friday morning's rally was to introduce the present-day American middle schoolers to the concept of the foreign exchange program.

The Japanese students performed a variety of cultural dances and songs while the middle school's cheerleading squad showed off their talents as well.

But if you really want to know whether a trip to Japan would be worth it, just listen to what Jenna Funsten said about her experience in Okazaki two years ago as a Corona del Mar Middle School student.

Now a sophomore, she addressed the crowd in the gym's stands, saying, "It sounds really scary and it kind of was, but when you get there, you feel like a rock star. You should go."

Or you might heed the words of Teddy Parks, also a sophomore at the Corona del Mar High School.

"It was a really great experience," he said. "You should all try to go to Japan. Just try to wrap your head around the concept. It was crazy."

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