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Japanese students visit Idaho Falls for sister city exchange

Sister City Cultural Exchange

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Friday, 20 students from Tokai-Mura, Japan visited Idaho Falls to experience American life.

Sister Cities of Idaho Falls is a non-profit organization dedicated to educational and cultural exchanges.

Tokai-Mura is a city on the coast of Japan. It was chosen as a sister city because of similarities to Idaho Falls. Tokai-Mura is an agricultural community, with nuclear energy plants, and it's about the same size as Idaho Falls.

Every other year, students from Idaho Falls go to Japan and Japanese students come here.

"My name is Migeze Ogawa, I'm happy to stay here in Idaho city," said Ogawa.

For 12 days ,Ogawa is trading the comforts of home to experience life in America with her best friends and meeting many new ones.

"Many friends, everybody very kind. Very kind yes," said Ogawa.

The group's first stop was the Idaho Falls Police Department.

"We went to a police office and a fire station," said Ogawa.

At IFPD, the students were allowed to see inside police cars, hold guns and wear bullet-proof vests.

"It's a chance for us to see another culture, another country, to learn about the barriers of communication but also how those barriers aren't always as big as you think, and open your eyes to other cultures and other ways of living," said organizer Alison Watts.

During lunch, American students who visited Japan traded stories about cultural differences.

"Everyone drove on the left side and they were all pretty much smart cars," said Eric Cosens, who traveled to Japan recently.

"Idaho is a very good place, I think," added Ogawa.

Even the youngest had thoughts on the biggest difference, the language barrier.

"You can say things that sound like they don't make sense when they do in another country," said 9year-old Camen Olsen.

During the next 12 days, the group will be heading to Yellowstone, Lagoon, a rodeo and a Chuckars game.

The sister program started 30 years ago. Friday afternoon, the mayor of Tokai-Mura gave former Idaho Falls mayor Linda Milam the title of honorary citizen.

Tatsuya Murakhami traveled from Japan to personally present her with the city's highest honor.

Milam is a member of the Idaho Falls Sister Cities delegation. She received the honor for her strong support of the Sister Cities from for the past 16 years.

Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Furhiman was at the ceremony along with many other community members.

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