Japanese students arrive in sister-city exchange 

A group of Japanese students will be swapping wasabe for maple syrup for a week starting today, (March 23), as part of Whistler’s first sister-city student exchange program.

The 10 students and their three chaperones are from Karuizawa, which is located about an hour’s journey from Tokyo on the bullet train. The popular resort city has approximately 16,000 residents and attracts more than 8.3 million visitors a year, according to 1997 statistics.

The sister city relationship between the two resorts was officially cemented last spring, three years after it was first proposed by Karuizawa officials. The five girls and five boys will be billeted with local students and their families until they leave Whistler on March 29.

Jane Milner, the chair of the Whistler Sister City Advisory Committee, says the exchange provides a valuable cultural insight for both nationalities.

"The parents of these Japanese students are very anxious to open up the world to their children," she says. "Whistler students will find it a real eye-opener too, when a group of them travel over to Japan and stay with families there for a week in July."

Whistler secondary teacher Bob Morris says the Japanese delegation are all Grade 8 students, but the Whistler group making the reciprocal visit will span Grades 9 to 12. Morris has already spent a year living in Japan and learning the language.

"The response has been good, with students looking forward to making the trip in July," he said.

The week-long visits are just the tip of the iceberg, with longer exchanges and possibly teacher swap programs being established in future, adds Milner.

During their six days in Whistler, the Japanese students will visit Meadow Park Sports Centre, walk the Valley Trail, climb at the Great Wall, dine for free at the Old Spaghetti Factory, visit the Whistler Museum, try snow-shoeing and of course, go skiing or snowboarding. They’ll also attend art and sports classes at Whistler secondary as well as brush up on their English language skills. The Karuizawa group have a last day in Vancouver before returning home on March 30.

Volunteers with Japanese language skills are needed to chaperone various activities and can contact Milner at 938-4946.

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