The Japanese Connection

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By Anthony Ferraro
Clinton County Chatter

An ongoing tradition is occurring at DeWitt Junior High School and it seems to be the opportunity of a lifetime for some eighth-grade students.

For the 18th year running, the school has held a Japanese exchange student program. In this program every year there are several foreign exchange students who travel from Japan to visit DeWitt and stay with a host family and learn a little bit about the American culture. Then, in turn, every May eighth-graders from DeWitt travel to Koka, Japan and learn about the Japanese culture.

This feat is not easy as the application process is a very thorough one.

According to the application, students must be in very good academic standing, must be mature in and out of the classroom, along with the requirement of taking a Japanese class to get themselves familiar with the culture.

According to program founder Lawrence Arbanas, Shiga, Japan and Michigan have been sister states for 47 years now, which was started by former Michigan Gov. George Romney.

Arbanas was the first faculty member chosen to go over to Japan and fell in love with the culture immediately.

“I love the Japanese people and their work ethic,” said Arbanas.

Arbanas was in charge of the program for 10 years. Now the reins have been given to Micah Cousins who also teaches Japanese at the junior high school.

Students get to go and shadow the Japanese way of life and learn from their host families. They get to learn a lot but there is one thing that seems to be the hardest to adjust to.

“The food for sure is the hardest for the children to adjust to, some just can’t stomach the idea of raw fish,” said Arbanas.

Going across the sea to a new place in eighth is a big task and some parents are skeptical on sending their kids half way around the world, according to Arbanas.

DeWitt High School also has this program and they go for two weeks whereas the junior high kids go for one. The high school program seems to be faltering, though.

“It is faltering for sure, it’s just really expensive for the families,” said Arbanas.

All in all, Arbanas believes that Cousins and the junior high school will keep the tradition going on for a long time.

“The Japanese students are impressed at how everything is big here,” said Arbanas. “They love Meijer and the fact that you can get everything there.”

Map of Michigan to Koka City

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