Mountain View recently welcomed six students from Iwata, its Japanese sister city, for two weeks of cultural exchange and Bay Area sightseeing.
The students, who arrived July 26, are participants of the Mountain View Sister City Student Exchange Program. Every other summer, the program welcomes students from high schools in Iwata to Mountain View for two weeks, where they are hosted by students from the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District and their families. The following summer, the Mountain View students travel to Iwata for two weeks, where they are hosted by the families of their Japanese exchange students. The exchange program is also in place with Mountain View's sister city of Hasselt, Belgium.
After a welcome dinner at the Historic Adobe Building, this year's exchange students set off early the next morning for a camping trip in Lake Tahoe.
"We find that if the kids have an overnight experience, they can bond faster and get to know each other better," said Linda Nishimoto, a board member of the Sister City Affiliation of Mountain View and a host mother, whose family hosted the students at a cabin in Tahoe City. This year's Japanese exchange students come from six different schools, which made it even more important for them to spend time getting to know one another, said Nishimoto.
A busy itinerary took the students across the Bay Area, beginning with a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield and including stops in San Francisco, Stanford University and Año Nuevo State Park. Mountain View attractions also featured prominently. The students saw a show at Western Ballet, toured Google and NASA Ames, explored the historic Rengstorff House and Shoreline Park, and visited City Hall, a police station and a fire station.
For the Mountain View students, their motivations to join the exchange program differ, but they agree that the program is particularly appealing because of the opportunities it offers.
"You're able to go to different places and meet all these people who you wouldn't have met without the program," said Mountain View High School student Parker Jue.
Mountain View High School student Cher Nishimoto said her sister participated in the program so she's had some experience hosting students before. "I really enjoyed showing the students around, so I thought I'd try it out myself," she said.
Mountain View and Iwata have been sister cities since 1974, when both cities were known for their flourishing agricultural industries Mountain View for its apricots and prunes, and Iwata for its cantaloupes. Of course, Mountain View is now the heart of Silicon Valley. Although Iwata remains largely agricultural, it has developed a technological industry with its Suzuki and Yamaha manufacturing plants.
When asked to choose a highlight of the Bay Area, Japanese exchange student Hibiki Ema paused for a long beat, his hands stroking his chin thoughtfully.
"It was Google," he said. "I want to work there if I can."
Meanwhile, exchange student Masataka Ikejima comes up with his answer to the same question without hesitation.
"My favorite thing is American food!" he said with a broad grin.