By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Residents turn out to meet exchange students


August 3, 2017 | View PDF

Tommy Wells

Members of Obihiro's student exchange group were honored at a special ceremony on Monday. Visiting Seward are (from left) Michika Kodama, Mayu Murakami, Yuko Hayashi, Chihara Kasanagi and Kanon Suzuki.

\On Monday evening, famed musher Jujiro Wada would have been exceptionally proud of his former home and the one he helped pioneer. Maybe even more so after learning the five high school students who traveled from Obihiro, Japan, as part of a longstanding exchange program were all excited about trying their hand at driving a sled-dog team.

And that they are getting as familiar with their sister city as possible during their two-week stay.

More than 50 people turned out for Monday's potluck supper and special ceremony at the Seward Community Library and Museum. During the event, Seward Deputy City Secretary Brenda Ballou welcomed each of the students and their chaperone, Elaine Le.

"I have had a great time since I came to Alaska," Michika Kodama told the crowd. "I'm looking forward to dog sledding and trying to learn many things while I'm here. I want to be a teacher in a foreign country, and I think this will help me."

Joining Kodama in visiting Seward are fellow students Mayu Murakami, Yuko Hayashi, Chihara Kasanagi and Kanon Suzuki.

As part of the Seward International Friendship Association's exchange program, students from Obihiro and Seward have exchanged visits since the 1970s as a way to build closer relations. For only the third time since the exchange program began in 1973, Seward will not be sending any students this year. The students who had been scheduled to travel to Obihiro had to cancel their plans because of a scheduling conflict.

Tommy Wells

Michika Kodama reads from her prepared speech while addressing the residents who turned out to meet the Obihiro exchange students on Monday in the Seward Community Library and Museum. The students will be in Seward through August 6.

The only years the two communities did not share exchange students were 2009, because of the global outbreak of H1N1 (swine flu), and 2011, after a major earthquake hit the island of Hokkaido, on which Obihiro is located.

The students' opportunity to visit Seward was welcomed by chaperone Le. "They get to experience home life and, hopefully, help deepen the relationship between the two communities," she said.

"It's going to be good (being here)," said Suzuki, a soccer player at her school in Obihiro. "I am very much looking forward to this."

During their stay, the students are living with local residents and have taken part in numerous activities, including that dog-team ride, courtesy of the Seavey family.

Ballou noted the students will be in Seward through August 6 before returning home.


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