On October 17, 16 Japanese students and two teachers from Tamagawa Gakuen, a school in Japan, visited ‘Iolani school. The purpose of the Tamagawa visit was to interact with ‘Iolani Japanese 1B students. For over 10 years, Japanese students have been coming to ‘Iolani to learn about the school and experience the “melting pot” of American culture. Usually this includes a tour of the campus, an orientation video on Hawaiian culture, and interactions with the Japanese 1B students. This year, Tomatani Sensei and Yoshimura Sensei, the two Japanese 1B teachers, prepared a surprise. While Yoshimura’s students will show the Japanese students an ‘Iolani-prepared slideshow and teach them more about our Hawaiian culture during lunch, Tomatani’s students participated in a separate, mystery activity with the Japanese students.
“I think it’s important to appreciate and understand each other’s cultures,” Tomatani Sensei said with a smile. “This [mystery] activity is a fun, interactive way to do this.”
But preparing for this activity is not without its struggles.
“I’m a little nervous; we’re not quite prepared,” said Tomatani Sensei before the students arrived. “But I know it will be great. This is a unique opportunity for the kids to meet and improve their Japanese with real Japanese students their age.
The 16 enthusiastic students from Tokyo waited to greet Tomatani’ Sensei’s students as they entered the classroom. Smiling faces and laughter dominated the halls as students toured the Japanese students around ‘Iolani. After quickly bridging the language gap, ‘Iolani students displayed true “One Team” mannerism as they welcomed the Japanese students into their midsts.
But Tomatani Sensei’s big surprise was yet to come. After the tour, Iolani students paired up with the Tamagawa students and began Tomatani Sensei’s big surprise… a scavenger hunt! Students freely roamed about the school, learning more about each other while taking selfies and finding places around ‘Iolani.
At the end of the activity, the Tamagawa Gakuen students said their goodbyes, hugging their newfound friends.
“Thank you so much for having us. It was amazing to visit such an interesting school! I hope we get to come back next year,” said Tomotani Sensei, translating the conversation for Tamagawa Gakuen student Ayana Nakamura. ‘Iolani’s Japanese 1B students reciprocated Nakamura’s enthusiasm.
“Seeing these students really improved my Japanese, I learned so much today!” Izec Lazor ‘23 said. “I can’t wait to keep in touch.”
Today, with social media, this is possible. While Izec may not see his Japanese friend in person again, he can still contact and interact with him.
At ‘Iolani, language is a very important part of ‘Iolani’s curriculum. Learning how to communicate with people who are of different cultures opens students’ ideas to the world around them and to global partnerships. Opportunities for ‘Iolani students to meet and use their new language provide valuable learning experiences. While improving their language skills,‘Iolani Japanese 1B students also made new friends and honored ‘Iolani by showing foreign students the ‘One Team’ spirit’.