Marysville students greet Japanese pen pals

MARYSVILLE — Japanese visitors were welcomed last week by students at Liberty Elementary School.

The four Japanese children and two adults spent Thursday at the elementary school as part of a sister school relationship between Liberty Elementary and Nakano Elementary in Hiroshima, Japan.

The schools each year exchange student art projects and letters, said Connie Kantzer, an educational assistant at Liberty, who 24 years ago helped to start the relationship.

The bond between the two schools grew and a small group of Liberty Elementary students and staff in 1991 visited Japan for a peace conference. Four other students and several staff members including Kantzer stayed with host families and visited Nakano Elementary again in November 2010.

The visit to Liberty Elementary marked the second time in more than 10 years that Japanese students have traveled to the school.

The Japanese students and their families stayed for one week with host families from Liberty Elementary.

“With the huge support of the schools and staff, the sister school has continued all these years,” Kantzer said. “It’s amazing.”

Mayumi Takahasi and her eighth-grade son, Masato, along with Asami Harada, her daughter, Miharu, a second-grader, and sons, Kenta, an eighth-grader, and Taiji, a sixth-grader, were introduced during an assembly. Students sang songs and along with teachers and principal Scott Irwin, gave gifts including books, handmade pillows, and Liberty T-shirts to the visitors.

Superintendent Larry Nyland and Kyle Kinoshita, executive director of teaching and learning in the Marysville School District, also welcomed the guests to the school. Kinoshita told students his family is from the same area as those who traveled from their sister school.

“I am very proud to welcome our guests,” he said. “My family has lived here for over 100 years, but my grandfather came from the area that Nakano Elementary is located so I am additionally proud of what we’ve done because they come from a place where my family comes from long, long ago.”

Mayumi Takahasi spoke briefly in English during the assembly.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she told students. “Thank you for inviting us to your school. I am very glad to see all the students and all the teachers.”

Rhiannon Shirley, 13, a student at North Lake Middle School in Lake Stevens, went on the 2010 trip to visit Nakano Elementary. She happily showed some of her friends she met in Japan around her old elementary school.

The relationship between Liberty and Nakano elementaries is a good thing, she added.

“It’s important so everybody can have new experiences,” Rhiannon said. “Not every school works the same and not every place works the same.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

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