Delegates from Kuki City, Japan, spent 10 days reconnecting and meeting their friends in Roseburg through Roseburg Sister Cities.
The adult exchange program has been sending delegations the approximately 4,800 miles between the two cities for 25 years. Janet Johnston, vice president of Roseburg Sister Cities, has been involved since the adult exchange began in 1993.
“When you go and stay in their homes, you get a feel for how people live in the country, not just visiting the country and looking in,” Johnston said. “You’re really experiencing it. There’s nothing that compares to this trip.”
The delegates toured the Roseburg Public Safety Center and painted rocks on Friday, but the weekend was devoted to their host families. It was a time for shopping, brunch, a trip to Crater Lake, wineries, cooking, fishing and other local Oregon adventures.
Tomoko Shimazaki has greeted delegates from Roseburg for the last 20 years in Japan. This time, it was her turn to feel the warmth during her time in Roseburg.
“Even though it’s been 10 years, I feel like I’m coming home again,” Shimazaki said.
Despite the language barrier, Mary Armes and her guest, Yasunori Koyama, figured out how to communicate and were able to chat over the many pictures he took at Wildlife Safari.
“He’s very animated and acts things out,” Armes said.
Armes said these types of programs are different than just traveling because they make individual connections.
“It’s reinforced the fact that there are no stereotypical people of any culture,” Armes said. “They come in all shapes and sizes and mannerisms. It bridges understanding within the exchange.”
The pairs of host families and guests laughed and cried at the farewell dinner at Hucrest Community Church on Monday as they shared the fun times with each other.
“I love the idea of international friendship,” delegate Yoshiko Yamada said. “I thought I would only make a few friends, but I feel like I made a lot of friends. I’m going to go back and tell people they need to come.”
Roseburg Sister Cities traces its roots back to a middle school exchange that began in 1987 between Roseburg and Shobu, Japan.
Kaoru Hirasawa is the president of the Kuki, Roseburg Association in Japan. He said through a translator that the two cities have exchanged gifts over the years including trees.
“As we exchange trees and the trees have grown, so our relationship has grown,” Hirasawa said. “There is no better endeavor than this type of exchange.”
The delegates arrived on Thursday night and will leave for Japan this coming Friday. Next year, a Roseburg delegation will go to Kuki City.