The Sunshine Coast welcomed 24 Japanese students and their teachers July 27, when they arrived to a warm welcoming from their host families at Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibsons.
For two weeks the young travellers will be living on the Coast and improving their English while taking in a rural lifestyle that contrasts with life in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Jinbocho.
“They haven’t decided yet about their dreams, but after they talk with strangers or people in foreign countries, that experience will make them think about their future a lot,” said 25-year-old teacher Mayu Yumoto.
On her second year of teaching at the Kyoritsu Girls’ high school, Yumoto said the experience would benefit both the students and their teachers.
In addition to a trip to Vancouver, the 16- and 17-year-old girls planned to take nature walks and learn about First Nations culture.
Also topping their list will be an exploration of issues pertaining to the environment and sustainability.
The student group has a long history of visiting the Sunshine Coast, perhaps a 40-year tradition.
They arrived in the cafeteria at Elphi to a room packed with jubilant Coast families, who leapt from their chairs to wave colourful signs welcoming the students.
Yumoto said the whole experience is an important one for the young girls, who are expected to come out of their shell in order to take steps towards achieving their dreams.
“Japanese people are very kind but a little bit shy. These people [the host families] are open minded and a little bit hyper,” Yumoto said. The teacher encouraged her students to leave their doors open and ask lots of questions during their stay.
According to her, the group was most looking forward to sampling the Canadian food and exploring the city of Vancouver for a day.
That and “maybe meeting some handsome guys in Canada,” she said.