Japanese visitors welcomed
There was a sigh of relief at Matamata Intermediate School last week when they found out their New Zealand-bound Japanese exchange students had survived the destructive earthquake and tsunami that rocked their country. The 25 students from Makuhari School in Japan were on their way to Narita Airport in Tokyo when the disaster hit.
The electric trains they were travelling on were cut off, the airport they were heading to was evacuated and everyone was sent home.
But a week on, the students managed to book new flights and arrived last night to welcoming arms for their 12-day stay.
Year eight student Tayla-Jay Dearlove who is billeting Hinako Yamaguchi had watched the disaster unfold on television and was worried for Hinako.
To check she was safe, TaylaJay sent her an email and has been in contact with her until she arrived yesterday.
‘‘I was really worried when I first heard about the earthquake, I thought it had not hit her area but it had,’’ she said.
‘‘She and her family are okay and Hinako said she was really excited to come and show me her cooking, and she wants to see all the animals we have here.’’ TaylaJay said with all the emailing, they had decided to become pen pals after the visit.
Many other intermediate students had also been able to contact those they would billet.
Renee Jellie, 12, said her student was on the way to the airport at the time of the earthquake and had to be evacuated from the train. ‘‘She is really happy she can now come. We have been emailing each other pictures of our families and she said she is excited to see animals and have a go at riding the horses we have.’’
Matamata Intermediate princi- pal Marion Henriksen said they had a long-standing relation with Makuhari for over 14 years and she was happy that could continue. ‘‘Everyone has been so looking forward to it and the families who are hosting them are still happy to take them,’’ she said.
‘‘Everyone feels that they want to do something so if we can give these kids a happy time when they are here and give them a break it will feel very special,’’ she said.
Billets: Matamata Intermediate students who are billeting Japanese students this week are excited they have finally arrived.