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From Japan to Needham

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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

The best way for people to learn about a new country is often by talking to people who have grown up in that country.

Talking to people older than themselves can be even more helpful.

Sharing each of their experiences makes for a perfect exchange of culture.

Visitors to the Center at the Heights (CATH) were treated to just such a cultural exchange last week as a group of Japanese middle-schoolers made their way through the senior center.

Students from Showa Women’s University Junior High School visited CATH on perhaps the most perfect day. Seniors were already excited to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, and the students from Showa were an added bonus.

The Showa students and their teachers were invited to listen to a concert performed by the Black Velvet Band. The band sang a range of popular Irish songs. Seniors and their guests danced along with the music. Later on during their visit, while being conducted by a fellow student, the girls sang a popular Japanese song for their American hosts.

Staff of the Center then welcomed the students and their teachers on a tour of the facility. Perhaps their favorite part of their tour was getting to go outside on the Center’s deck. Their tour guide told them that parties and cookouts are hosted on the deck. The girls were ecstatic just to be outside. “They’ve been inside all day,” said one of their chaperones, “It’s good for them to be outside for a bit.”

Students and seniors talk about cellphones and share a laugh.

Students and seniors talk about cellphones and share a laugh.

After completing their tour, students were welcomed to the cafe to meet with some local seniors, practice their English, and learn about American culture.

“What’s your favorite American food?” one man asked the whole group.

The girls were shy and no one answered.

“Pizza?” he guessed. “Oh, I know: hamburgers!” The girls giggled and nodded in agreement.

The girls split off into groups, approaching different tables of seniors. “I’m Tom. What’s your name?” one senior asked. The girls were asked a plethora of questions about their lives in Japan.

“It’s nice to have you here!” another senior welcomed.

The seniors, still in the mood for music after their concert, broke out into song and began singing to the students. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine / You make me happy when skies are gray,” the seniors sang. One even decided to add in some fun hand gestures to go along with the song, making many of the students laugh. Many of the students knew the song and joined in, making it a lively sing-along.

The seniors continued to ask their guests a number of questions, all while teaching them about American culture. One senior asked where the students had visited in Boston. Another asked what subjects the students study in school. One group of seniors wondered if the girls had cell phones and if smartphones were as popular as they were in America. One senior continued to inquire on the girl’s favorite food: did they like cheeseburgers or hamburgers more?

One senior discusses popular American movies, such as ‘Gone with the Wind,’ with a Showa student.

One senior discusses popular American movies, such as ‘Gone with the Wind,’ with a Showa student.

“Cheeseburgers!” the girls answered.

The Showa middle schoolers and the seniors at the Center at the Heights both came out of the visit learning more about each other’s cultures than they had before. Some of these students may go home and listen to the fun American songs they were welcomed with. Some of the seniors may try to learn one the Japanese songs shared by the students.

What is certain, though, is that hamburgers are a beloved delicacy for both cultures.

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