Each year, exchange students from Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan, visit the United States through a partnership with MHCC and learn about U.S. culture, history, and education.

Graphic by: Matana McIntire

On Wednesday, the Mt. Hood Japanese Club and the exchange students hosted a Japanese Culture event that included doll displays, calligraphy, ikebana (floral arrangements), music, and food.

“Culture day is just about an exchange between the American culture and the Japanese culture,” said Lauren Jones, secretary of MHCC’s Japanese club.

During their stay in the Gresham area, the visiting students have visited several parts of the Portland area.

Ryukoku University student Risa Kobayashi said that students had a number of options when it comes to being part of an exchange program. “Some people go to Europe and some people go to other Asian countries,” she said.

Kobayashi had never been to the U.S. – the symbol of a ‘foreign country’ in Japan, she said – which influenced her choice to come here.

During her stay in Oregon, she and her classmates visited local landmarks, including the End of the Oregon Trail interpretive center in Oregon City. “It was so cool – the history and the region,” she said.

One difference between life in the U.S. and Japan is the size of food, Kobayahsi said. “American grocery shops sell very big things like meat,” she said. While shoppers here buy large slabs of meat, people in Japan would buy a more expensive single serving during each visit.

She noted that the exchange students have eaten a lot more fast food than they typically would in Japan, while the amount of potatoes and bread eaten by Americans is comparable to the amount of rice the students eat back home.

One thing Kobayashi said she found surprising is the general air of friendliness of people in the U.S.

“In Japan, we don’t talk to people who (we) don’t know,” she said. “If I talk to them, they will think I am strange, but the American people talk friendly even (if they) don’t know the person.  It’s very nice.”

Other new experiences in the U.S. for Kobayashi included visiting a steakhouse, viewing numerous waterfalls, and learning about President Lincoln.

Another large difference she also found in the two countries is that everything is in the U.S. is generally bigger than everything in Japan. Even on the MHCC campus, classes were so spread out that students had to do a lot of walking, she said – compared to Ryukoku’s urban, high-rise campus.

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