On Oct. 2, juniors Krystal Spear, Jonah Rosales, and sophomores Rachel Gotham, Jacelyn Ogata along with Principal Justin Mew, World Language teacher Kyle Wachi, and Language Arts teacher Sarah Shiroma, spent six days in Hiroshima. Their purpose was to commemorate a 20 year relationship between Hawaii and Hiroshima Prefecture, and to reconnect with their sister school, Kannabe Asahi High.
Kaiser was not the only school that participated in the commemorative international exchange program. Six other schools who also attended from Hawaii were Campbell, Kalani, Niu Valley Middle, Roosevelt, Waialea, and Mililani. Each school was assigned a different sister school. Overall, an estimated 40 students from other schools, 20 administrators and teachers, and 12 politicians participated in this program. Each school came up with its own itinerary, depending on the school’s planning coordinator. Kaiser’s itinerary coordinator was Wachi. “I visited Hiroshima five times before, and so I knew which historical sites, hotel, eateries, and shopping centers to include in the itinerary. Also I worked with sister schools in Japan while I was teaching at Kalaheo,” said Wachi. “So I basically knew what places to include while I was planning the trip.”
The Kaiser students visited Kannabe Asahi High in Fukuyama city, spending two hours at the school. They observed the hosting students as they performed different presentations such as band, kendo, calligraphy, and karate. In return, Jacelyn Ogata sang “Counting Stars” by One Republic as Rachel Gorham accompanied her on the guitar. “I definitely enjoyed going to our sister school, meeting all of the students, touring around the city and seeing some very historical places,” said Rosales.
During their free time, Kaiser students and teachers went on their own, sightseeing at Miyajima Island to see Itsukushima Shrine which is the famous floating Torii. “We shopped at the Alpark Hiroshima mall for three hours,” said Ogata. “The whole shopping forum was really big. I got lost a few times with Rachel. But it was really fun because we got to talk to a lot of people in Japan. And we got to make new memories.” They had also visited historically important places such as the Peace Memorial Museum, Shukkeien Garden, and the Atomic Bomb Dome.
After staying at the Aki Grand Hotel in Miyajima for four days, the students spent two nights with their homestay families who volunteered to host the students. Krystal Spear, a current Junior, said that “Being able to stay with a host family was the most incredible experience. My family had five kids including my host sister, so it was an incredibly different experience than what I am used to. They were incredibly fun, and even took me to karaoke on my first night staying with them. We also explored the town which the movie Ponyo was based off of, went shopping, ate ice cream, and made our own chikua, or Japanese fish cake.”
Finally it was time to leave. On the day Kaiser students were departing, the mood was somber. “Literally, every homestay kid started to cry… [Our students] must have left a really great impression on them,” said Shiroma.
When asked if he would ever return for this experience, Rosales said “Of course… even the teachers want to do it again as well.”