'I would like to live in Red Wing forever'
Visiting from Ikata, Red Wing's Japanese sister city, six students and two chaperones have embarked on a journey around Red Wing. The experience has brought light to a new culture.
"He's surprised how kind everyone is and how they are helpful in so many ways," said Maggie Thorpe, translator and coordinator for international relations on behalf of chaperone Kazuhiro Hayami.
Since the arrival on Friday, Aug. 4, students have enjoyed a wide variety of activities, from watching the riverboats arrive on the Mississippi River to YMCA waterfront activities, from visiting local students who traveled to Ikata to hiking Barn Bluff.
When asked if they missed anything from home, they collectively shook their heads.
"I would like to live in Red Wing forever," said Hayami, a principal in Ikata.
"There really isn't anything they miss," Thorpe said, "They really love Red Wing, but of course, some of them would like to have rice."
The exchange program through Red Wing's Sister Cities Commission helps organize students from either country to live with a host family. Students have the opportunity to learn from the respective cultures through the week-long experience.
When it came to picking up on differences from Ikata, students noted the cleanliness of this city and how many U.S. flags are on display outside homes and buildings.
"They often ask if there's a special holiday going on," Thorpe said with a laugh.
"There's a lot of litter everywhere in the cities, but in Red Wing it's clean, even in the river it's clean," Thorpe said. "For him, (Hayami) he doesn't want you to see what the coast looks like in Ikata. There is definitely trash that gets washed up."
Even little things, such as not taking off shoes before entering a home. was a shock to the group.
"In Japan you always take off your shoes before going inside homes," Thorpe said. "Here, some homes you go in with shoes still on and some you do take off."
The group will wrap up the eight-day trip Sunday, Aug. 13. The last weekend was spent enjoying summer weather at YMCA Camp Pepin doing waterfront activities and cookouts in the evening with host families.
When asked if there's anything the group will miss, the visitors said the beautiful, hanging flower baskets, the abundance of sweets and enjoying the lakes and rivers throughout the state.
"She was surprised that the shaved ice has many different flavors," Thorpe said for Koharu Kajiwara. "Technically, in Japan, there are definitely flavors. But it's just in our town."