Eleven Japanese students arrived at the Salt Lake International Airport Friday with more than just their suitcases. They brought cultural knowledge to share with the Provo School District.
The students will be staying with families throughout Provo as part of the district's Japanese-American exchange program a program organized to foster international brotherhood."By actually having those students come, they bring a piece of Japan to Utah and we give them a piece of our country," said Les Case, director of Outreach Programs for the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University.
The Japanese-American exchange program organized through the support of Teikyo University in Tokyo, Japan, BYU's Asian Outreach and the Provo School District was organized in 1987 to encourage an educational, cultural and economical exchange between the two countries, said Merrell Hansen, director of secondary education for the district.
During their 10-day visit, the Japanese students will attend school with their hosts, spend a day in the mayor's office, a day at the Homestead (a country resort near Heber) and visit BYU. They also will visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City and the 49th Street Galleria in Murray.
And to make the exchange complete, plans to send Provo and Timpview High School students to Japan in July are also in the works, Hansen said. The students will be responsible to finance the trip themselves, estimated to cost $2,000 per person.
"It is not just a vacation. They will have a rigorous schedule," Hansen said. The American students will visit high-tech industries, shrines, and have an introduction to Japanese education.
"It's exciting to see different cultures and see how another group lives," said Ken Ivory, coordinator of the Japanese-American Exchange Program. "It's not that they live right or wrong, it's just different. Visiting another country is so revealing. By offering that to high school students, it can expand their world view and open their minds to the possibilities of what's out there before they go to college."
To raise money for their trip to Japan, and as part of the activities during the 10-day visit, the Asian clubs at Timpview and Provo High have invited the public to attend an intercultural dinner and show on April 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Provo High west cafeteria. The dinner will be catered by Yuli's Oriental Market. A bluegrass band, a Polynesian group and members of the BYU Ballroom Dance Team will perform. There will also be a martial arts exhibition and Japanese song and dance. Tickets can be purchased at either Timpview or Provo bookstores and are $7 for adults and $4 for children.
This month's exchange is the second for the district. Last December, 32 Japanese students stayed with families of Provo and Timpview High students.
When Ivory worked in Japan last summer, he helped Takashi Yama-naka, director of international studies at Teikyo University in Tokyo, with an exchange program in Des Moines, Iowa.
By talking with Ivory, Yamanaka learned about Utah and became interested in setting up an exchange program in Provo. Since then, a lot of hard work by Ivory and school district officials has helped the program develop to where it is today.
The Iowa program started as a student exchange five years ago, but since then it has become an entire community exchange, Ivory said. He hopes the same will happen in Provo.
"If we show an interest in the Japanese culture and invite them here, it is impressive and gets businesses here," Ivory said.