Aya Tsuhako speaks during a Japanese language class at Kamiak High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Aya Tsuhako speaks during a Japanese language class at Kamiak High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Okinawa students learn life is very different in a US school

At Kamiak High, the lockers actually lock and classes do not start on the hour. Weird. Very weird.

MUKILTEO — Tall trees. Big houses. Big hamburgers.

Those are some of the words used by the 23 students visiting from southern Japan to describe their first impression of America to a class at Kamiak High School.

Hideto Furugen, 15, found joy in water vapor.

“I got to see my breath,” Hideto said. It’s a rarity in the subtropical region of the island of Okinawa where he lives.

Another high point: People came up to talk to him.

“Love it,” the teen said. “We don’t do that in public.”

The students were part of the Kakehashi Project — “The Bridge for Tomorrow” — a friendship program promoted by the Japanese government with the United States, in this case two cultures, 5,700 miles apart.

A group of students from high schools in the Edmonds School District visited Tokyo and northern Japan with the Kakehashi Project in July.

Airi Sugimoto (left) and Erika Okuma (right) look into the weight room during their tour of Kamiak High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Airi Sugimoto (left) and Erika Okuma (right) look into the weight room during their tour of Kamiak High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

During the December winter break, 23 students from Yoshitaka Inoue’s Japanese class at Kamiak will visit the Okinawa school.

“My students are so excited they can try Japanese language skills and make lifelong friends,” Inoue said. “For both ways, it is important for this age to see somebody from a different culture to open up their minds, especially nowadays to appreciate the differences.”

Students from both countries were at varying levels of language fluency.

As Kamiak senior Brian Lee, 17, put it: “We were able to work with what we knew and what they knew in order to communicate. We tried to find middle ground.”

Added classmate Jasmine Jones, 17: “We learned that language is more than just perfect grammar with communication. It’s about finding words that can work. We are excited to use these tools when we go to Japan next month.”

During their weeklong visit, the Japanese students made the rounds in Seattle, visiting the Japanese consulate, Nisei Veterans Committee, the University of Washington, Alki Beach and Pike Place Market.

They stayed with host families in Mukilteo for several days of immersion in Pacific Northwest teendom.

Japanese students and teachers take pictures of the school theater during their tour of Kamiak High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Japanese students and teachers take pictures of the school theater during their tour of Kamiak High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Okinawa, known as the Japanese Hawaii, is 400 miles south of mainland Japan, about the same distance off the coast of China, and 300 miles north of Taiwan.

It’s about 1,000 miles from Tokyo. Unlike Tokyo, which many Americans associate with anime, fashion and food, Okinawa is remembered for its decisive role in World War II. The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest. About 110,000 Japanese soldiers died, and possibly as many civilians. About 12,520 Americans were killed in the battle.

About 25,000 U.S. military troops are stationed in Okinawa, which has 1.4 million residents.

The students are from Naha Kokusai Senior High School in Naha, the largest city and the capital of Okinawa.

At Kamiak, the students from Okinawa, in hoodies and jeans, blended in with the Mukilteo teens swarming the halls. Uniforms are required at their home school. In a slide presentation, they showed Kamiak students pictures of the dress code attire, mostly plaids and navy blues.

“I wish I could wear regular clothes,” said Okinawa student Yumeno Sueyoshi. “I like my own clothes better than uniforms.”

At her school, students attend all the same classes together, rather than get to choose which gym class they want. In Japan, students stay in the same classroom and teachers change rooms.

The Japanese students were awestruck by the size of the theater department, indoor swimming pool and weight room.

Lockers were among the other things that American students take for granted that their Japanese peers found fascinating.

Sakura Hentona and Aoi Uehara, both 17, were amazed not only by the size but also that they locked. Their school has small cubbies with “No privacy,” they said.

Another thing that stood out: chairs attached to desks.

They also found it fascinating that the class periods didn’t start and end on the hour, as in Japan, but at odd number combinations.

A class starting at 10:24?

Weird, they said. Very weird.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Former president Donald Trump is seen with a bloody ear as he is assisted off the stage during a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., on Saturday. MUST CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Pops, screams and then blood: On the scene at the Trump rally shooting

Isaac Arnsdorf, Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post BUTLER, Pa. - The… Continue reading

Biden, Democrats, Republicans denounce shooting at Trump rally

Reaction pours in from government leaders

A bloodied Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday, July, 13, 2024. The former president was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt

President Joe Biden gave a brief televised statement, condemning the violence as “sick.”

Firefighters and EMTs with Sky Valley Fire tour Eagle Falls while on an observational trip on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, near Index, Washington. (Jordan Hansen / The Herald)
Beautiful but deadly: Drownings common at Eagle Falls, other local waters

Locals and firefighters are sounding the alarm as Eagle Falls and the Granite Falls Fish Ladder have claimed five lives this year.

A view of the south eastern area of the Lake Stevens that includes lakeshore and UGA that is a part of the city's annexation area on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lake Stevens fight to take over sewer district could end soon

The city and sewer district have been locked in a yearslong dispute. A judge could put an end to the stalemate this month.

Lynnwood appoints new council member after abrupt resignation

Derica Escamilla will take the seat vacated by Shirley Sutton in May, who claimed the city had a “total lack of leadership.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.