Japanese Exchange Students Visit Armijo

Armijo student Edgar Padilla, far left, presents gifts to Japanese exchange students from Fairfield's sister city of Nirasaki, Wednesday, at Armijo. Kurara Sano is second from right, teacher Saori Yokuchi is at right, and Armijo senior Austin Freeman is second from left. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Japanese teenagers find intrigue at Armijo High

By From page A1 | January 09, 2014

FAIRFIELD — No school uniforms, girls wearing makeup in class and the size of the 7-Eleven Big Gulp drink were among  the wonders Wednesday when six students from Fairfield’s sister city in Japan visited Armijo High School before a planned trip to Jelly Belly.

The students, from 14 to 16 years old, live in Nirasaki, about two hours by express train from Tokyo, and attend schools where uniforms are required, makeup and jewelry are not allowed and an after-class visit to a 7-Eleven store yields a drink small enough to inspire the teens to collect big 7-Eleven cups here as souvenirs.

They would also return to Japan after the three-week trip to California with memories of the size of the Solano Town Center mall, the performance of the Nutcracker Ballet in San Francisco and the friendliness of Fairfield residents.

“The people are very kind,” said Saori Yokuchi, an English teacher in Japan who traveled with the students. She also remarked about the beauty in the community.

Visiting student Kurara Sano agrees.

“There’s a lot of nature,” Sano said.

The teens took in a class taught by English Language Development instructor Vanessa Walling of Armijo High School, who  planned a pepperoni pizza lunch for the visitors. The students also went to the school library-media center and other sites.

Armijo High student Austin Freeman, 18, visited Japan in July. He said students there are interested in American music – including the band Green Day – along with American movies, “High School Musical” among them.

Freeman, who is applying to attend college in Japan, said students asked him about slang such as “hella” – which means “a lot of,” he noted, as in “at Armijo there’s hella seagulls” – and the acronym YOLO, for You Only Live Once.

Building trades program instructor Clay Blanco presented the visitors with pen holders inscribed with their names. The Japanese students invited Armijo High to visit.

“Please come. It’s beautiful,” Blanco’s class was told.

Arletta Cortright, chairwoman of the Fairfield-Nirasaki Sister City Program for Fairfield, said the annual trip by visiting Japanese students once included a trip to Disneyland on New Year’s Eve. But the chaos of that holiday event at the Southern California amusement park and the spike in the cost of airfare to Orange County ended the Disneyland visit, she said.

Students now travel to Monterey and the aquarium there. They take in an ocean sunset, which the visitors said was among highlights of their Northern California visit.

The visiting teens also went to a welcome dinner Dec. 22 at the Fairfield Senior Center, where photographs with Santa and Mrs. Claus were part of the program.

“They thought it was really cute,” said Tori Wailes-Davis, 15, a sophomore at Armijo, who helped plan the students’ school visit.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • MiguelJanuary 08, 2014 - 9:44 pm

    It has been our pleasure to be a part of this program. Being a host family is always fun and educational. I recommend trying it.

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