Los Gatos Weekly Times
Japanese exchange program sends local students abroad
A group of 17 Los Gatos High School students made their way across the world this summer to just outside of Tokyo for an immersive 12-day exchange program with Sakuragaoka High School.
For the second part of the exchange, a group of 17 students from Sakuragaoka High School is currently visiting the Los Gatos High campus.
The exchange students each shadow the classes of the host student they live with during the trip. In Japan, the Los Gatos students also experienced flower arranging and a Japanese tea ceremony.
“To go into Japan and experience the culture, experience school life and make friends with the Japanese students — that's the word,” said Kumi Kobayashi, a Japanese language teacher who helps facilitate the program.
Words are an important part of the program, run by Pacific Reach. Students participating in the exchange put their language skills to the test.
“That's the ultimate purpose, learning the language,” Kobayashi said.
Pacific Reach has been partnering with LGHS since the 1990s, but this particular exchange program started back in 2015. The program was paused during the pandemic; this is the first year it's up and running again.
The trip is first come, first served, and there is no language skill level requirement. There are scholarships available through the Wasshoi Foundation, but the total program cost rings in at $3,600, including airfare.
Jacob Smith, a senior at LGHS who went on the trip, said he really enjoyed getting to know his host family.
“After school, we kind of just do what he typically does, like hanging out with friends and going out to eat,” Smith said. “Just like a pretty like normal life for a couple of days. And it was just really fun… seeing how day-to-day life compared to, like, how we live in America.”
LGHS junior Luca Wade said Japanese students take the train to school every day rather than a bus or car. She stayed with student Humari Iwaya's family during the trip, and now Luca is hosting Humari at her home.
Humari and her classmates are shadowing the Los Gatos students' classes, as well as trying out different elective courses like optimal fitness, ceramics, AP English and physics.
Humari and fellow student Miko Higuma said the group traveled to San Francisco earlier in the week and saw the Golden Gate Bridge, went to Pier 39, and tried a 7-Eleven Slurpee.