Journey to Japan

Marshalltown teens travel to Asia, learn about culture

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Marshalltown student Alivia Eaton, right, was one of eight area children to travel to Marshalltown’s Japanese sister city, Minami Alps City, this summer. Shopping, bowling, cooking and learning about culture were among the activities the Sister City Association of Marshalltown Delegation experienced in the east Asian country.

It was about one year ago that Japanese children from Marshalltown’s sister city, Minami Alps City, experienced Central Iowa; this summer, Marshalltown area children took a trip of their own.

“On this exchange, the students were totally immersed in Japanese culture; they stayed with Japanese host families just like when we hosted in Marshalltown,” said Sister City Association of Marshalltown Exchange Director Kris Alman. “The sister city relationship with Minami Alps City has been on going for more than two decades.”

She, two chaperones and eight young Marshalltownians made the nearly 6,000-mile journey to the inland Japanese city, also called Kushigata, where they continued to forge friendships and learn about local culture.

“It was fun to see Seriu and Natsuki again and to meet their families,” said 13-year-old Derek Peng, adding his family had hosted Seriu and Natsuki when they visited Iowa.

Alyssa Jordan, also 13, said she enjoyed cooking with her hosts.

“The overnight camping trip was so fun!” she said. “We made traditional Japanese barbecue together.”

Students also noticed a some similarities between Central Iowa and Minami Alps City.

“Farming is very important in Minami Alps City, just like it is in Iowa,” said 13-year-old Maggie Stansberry. “They grow fruits, vegetables and rice, we grow corn and beans; many people rely on the crops.”

Drew King, 14, said American and Japanese teenagers have a lot in common as well.

“Even though we speak different languages, we’re still teenagers,” he said. “We like music, sports, shopping and hanging out with friends.”

Alman said communication skills were practiced on the trip.

“They communicated using a combination of verbal and body language; technology is also a big help,” she said. “It was a combination of learning and fun.”

Other group activities included going bowling and visiting museums and temples.

“We started preparing for this summer’s trip shortly after the Japanese Delegation left last August,” Alman said, adding the American delegation met to practice Japanese culture, customs and etiquette prior to this year’s trip. “The students who participated represented Marshalltown in a very positive manner … they were engaged, flexible and willing to try new experiences.”

The Sister City Association is preparing for another visit from their Japanese counterparts in the summer of 2018.

“I will be looking for current year sixth- and seventh graders to be hosts for our Japanese guests, and student will receive information on how to apply in January,” Alman said. “I plan to apply for grants that will support this opportunity.”

The American group is set to arrive home this weekend, and Alman said she’s happy with how the trip went.

“Learning about other cultures builds tolerance and character,” she said, and of the students added “I am very proud of them.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or