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What does Ketchikan get out of the Kanayama Exchange Program?
by Tony Hatano-Worrell


March 26, 2004

Thank you for the recent photo essay featuring great photographs of the Kanayama Students at the Totem Heritage Center. Wonderful!

I have recently heard that one of our School Board members made a comment to the effect that they may as well pay the teachers who neglected to fill in the proper paperwork for a trip to Europe, because Ketchikan pays for the Kanayama Exchange Program each year, and gets nothing out of it.

Nothing? Read on!

Building Real Peace
If more cities in America followed Ketchikan's example by creating similar sister city exchanges with other countries, terrorist attacks would lessen and mutual understanding of differences would grow. Those who doubt such a brash statement need only recall our involvement in a war that began with an unprovoked attack upon America -- over 60 years ago, at Pearl Harbor. Now look at us! Despite our differences in religion and culture, the people of Kanayama have become our true, dear friends, and it is now inconceivable that we would ever again make or tolerate war upon each other. Never underestimate the value of our exchange! Ketchikan and Kanayama's unique two-way teacher and student exchange is a shining example of building and maintaining real peace and friendship with a once-feared enemy.

Economic benefits and potential:
While we already benefit from the famous shopping sprees that the Kanayama students undertake in Ketchikan each spring (24 people shopping for several gifts and eating at our local restaurants almost daily for 10 days is nothing to sneeze at), there yet remains great potential for this exchange to help both the First City and Kanayama economically. If Ketchikan is looking for a way to recover from various economic hardships, one way would be to explore business partnerships and a business exchange of goods from both nations. Ketchikan teachers who spend a year in Kanayama come home with a better understanding of the Japanese mind, and give their Ketchikan students an interest in Japan. Students grow up to explore that interest further ­ as indeed several already have. Both teachers and students forge friendships and connections in Japan, which has the potential to open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Although we have yet to fully realize such possibilities, people in both countries have expressed interest in this untapped resource. Continuing our exchange only helps to build and maintain such possibilities for our future.

Educational benefits:
So many people see Japan as a nation of inscrutable mystery. When I went to Kayhi, I knew almost nothing about it, and the little I did know was based mostly on Hollywood inaccuracies. Now, however, there are students in every public school in Ketchikan which can tell you real facts about Japan, and whom can all greet people in Japanese, count in Japanese, tell you the names of colors in Japanese, teach you traditional Japanese games, and so on. This ability to communicate and understand another language and culture can only help our Ketchikan students to get ahead in the future, and it proves that Japan ­ and any other nation ­ can be understood if only we make the most of the educational opportunities offered to us.

Our students can do this because (1) Kanayama sends a Japanese teacher to Ketchikan every year, and (2) Ketchikan sends an American teacher to Kanayama each year. Teachers who return to Ketchikan from Kanayama educate their students about Kanayama. For example, for several years the first exchange teacher to Kanayama, Ms. Christa Bruce, gave Ketchikan students the advantage of an education in the language and culture of Japan. Other past teachers have given public talks and presentations about Kanayama; many have shared their knowledge in Ketchikan's schools. Several past teachers have even taken the trouble to invite guest teachers from Kanayama, setting up special classes in various Japanese arts and skills. - Then there was the wonderful 4th of July Parade back in 1996 that featured Kanayama's White Dragon Drummers, and the Koto Concert and Flower Arrangement Classes provided by Kanayama's own world-class musician, Ms. Chieko Imai. These were nothing Ketchikan directly paid for, but were all extra benefits that came as a result of our sister city partnership. The teacher that Kanayama also sends to us continues to enrich our knowledge and understanding of what is often thought to be an incomprehensible culture. This year's teacher from Kanayama, Ms. Tomoka Kato, is so excited to tell Ketchikan about her home country that she created and brought a fully-prepared teaching curriculum - to her job interview, before she had even been chosen as teacher!

Those of you who still remain in doubt about the benefits of this program have only to take advantage of the opportunity to see it for yourself. If you cannot visit Kanayama as a teacher, student chaperone, or private citizen yourself, you could offer to house a Kanayama guest. Barring that, you could visit one of the classes that the Kanayama Exchange Teacher offers at one of Ketchikan's local schools, or ask the teacher out for lunch or dinner to talk. Find out for yourself what all the fuss is about. Seeing is believing!

From the heart,

Tony Hatano-Worrell,
Ketchikan citizen for 27 years, now living and working in Kanayama, Japan


Related Photo Essay:

Totem Heritage Center Kanayama Cultural Exchange Program...
Photo essay courtesy Ketchikan Museums - March 24, 2004


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