The Unforgettable Japanese Exchange Program


Guest post contributed by Kira Hunkele (ʻ18)


In January, ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY (IPA), continued the exchange program with their sister school Sendai Ikuei Gakuen (SIG), located in Northeastern Japan. Five students visited Hawaii from January 20, 2018-January 26, 2018, to experience Hawaiian culture and life at ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY.

The exchange program started in 2015, when representatives of the sister school visited Hawaiʻi and signed the sister school agreement. The host families are chosen by the Japanese department, which is led by the head of the Japanese department, Akiko Taira. IPA is working hard to make sending a group of students to Japan possible.  “We really want to make it a truly exchange program, so we get to go there too,” said Taira.

While Sato and Nishihara were on island, they toured different beaches, experienced the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum in America, and were able to learn about life with an American family.

“It was so great for us, we had a wonderful time” said Sabine Yamamura, Humanities teacher and host mother to Shiina Sato and Haruka Nishihara, “You know, it’s not every day you can host someone from a different country in your own home, right?”

Japan exchange students with IPA students

From left to right: Haruka Nishihara, Shiina Sato, Maddie Yamamura (’18), and Ashton Yamamura (’20).

Exchange students Sato and Nishihara got to experience what a typical day was like with their American host family. They went to classes, had lunch with the Japanese National Honor Society (JNHS), and went sight-seeing with their host mother after school to the North Shore and Mokuleia. They also stayed up late on school nights with Maddie Yamamura, host sister to Sato and Nishihara and a senior at IPA.

“[One night] I had to stay up and read Song of Solomon, because I procrastinated, and I started at nine, and Shiina came out and helped me stay awake, and so she was reading too and we were both falling asleep, so it was so hard to stay up. But we tried to keep each other awake so we played music to stay awake, and then she fed me wasabi ika, and then we had the jelly things, and we just kept eating food to stay awake, and even though it was painful it was fun,” said Maddie.

Sato enjoyed the beauty of nature in Hawaiʻi. “Last night, I went to the North Shore and I could see stars and the moon. Like, it was so many stars. After, I can only see like 5 stars from my home at night. I was so surprised, because there were so many stars,” said Sato.

Throughout the week, Sato had the time and opportunity to get to know the other students at IPA better. Sato enjoyed the welcoming and warm atmosphere of IPA and the friendliness of its students.

“Everyone is so friendly and caring. They have a very open mind, there are so many friendly students and teachers, that are so kind for us even though we can’t speak English well. And we can get a lot of classes because they gave us so many nice memories, so I’m so happy,” said Sato.

On the last evening of their trip, the students spent time with their host families.

“I think our favorite memory was the night we went over to the North Shore, that was our last evening together. We had a plan that we’d drive to the North Shore, and were going to have burgers, you know very American right, at Teddy’s Bigger Burger and we had walked there on a previous night and seen this girl was playing music there, live music, and the girls were just taking pictures and recording her,” said Yamamura.


Japan exchange student try shave ice.

From left to right: Maddie Yamamura ’18, Shiina Sato, and Haruka Nishihara

The exchange program benefits teachers, parents, and students from both IPA and SIG.

“Each part [Japanese exchange program] has its you know, its greatness. But I think maybe the interaction between the students and teachers from IPA in many different ways, whether it’s from the IPA campus, or the host families’ houses. It’s amazing how they kind of connect,” said Taira.