FAIRFIELD — The differences between Japan and America include food, fashion and the length of school days.
And apparently the amount of bathtubs.
Many of the similarities and differences were exchanged by Fairfield-Suisun students and six Japanese students from Nirasaki, who have been visiting the schools this week. The trip is part of Fairfield’s Sister City program that has existed for 40 years.
The Japanese teenagers have stayed with host families for the past three weeks, taking in local sites as well as traveling to several surrounding cities and landmarks.
“It’s just wonderful to see the exchange of cultures at different levels,” said Pat Shamansky, school board trustee and member of the Sister City program. “Most of our students will never have the chance to to go to Japan. It’s a great opportunity for our kids to get to interact.”
On Wednesday, the guests got a look at the Public Safety Academy in Fairfield, where they spent time interacting with their American counterparts. In one classroom, the students were asked what differences they had noticed.
The lack of bathtubs in bathrooms was especially noticeable for one Japanese student, which prompted confusion and laughter from most in the room. Other differences they noticed in this country included the classrooms having computers, dipping french fries in ketchup, multiple lanes on the freeway and having animals such as squirrels and raccoons in neighborhoods.
Working with a considerable language barrier, small translating devices were pulled out to connect the dots during some conversations.
In one class, teacher Elizabeth Allan asked students to rank four qualities that a prospective boss would value most. While nearly every Fairfield-Suisun student picked communication skills, the Japanese students picked problem-solving skills.
Arletta Cortright, chairwoman of the program, said adults have participated in the exchange for 40 years and students have been involved for 25. Over that time, the schedule has been tweaked to involve more interaction with local residents.
“We’ve just gotten better at the experience they have here,” she said. “We used to just have them sit in the back of an algebra class and watch.”
This trip brought the group to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, San Francisco and the Capitol in Sacramento. She said the trips to the schools earned them some swag as well, as they were given shirts, patches and other mementos.
“They wore their Armijo student badges all over UC Berkeley,” she said.
Gene Cortright, Arletta’s husband, said the pair still keeps in contact with folks who have visited and those they stayed with on trips to Japan. He said each home they stay in offers another perspective on a foreign country.
“The whole cultural exchange is such a big part. It’s different in every home they go to,” he said. “You get this extended relationship between families.”
For more information or to become part of the program, contact Arletta Cortright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.