Over the summer, senior Liana Wang and sophomore Mohan Awasthi visited Okayama, Japan (a sister city of San Jose) as Silicon Valley Youth Ambassadors. They and other ambassadors headed to Gakugeikan High School and Kyokuto Junior High to meet with teachers and students and teach English. Wang, a prolific dancer and the designated leader of the ambassadors, gave a special dance performance to the students, while Awasthi gave a speech about what schools are like in the United States. “Overall, the public schools themselves are extremely well run and maintained, and there are many extra-curricular activities for any type of student,” he said.
On a visit to Okayama’s city hall, the group met with the Okayama mayor Maso Omori and received a tour of the building. As the leader of the ambassadors, Wang gave a speech to the mayor on behalf of the City of San Jose. “Also, similar to the school speech, we spoke to the mayor about how we came to keep a good relationship between San Jose and Okayama,” Awasthi noted. “Overall, it was an extremely fun and rare experience.”
During a homestay with the family of a local high school student, Awasthi got a firsthand look into the everyday lives of Okayama citizens. “I got to try more authentic Japanese food, play sports, visit their school, and see many landmarks in Okayama: Kojima Jean street, the Stone Windmills, Okayama Castle, and the Makido stone cave,” he said. Forging bonds with his host family, he added, was one of the most memorable parts of his trip. Wang also visited Okayama Castle with her homestay, as well as the Bikan Chiku area in Okayama’s historic Kurashiki district.
Other highlights of the trip included visiting various famous locales around Tokyo, and taking a trip to Onagawa, a city that experienced massive destruction during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, where they planted trees, and Wang gave a message of support to the disaster victims.