Japanese Exchange Program (JXP)

Important Dates
Donors & Supporters


The Elk Grove High School Japanese Exchange Program, which marked its thirtieth anniversary during the 2017-18 school year, allows participants an invaluable opportunity to experience home and school life in another country and make close friends from a different cultural background. Students do NOT need to be in Japanese classes to participate! Moreover, students can take part in the exchange program even if they are in sports or other activities.

There are two parts to the exchange program, each lasting approximately two weeks:

  1. In March, EGHS families host students from our Japanese sister schools, Ashikodai and Ashitandai High Schools, providing a welcoming home environment.
  2. In June, our students and one or two EGHS staff members travel to beautiful Ashikaga, Japan, where they experience both traditional and modern culture. They generally stay in the homes of the persons they hosted, welcomed by a Japanese host family eager to repay the earlier kindness. This reciprocal hosting experience, with the sharing of family and local customs, traditions, and community, is key to the creation of international friendships that can last a lifetime.

Because the participants serve as personal ambassadors of our school, community, and country, we are looking for individuals who are considerate of others, caring, cooperative, responsible, flexible and open-minded.

Fees for the 2019 trip to Japan are estimated at about $1,800, including airfare, though this figure does not include incidentals, such as spending money, passport fees, visa fees for non-US citizens, gifts for the host family, and the medical and trip cancellation insurance that District 214 requires. This subsidized rate and some limited need-based financial assistance opportunities for students in Japanese classes are made possible through the generosity of our sister schools and the sponsors and supporters listed below.



For more information or if you have questions, contact the program sponsor or the parent volunteer contact:

The EGHS Japanese Teacher and Japanese Exchange Program Coordinator (not available between the retirement of Cliff Darnall effective June 2, 2018, and the start of employment of Ryan Christie for the 2018-2019 school year). The general EGHS phone number is 847-718-4400.

Linda Bauer, parent volunteer
bauhousemom@msn.com  |  (630) 742-8426

Tax-deductible donations are always appreciated and may be sent to the following address:

Elk Grove High School
Japanese Exchange Program
500 W. Elk Grove Blvd.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007



The mission of the Elk Grove High School Japanese Exchange Program (JXP), together with our sister schools of Ashikodai and Ashitandai High Schools in Ashikaga, Japan, is to foster cross-cultural and international understanding and friendship between the people of Japan and the people of the United States of America.  To this end, we have since 1988 planned and sponsored an annual exchange of students and faculty involving school visits, special cultural experiences, and reciprocal hosting.


Important Dates for the 2018-2019 Exchange

Application forms become available Late August or earlier
Parent/Student Information Meeting Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 pm, in Room 253

Applications and $200 deposit due
*Note: there are NO fees for "hosting only" applicants.

Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Room 253
Notification to applicants Mid-October or earlier
Second payment due for those traveling to Japan Friday, November 9
Orientation for host families
Third payment due for those traveling to Japan
Thursday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., in Room 253
Fundraiser Week (Optional) TBA
Hosting of Japanese students Friday, March 8 (after school) - Thursday, March 21 (morning)
PTC-sponsored farewell party for the visiting group Wednesday, March 20, 6-8 p.m. in the EGHS Cafeteria
Orientation for participants going to Japan
*Note: Attendance is VERY important.
Weekly from early April through departure, time and place TBD
Orientation for trip participants and parents/guardians
Final payment due for participants going to Japan
Tuesday, April 16, 7 pm in Room 253
Exchange trip to Japan Monday, June 3 - Tuesday, June 18



In the late summer/early fall, please download the application form using the link later in this section and complete the form carefully using Microsoft Word or something very compatible. Students, you can also upload the form into Google Docs, edit it there, and then share with the JXP Coordinator. Do NOT use Notability or Notetaker or the like on the iPad. Email the completed application as an attachment to the JXP Coordinator at an email to be established by the beginning of the fall semester.  

From the link below, please also download the appropriate signature sheet, depending on whether you are applying only to host in March or both to host in March and go to Japan in June. Print it out and read carefully. Both students and parents should sign.

Please download the application and signature forms from Dropbox by clicking here.

Please note that a $200 deposit is required at the time of application for those applying for both parts of the exchange. No deposit or fees are required for hosting only. We typically need a few extra hosts, but first priority goes to those who are participating in both parts of the exchange.



The following are links to various photo galleries, listed most recent first. Most of the March photos were taken by Gene Mayeda of the D214 Community Outreach Department, with most of the remaining by Cliff Darnall. Photos taken in Japan are mostly by Terry Yamaguchi, Hide Tsuru, Atsuo Kamata, and other host school staff, and EGHS chaperones. Photos are housed on Nikon Image Space, DropBox, or Flickr, and all sets include download options.

EGHS 2018 30th Annual Japanese Exchange: 

      Some Photos from the March 2018 Visit From Japan

      Some Photos from the June 2018 Visit to Japan

EGHS 2017 29th Annual Japanese Exchange: 
      Special selection of photos by Gene Mayeda (D214 Community Engagement Dept.), housed on Flickr

      Some Photos from the March 2017 Visit from Japan

      Some Photos from the June 2017 Visit to Japan

EGHS 2016 28th Annual Japanese Exchange: 
     Some Photos from the March 2016 Visit from Japan
     Some Photos from the June 2016 Visit to Japan

EGHS 2015 27th Annual Japanese Exchange: 

EGHS 2014 26th Annual Japanese Exchange: 

EGHS 2013 25th Annual Japanese Exchange: 

EGHS 2012 24th Annual Japanese Exchange:

EGHS 2011 23rd Annual Japanese Exchange:

EGHS 2010 22nd Annual Japanese Exchange:


Donors and Supporters


2017-2018 Program (as of 1/13/18)

Donors Outside EGHS

  • Sumitomo Cryogenics of America
  • Kiyo and Yuko Shirataki
  • Yuasa-Yi International

Donors Within EGHS

  • The EGHS Student Council

2016-2017 Program (as of 2/19/17)

Donors Outside EGHS

  • Sumitomo Cryogenics of America
  • Shunichiro and Mitsuko Kishioka
  • Kiyo and Yuko Shirataki
  • Yuasa-Yi International

Donors Within EGHS:

  • The EGHS Student Council

Sincere thanks as well to Ashikodai High School, Ashitandai High School, District 214 and EGHS, the Japan Information Center
and especially our wonderful host families!


The following is a collection of testimonials contributed by some of our student participantsparents of participants, and chaperones

The comments in each section are organized most recent first, alphabetized by last name when the year of participation is the same. Some members have hosted more than once, but the year of full participation (both hosting and traveling) is used in determining the order.

We welcome comments from other current and former participants/parents as well. Please email your comments to the JXP Coordinator at the contact email address that will be entered above by the start of the fall semester. 


I wanted to thank you again for helping with the Japanese exchange program and for teaching me my junior and senior years of high school. I really think that ever since participating in your class, going to the various Japanese-related events you offered, and participating in this exchange program I have grown as an individual and 'come out of my shell' in a sense. This program and its many opportunities helped me to develop better interpersonal skills along with my language skills, and I think that in general dealing with sometimes awkward situations in terms of things like language barriers helped me to improve myself while improving my Japanese. 

Trevor W., 2014 Participant

The exchange program was an incredible opportunity to experience a different culture. I am so thankful I was able to go. I’d go on the exchange trip again without hesitation!

Kristen F., 2014 Participant

I was always interested in Japan ever since my older brother introduced me to Japan and the culture. When I found out that there was an exchange program let alone a class, I was ecstatic on learning something that seemed so different from the culture here in the United States. When I participated in the exchange program I was nothing other than speechless on how similar we all are despite being on opposite ends of the earth. The truth is this program changed how I see culture in the world, no matter how far away we are, we are still human and I hope this program continues to change the lives of those involved.
Thank you for a wonderful experience and I hope to see this program continue in the future.

Alex E., 2012 Participant

This trip was amazing! I am so glad I had this opportunity.

Trevor I, 2010 Participant

The Japanese Exchange program was an amazing experience.  Back in high school,  as a future teacher, I knew that I wanted to see the world and practice my Japanese. One of the best ways that I have been able to see part of the world was the Japanese Exchange Program, where I could experience Japan through full cultural immersion.  Then, when I came back to teach at my alma mater I was overjoyed to be able to chaperone the annual trip.  As a geography teacher, I have used my experiences in class, but I am even more excited for next year to be able to use another round of stories/pictures.

Chris Cirrincione, 2009 Student Participant and Chaperone for the June 2016 trip

I participated in the Japanese program my junior year. Though I knew what to expect from the culture having lived there, it was still an amazing trip. Immersing yourself in a new way of life for 2 weeks is only part of what the program is about. I gained so many new friends and memories through the Japanese Exchange. Everyone that has gone on the trip has only positive things to say about it when they get back. Past participants agree that it is one of the best high school experiences they've had. It is A LOT of fun. One of the most popular responses participants give when asked about their trip is, "I want to go back as soon as possible!" If you are hesitant about participating for whatever reason whether it be the language barrier or something else, don't be. It is definitely worth it. If it is language holding you back, EGHS has an excellent Japanese language department that can help prepare you for your trip.  Going abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have during your high school years, or even post-high school. I highly recommend this program.

Amy M., 2009 Participant

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to go to Japan and be part of the exchange program. It was such a great experience, and I think I might even go back there to teach English someday.

Nicole P., 2009 Participant (Nicole was not in Japanese classes. Students do not have to be taking Japanese to participate.)

Dear Mr. Darnall and Mr. Yamaguchi,

Thank you for your commitment and dedication to the Japanese Exchange Program. I graduated close to ten years ago, but the program still has a strong impact on my life today. It helped me develop an appreciation for travel and culture. The two of you inspire students to become globally-minded citizens, which is exactly what we need to create a more just and humane world.  Thank you for all your hard work. It is greatly appreciated.

Alex W., 2008 Participant (from a letter written in June of 2017, uploaded with permission)


No decision has been more formative in my life than my choice to get involved with Japanese in high school. Beyond defining my high school career, the program informed and enabled my future. Classes introduced me to a fascinating language, culture, and people; the exchange program allowed me to move beyond the textbook and experience them first-hand. Through my participation in the exchange, I awakened a passion for the language, forged once-in-a-lifetime friendships, and found a family a world away. While the program taught me an incredible amount about Japan and my host family, it also offered me a reflective journey through which I learned equally as much about my own culture and myself. I would not trade my experience with the Japanese program--from classes to the exchange--for anything. You will not find a more meaningful program or dedicated teacher in high school--I've looked!

Tom T., 2007 Participant

I participated in the program in my senior year, and it was a wonderful, priceless experience. My host family was very gracious and hospitable; they truly went above and beyond to make sure I was comfortable. The shopping in Tokyo was incredible, for I am a huge Hello Kitty fan, so I love cute, adorable items that were sold all around Tokyo. Also, I was impressed with the customer service of Japanese employees. They welcome customers with such a warm, convivial smile it makes them feel they are such valued customers. Being able to experience Japanese culture firsthand is an amazing opportunity that one should definitely partake off. My only regret is that I didn't take advantage of the opportunity to improve my Japanese with my host family and Japanese classmates. So my word of advice is, "Don't be shy, for everyone is kind and more than willing to help you with the language!"

Clare M., 2006 Participant


I'm not sure if you remember me but I was a student from 1999-2003.  I know the exchange program probably just finished the Chicago half so I just wanted to show you the results of all of the hard work you and Mr. Yamaguchi do for the program.


I am still friends with 2 of the 3 girls I hosted but especially the first one.  It has been 16 years and we are still friends.  We used to write letters via snail mail, then moved to email, and now social media.  We have sent Xmas gifts to each other since the year she came on the exchange program and now we send each others kids gifts instead.  Both ends are excited to receive mail from a other country!


Today, we had the pleasure of meeting each others kids in person.  I love knowing that when I come to Japan, I always have a friend who I can talk to and pick up right where we left off!   Without the exchange program, I truly would not enjoy Japan as much as I do.  I am so grateful for her friendship.


So thank you for everything!  It is such a fantastic program; it was one of the only things I miss from high school.


Amanda M, 2001-3 Host, 2003 Trip



My experiences with the Elk Grove High School-Ashikodai-Ashitandai Exchange Program continue to be a driving force in my personal, academic, and professional life.  Having hosted three Japanese students and visited Japan with this program, I gained a unique and priceless perspective into world cultures and languages at an important age.  I went on to major in Japanese in college, study in Japan, and work as an English teacher in public schools in rural Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan.  For the past ten years, I have taught at an elementary and middle school for Japanese nationals living in the U.S.  My dedication to Japan, Japanese culture, and the Japanese people started with the friendships that were forged through the Japanese Exchange Program, many of which are still active today. 

Ryan Christie, 1998 Participant



As the parents of a student that participated in the 2014 Japanese exchange program, we wanted to express our gratitude for having been provided such a wonderful and unique experience.  Not only was our daughter positively affected by this encounter but we, as her parents, also benefited from our involvement by hosting a Japanese student.
Our daughter was extremely thrilled at all the opportunities that were arranged and provided.  The trip made a great impression on her.  She even talked about the possibility of studying abroad in Japan.
Her positive experience could not have happened without the time and energy provided by Mr. Darnell and his Japanese counterpart Mr. Yamaguchi.
Whether in the Japanese language program or not, this is an experience from which every student would benefit and grow.
Mr. and Mrs. F., Parents of a 2014 Participant

My daughter and my family had a fabulous experience joining the Japanese Exchange Program! We got to host two exceptional young ladies in our home and Alex was able to travel to Japan and learn so much about her own heritage. The program is so well thought out and put together and we couldn't be more pleased to have been a part of it. I know that our experience will last a lifetime and I have two additional daughters whom we keep in contact with frequently. One will be coming on her own this summer to stay with us again. It's a wonderful opportunity that is given to EGHS students! Thank you,
Mrs. C. A., Parent of a 2013 Participant
I want to thank you for a spectacular experience!  It seems as if I have known these Japanese Teenagers for a lifetime.  Yuuki filled our home with laughter, memories to last a lifetime and a new understanding of other customs.  Our family will never forget their Japanese brother!  He was such a gentle spirit in a house full of 4 boys.  He was gracious, polite and a welcome addition.  I am so proud to have had this opportunity and would highly recommend it to anyone.  This experience was one we will treasure for a lifetime.

[Our son's 10-year-old brother adds,] 
Having Yuuki around was great!  He was like a piece of tape holding our family together.  We did things that we wouldn't normally do because everyone is busy and going their own directions.  Yuuki gave us time to play games and be a whole family. 
Mrs. J. A., Parent of a 2013 Participant

I just wanted to say thank you for giving my daughter the opportunity to participate in the Japanese  Exchange program.  We are so happy with the family that welcomed our daughter into their home.  She really enjoyed her stay in Japan with Tomoka's family a lot.  She hopes to visit Japan soon to meet with them once again.  I hope that this program continues for many more years because it gave us the opportunity to experience a new culture, make new friends, and make memories that will last forever.  
Once again, thank you so much for all the work you have put into this program; we appreciate it greatly!
Mr. C., Parent of a 2013 Participant

I am also very comfortable with the quality of program you offer in Japan, and know they are being taken care of.  I cannot wait to see Erika. I know she will come back a changed person because of this trip, and that change will be a positive one, I am sure.

When we started in this exchange in the fall, I never realized how emotional this would become. This is an experience that is very hard to understand until you are in it.  However, I hope I can express to others what an amazing program this really is. 

Mrs. B., Parent of a 2010 

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement throughout Christi's involvement in the Japanese exchange program. We feel very blessed that Christi (and our family) had the opportunity to be a part of this life-changing experience. It was a joy and privilege to host Mo-e in March.... and Christi's trip to Japan was absolutely amazing! She has not stopped talking about this wonderful experience. The Yokozuka family went out of their way to show Christi the sights in Japan and made her feel like a part of their family. Mr. Yamaguchi [the Japan-side coordinator] had many interesting activities planned for our students. You certainly can count on us to support and help out with this outstanding program.

Mrs. E., Parent of a 2010 Participant  (Note: Christi had not been in Japanese classes. Being in Japanese class is not a requirement for participation.)

In saying goodbye to Trevor, I was not the least bit worried about how he would respond to the cultural differences, where he was to be, or how he would behave in a strange place, as you had them so well versed in all of those dimensions.  My only worry was, "Don't loose your passport or your money!" Otherwise, I knew he was in great hands and had the knowledge he needed to make the most of the trip.

Mrs. I., Parent of a 2010 Participant



I was an exchange program participant in the summer of 2015.  The EGHS Exchange Program is an amazing opportunity for teachers and students to get to know other cultures, meet amazing people and develop life long friendships.  A few of my favorite memories from the trip were learning Japanese calligraphy, playing the piano with my host family, riding the Tokyo metro and trying Japanese sweets. 
Beata Yormark, 2015 Chaperone

I have traveled to many countries in my life, but never before have I been able to become so intertwined with a foreign culture.  This is a fabulous and rare opportunity for all students.  The beauty of experiencing Japan and its traditions is only matched by the warmth and kindness of our Japanese counterparts. This was a fantastic adventure I will never forget.
Scott Deutsch, 2010 Chaperone
The Japanese exchange was a unique experience for me that may never be equaled in my other travels. Most traveling allows a person to see the area and gain a sampling of the culture, but the Japanese program allows persons on both sides of the exchange to get a true sample of what life is like in another country. The time spent in another person’s home and spending time with those people in your house gives one a great deal more time to learn the cultural differences. That closeness also allows us to see how we are similar.
The organization of this exchange is key to making it a good experience. Cliff and Terry have an excellent rapport and maintain excellent communications. When in Japan there is a good balance between spending time in the school and seeing the other parts of Japan. The Japanese hosts show us much of the culture, but try to remember our American background when planning activities. We visited a number of different schools and cultural sites. I personally experienced a greater variety of foods than I have ever had in my life (and all of it was good). 
Despite all of the "things" we saw in Japan, the most important experience we had in Japan was meeting the people. Everyone was so supportive of us. The many lives that touched ours were the truly memorable part of the experience.
Steve Prorak, 2009 Chaperone

It would be difficult for me to imagine a school "field trip," as it were, being able to offer so much to its participants as this one does. After my stay in Japan, surrounded as I was by such warm, gracious, funny, intelligent hosts and students, infused as I was with equal parts humble wonder and simple joy, and virtually enfolded by the profound history of one of the most vital cultures still active on this planet (one that can teach us in the West more than a few things about the necessities of beauty, honor, and balance of mind), I arrived home a changed person, truly grateful for this change, and feeling fortunate indeed I had had such an unique opportunity. It was an experience I will never forget and always treasure.

Ryan Asmussen, 2004 Chaperone

Going to Japan was a life-changing experience for me. At the time, my husband and I had just started looking into large homes because we wanted children. We had dreams of owning a huge house, you know, the big ones that we really couldn't afford without major sacrifices in our day-to-day living. When I went to Japan, however, the one thing that really became apparent about the culture was that the emphasis was on family and education. The size of one’s house really didn't matter. I had the privilege of staying in a crowded home with a loving family of five. Experiencing life in a household that placed such day-to-day value on family relationships was beautiful! When I came back, I shared this cultural experience with my husband, and we decided not to purchase a large home but to stay instead in our small townhouse. We have ignored societies pressures to own a large home for seven years, and as a result, our family of four has lived within our means, placed a higher financial value on education, and developed close bonds with one another.

Lisette Rodriguez, 2003 Chaperone

The Japanese exchange trip is a great opportunity. It's like visiting a whole different world that has given me an experience I will never forget. I have been able to relate to many things I have read in books or magazines and seen on TV or in movies because of my trip. 

Stacy Strama, 2003 Chaperone

My husband and I were chaperones in the 13th year of the exchange program. There is no way to express how taking part in this program changed us. I love traveling, exploring different parts of the world, and learning how to see this world through different eyes. My husband always enjoys being dragged along and ends up having as much fun as I have. 
Being a part of the exchange program was different from any other traveling we have done. We were accorded near-celebrity status in Japan no matter where we went (the school, a youth baseball game, or staff gatherings). It was interesting to see the respect the Japanese students had for their peers, their teachers, and their school facilities. We learned so much about the Japanese people and how they live their day-to-day lives, and we developed friendships that we continue to value to this day. 
The Japanese Exchange Program offers students and adults the opportunity to be a part of another culture for a short period of time.  This experience obviously changes a person's understanding of another country, but it also helps him know and appreciate his own country better. He grows in a way that only travel can provide. 
Linda Ernst, 2001 Chaperone

I am now seventy-nine years old and identify my getting to know the Japanese people and culture as some of the finest and lasting experiences of my lifetime.  The memories and exceptional bonds created during the exchanges have extended to my children and grandchildren whom fortunately were able to meet our guests over the years and enjoy the very special communication  among us. This was in spite of a certain amount of language barrier. Two of my grandsons, now fourteen years old, are wanting to learn the Japanese language. This is a direct result of their opportunity to communicate with individuals and experience a culture that the exchange program has offered which otherwise would have been unavailable to them. 
Cliff Darnall and Terry Yamaguchi, through all of their extensive and extremely intensive efforts, have given to us who participated in the program an enormous amount of understanding and appreciation of the Japanese people and their culture. 
I thank you Cliff and Terry for all you have given to me and my family.
Mary Williams, 1996 Chaperone
I was definitely affected by the experience I had with the EGHS Japanese Exchange Program, both as a teacher and in my personal life. Kiyoshi Sunaga was the gentleman who stayed with my family and who sponsored me when I went to Ashikaga. As a teacher, I was overwhelmed by the experience of having Sunaga-san stay with my family. He was such a kind person, a true educator and a strong family man. Hosting was a wonderful cultural experience but going to Japan was even more so. Though I had traveled a bit before I became involved with the Japanese Exchange Program, I found many new experiences, from tie dying, to visiting Tokyo, to riding the bullet train, to being the rather "stand-out" foreigner. All the while, Mr. Sunaga was a worldly person who presented an excellent example of teacher, father and human. Times have changed quite a bit on the international level, but I always use my teaching and exchange experience with the Sunagas as a key period of my life. I will always be thankful for the opportunity I had.

Rich O’Brien, 1992 Chaperone

In 1991 my wife Barb and I were selected as participants in the Japanese Exchange Program. Little did we know what a life-changing experience this would be for the both of us. We hosted Masa Saito during that exchange and stayed with his parents when we visited Japan. The cultural experience was beyond words. The kindness that was shown to us was heartwarming, and the friendships that we made continue to this today. The next year, Barb and I were selected to host another Japanese teacher, Toshi Motegi. Although we didn't travel to Japan that year, the experience of hosting again was an absolute thrill. To our surprise, when the last exchange group from Japan was announced for March of 2010, we found out that Masa Saito would be returning as head chaperone of the group. We immediately decided that we would be honored to host Masa once again, nearly 20 years after our first encounter. When Masa arrived, it was as if we had never been apart. We rekindled old friendships and it turned out to be a fabulous two weeks that we will remember forever. The Japanese Exchange program has given us an opportunity not only to experience the Japanese culture and build bonds across vast expanses but also to share our way of life with students and teachers in ways that could never be experienced otherwise. We are proud to have been participants in the exchange and look forward to returning to Japan in the near future as part of another Japanese Exchange group.

Ralph and Barb Scalise, 1991 Chaperones

On a professional level, the Japanese Exchange Program gave a unique opportunity for middle-America students to not only learn about a different culture, but to experience it.  In 1989, some of our students hadn't even visited cultural sites in downtown Chicago, though they lived in a suburb about 25 miles away.   This program was designed as a direct exchange, whereby a Japanese student is hosted by an American student; then a few months later, the American student is hosted by the same Japanese student when he visits Japan.   The school experience was of primary importance.  This was not to be a sightseeing trip, but a total immersion into the daily life of a high school student in Japan.  Over the years many students have remained friends, have returned to Japan and have taken on advanced Japanese studies.   The exchange program is the seed; the post-high school experiences are the flowers.

Esther Perica, Co-Founder of the Program with Principal Leo Hundt in 1988 and Chaperone of the 1989 First Exchange

I have chaperoned three of the exchange programs to Japan including the very first one and have hosted for these three and several others throughout the years.  I have traveled to many other countries but the Japanese Exchange program has been a very different experience.  Living with a family in their home and sharing my home is a fantastic way to understand each others cultures.  In addition to this, I have established life long friendships.  One of the Japanese families has stayed at my home twice for their vacation outside of the exchange program.  Many of the other teachers continue to communicate regularly with the teachers in Japan.  There has also been a reunion of the Japanese and Elk Grove teachers in Hawaii.  It is a fabulous program for both teachers and students.  All of the students that have traveled to Japan had an experience that they will remember for the rest of their life.  

Bern Kelly, 1989 Chaperone

I was very fortunate to be chosen as one of the chaperones for the very first EGHS exchange to Japan in 1989. I am a third generation Japanese-American. This was my second trip to Japan. My first (in 1985) was as a typical American tourist but also meeting many of my grandparent's numerous relatives in Shizouoka and Hokkaido. I am not fluent in Japanese. At first I saw this an opportunity to improve my poor Japanese language skills, experience more Japanese culture, and learn more about modern Japan. What was different this time, however, was staying with a Japanese family who were not my own and learning more about how people live, study, and work there. What I discovered is how American I am but at the same time how Japanese I am as well!  Many traditional Japanese things were pleasantly familiar due to my upbringing, but I realized how difficult it is to not put yourself first but to make the good of the group the priority. People in Japan do this all the time, but for me it was something new and very positive. Many things I had only read about, seen in movies, or TV documentaries about Japanese culture and history began to make sense while I was in Japan. Later, when I came home, I began to understand more about my Japanese-American culture. I had experienced it in Japan too, i.e. the way decisions are reached through consensus, respect for the elderly, and teachers, for example.  

Over the years I have been fortunate to participate in the exchange every spring as a photographer when our friends from Japan, the students and their teachers, come to Elk Grove. I look forward to seeing new and old friends from the faculties of Ashikodai and Ashitandai High Schools. The Japanese students are a real joy. They are not that different from our teenagers, yet the kids can teach each other many life lessons. That exchange trip, way back in 1989, changed my life for the better.

Perhaps soon, there will be a second generation of exchange students, the children of previous exchange students (from both countries), making the journey to visit each other's homes and schools.

Gene Hiroshi Mayeda, 1989 Chaperone and D214 Photographer