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Sunnyvale Middle School Students to Visit Iizuka, Japan


Sunnyvale Sister City Association volunteers have been busy preparing this year’s cultural exchange students for their trip to visit Iizuka, Japan. This year, six students from Sunnyvale Middle School, one from Fremont High School and one from Homestead High School will be participating in the exchange program. Jay Yamanaga, SSCA eMarketing manager, Nicole Nishimoto, SSCA Creative Manager, along with chaperones Sheila McKell (teacher at SMS), and Susie Smare (retired teacher at SMS) will be accompanying the students. The president of SSCA, Mark Kato, and SSCA Event Director, Akiko Inoue will also join the group for part of the trip.

The Sunnyvale exchange group will be leaving from San Jose Airport on June 15 and beginning their time in Japan in Tokyo with some guided sightseeing and two nights in a Tokyo hotel. The itinerary then takes them to Fukuoka where students and adults will be staying with local host families for the remainder of their trip. They will also visit a school in Iizuka for three days before returning to San Jose on June 24. The group will visit Dazaifu Shrine, the Old Ito Denemon House, and the Kaho Gekijo Kabuki Theater. Dazaifu is Japan’s famous God of Literature and Calligraphy and those who pray at the shrine are said to enjoy a boost to their brain cells. The Old Ito Denemon House is the former residence of Ito Denemon, a coal mining merchant. His second wife, Byakuren Yanagihara, was a poet and had lived in this house during her 10-year marriage to Ito Denemon. The citizens in that area have preserved the house in memory of Byakuren as a cultural site of the Taisho and Meiji eras. The Kaho Gekijo Kabuki Theater in Iizuka is a great example of a traditional Kabuki theater of the Meiji Period. Sunnyvale visitors will spend the weekend of June 20-21 with their host families. The Vice Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso, an Iizuka native, and will again host the group at his residence for a farewell BBQ, as he did for the 2014 exchange group.

At the latest planning meeting with the Sunnyvale exchange students and their families, held at Sunnyvale Middle School on May 21, each of the students made a 3-minute presentation on the reason for their participation in this exchange trip. The top two winners, Vidushi Seth (Fremont High School 10th grade student) and Nate Michelotti (Sunnyvale Middle School 7th grade student), received prizes. Mr. Nabil Shahin, SMS principal, and Ms. Kathy Mortensen, SMS PTSA president, served as judges.

10th Grade Fremont High School student, making her presentation.
10th Grade Fremont High School student, making her presentation.
Trip planning meeting on May 21, at Sunnyvale Middle School

SSCA volunteers who oversee the Iizuka-to-Sunnyvale (I2S) program have been preparing Sunnyvale host families to welcome Iizuka students and their adult chaperones during their exchange trip to Sunnyvale. The group will be in Sunnyvale and visiting various venues in the Bay Area and Northern California August 19-26, however host families are needed for only August 21-26. Please consider hosting one of the Iizuka visitors. Contact Dorothy Lai, SSCA School Project Manager (, for more information. She will be happy to share her own experience as a host family or put you in touch with other host families.

For more information on the Sunnyvale Sister City Association (SSCA), please go to
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Contributors: Mark Kato, President, Sunnyvale Sister City Association; Nina Wong-Dobkin

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