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Redlands welcomes students from Hino, Japan, in cultural exchange program

By Penny E. Schwartz

Redlands Daily Facts

August 13, 2018


Seated at desks in a local classroom, visiting students from Hino, Japan, recently learned about life in an American high school.

“Our school days are about the same length but you go six days and we go five days of the week,” Jennifer Murillo, principal of Redlands East Valley High School, told the students on their recent visit. She and Assistant Principal Catherine Obregon were on hand to greet the students last week along with Jim O’Neill, president of the Redlands school board.

The students, visitors from one of Redlands’ sister cities, enjoyed a tour through the REV campus the week before the 2018-19 school year began. They viewed a gym room, English classroom, media center and theater facility. In the school library, Japanese students remarked on the larger size than what they are used to and the fact that Internet access is more available here than in their school libraries.

In the media center, students viewed equipment and a set for creating student-generated videos and then were able to prance across the stage of the school’s Blackstone Theater.

Along the way, they learned about high school social activities, clubs, sports programs and special events. They also discovered that high school students here move from class to class while in Japan, the teachers are the ones who rotate classrooms.

“They were surprised to learn that American high school students drive to school and they liked the degree of independence they experienced here,” said Roy Cencirulo, president of the Redlands Sister Cities Association, who accompanied the 13 visiting students.

Joining them also for the school tour were several Redlands students who have visited Hino for the ongoing cultural exchange. The two cities have maintained a relationship for more than 50 years and send selected students to each other’s cities on alternate years for homestay experiences.

Hino, with a population of 185,000, is a suburb of Tokyo. Redlands students who have stayed with Hino families returned the favor by providing housing for the Japanese students.

Their visit ran from July 24 to Aug. 5 and included a meeting with the mayor of Redlands, as well as tours of city sights. A scavenger hunt found them seeking out the city’s historical sites, along with visiting the downtown Peace Pole and Japanese garden.

Farther afield, they journeyed to San Diego, Oak Glen, the March Air Force Base Museum, the Western Science Center in Hemet and Cabazon for shopping.

“I enjoyed roller skating and shopping,” said Mai Watanabe, 17, a Hino high school senior. Hawaiian food, ice cream and boba tea were also her favorites, she said.

Ano Suzuki, 16, an 11th grader, said she enjoyed swimming in a host family’s pool but liked the people she met best of all. “They are kind and full of energy,” she said.

Hosting a student for the third time, Ev Joanis, 19, of Highland said she has enjoyed the experience each time. When she was a Citrus Valley sophomore, she visited Hino as part of the exchange. “Seeing Kyoto and Nara broadened my horizons,” she said. “The everyday experiences I had were life-changing.”

Echoing those sentiments was Kevin Reyes, 18, of San Bernardino, who remarked on how green the surroundings are in Japan and how easy it is to get around there. As a Citrus Valley student, he went to Hino in 2015, then visited again a couple of months ago. “It was great to exchange cultures and I think people should be more open to it,” he said. His experiences have led to his goal of teaching English in Japan.

Other local students attending last week’s tour were Canaan McGuire, 19, from Grove School, Alicia Herrera, 18, from Citrus Valley and Matilda Heidelberg, 16, from REV.

“Through this program, the Redlands students learn to be more understanding of other cultures and to appreciate what they have here,” Cencirulo said. “Going to Japan is usually a life-changing experience for them and often leads to their wanting to go into international fields of work.”