Twenty-three students from Western High School in Davie, along with two of their teachers, visited Japan this summer as part of the Japanese government’s “Kizuna (bond) Project.”

The youth exchange project between Japan and the U.S. is aimed at promoting understanding and supporting Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

The students participating in the tour are studying the Japanese language and culture at Western High, which offers one of the largest high school Japanese programs in Florida.

During the two-week trip, students visited areas affected by last year’s earthquake including Fukushima, one of the most devastated areas affected by the disaster and the nuclear threat. Other cities the students visited were Kyoto, Osaka, Gifu, Kobe and Tokyo, where the youths experienced homestay with host families and attended classes at host high schools.

They were able to immerse in the Japanese culture firsthand through visiting museums and temples, and by engaging and interacting with tsunami victims. The students experienced the realities of ongoing reconstruction through volunteer works such as cleaning and tree planting, and exchanges with local residents.

In exchange, in the spring (March 2013) Western High students will host some of the 1,200 Japanese high school and college students from the disaster-affected areas.

The Japanese students will head for different destinations across the U.S., participate in homestay and exchange programs and explain the current situation of reconstruction in their own communities.

Western High students were among the 1,000 American high school students in total from around the U.S. who went on a two-week study tour to Japan in June and July 2012. This project aims to deepen the U.S. citizens’ understanding of Japan’s reconstruction and strengthen announce-
ments of developments.

It also intends to cultivate future leaders to take the initiative in advancing Japan’s reconstruction and Japan-U.S. exchanges.

Western High students were recognized for their trip and contributions to Japan by Broward County School Board members during the Nov. 7 board meeting, and also shared their study tour experiences.