789 Wildcat Way, Brea, CA 92620
est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

Hanno, Japan Students Visit Brea During Annual Sister City Exchange

Japanese Culture Club
A Hanno student, teacher, and exchange representative guide BOHS juniors Katherine Dizon, Erin Kim, and Nikolaus Yamamoto in Japanese calligraphy. The activity was just one of many during the Hanno delegation’s week-long visit from Jan. 11 to 15.

Carrying luggage and California dreams, nine students from a delegation from Hanno, Japan set foot on American soil on Jan. 11. In the ensuing next five days, the Japanese Booster Club and Brea Sister City Program led the exchange students on tours throughout Brea and Orange County.

Brea, which has maintained a “sisterhood” with Hanno since 1981, hosted nine students, their chaperones, and Shigeyuki Arai, mayor of Hanno, this year.

In the annual exchange, Hanno students explore the life of an American student by participating in classes at Brea Junior High and BOHS, and visiting quintessential American attractions.

During their first evening in the U.S., the exchange students participated in a welcome buffet-style dinner with their host families at the Brea Civic Center before resting at their host family’s homes before several days of scheduled events. 

The next morning, Jan. 12, the exchange students followed their host students to experience a day on the BOHS campus. Even the most ordinary aspects of daily BOHS life — such as attending school without uniforms, traveling between classes during passing periods, and communicating with peers during breaks — were unique to the Hanno students. 

“The only way to learn what American schools are like is by actually experiencing it themselves,” Zachary Hua, junior and vice president of the Japanese Culture Club, said. “By shadowing their host BOHS student, the exchange students got to see how the teachers teach, what students do in class, and what a typical American classroom looks like.” In turn, the Hanno students “showed us Japanese etiquette and culture through their dance and calligraphy skills.”

The visit to BOHS was both an eye-opening, and positive, one.

“Everyone is super happy and friendly here,” one of the Hanno students said. Agreed another: “While people are quite shy in Japan, I noticed that everyone here is very outgoing, and it’s easy to become friends quickly.” 

It was heartwarming to watch everyone interact and bond, and it truly deepened my appreciation for the connections that can be formed across diverse backgrounds.

— Riplie Mah, senior

The Hanno branch of Brea Sister City Association requested several BOHS families to host the Hanno students during their stay. Junior Christina Pai and her brother Joshua Pai (’23) spent their spare time with the Hanno students engaging in activities like hand-making pizzas, creating origami, and visiting iconic West Coast American eateries such as In-N-Out and Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, and traveling to Southern California amusement parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios.

In addition to the host families’ individually planned weekend activities, all Hanno students, BOHS students, chaperones, and hosts were invited to an outdoor brunch event at Carbon Canyon Park on Jan 13. Over 60 people participated in activities like fishing, dodgeball, card games, and hiking.  

“It was so cool to see everyone bond over food, music, and games,” Riplie Mah, senior and vice president of Japanese Booster Club, said. 

“The picnic was a sweet bonding experience,” Katherine Dizon, junior and secretary of Japanese Culture Club, said. “Kazoku, which means ‘family’ or ‘community,’ is the word I would use to describe that day. It unified a special connection that made us all family.”

In this exchange of cultures, students took notice of seemingly mundane aspects of American living, such as the difference in traffic lights (vertical in the U.S. while horizontal in Japan) and right-lane driving (compared to the left lane in Japan). Many students also enjoyed the larger meal portions in America.

Collectively, the students wished that their stay could have lasted longer.

“The trip was too short,” a Hanno student commented. “I wish to come back as a long-term exchange student and be in [an American] high school every day,” she added.

Mah described the Japanese student’s visit as not only “the creation of wonderful friendships,” but also “a learning experience for many aspects of their culture — a unique and valuable experience that not everyone gets to have.” 

In addition to the intangible gift of friendship, Hanno has a history of bringing cultural emblems to Brea to celebrate their 43-year-old shared history as sister cities. This year, the city received new additions to its collection, ranging from cultural clothing and accessories to trinkets.

All host families and students gathered for a farewell ceremony at the Brea Community Center on Jan 15.  The group spent their last moments together singing, dancing, and enjoying dessert. Some Hanno students volunteered to give speeches. 

Konatsu Ito described her experience with her hosts, the Pai family, and shared how much she valued their kindness and hospitality. Rara Tsunemichi explained the different activities she and her host family did together, and ranked her favorites (Disneyland was number one).

“It was heartwarming to watch everyone interact and bond, and it truly deepened my appreciation for the connections that can be formed across diverse backgrounds,” Mah said.

After one final activity the next morning — a tour of Brea on the city’s trolley — the student’s visit came to an end. A full circle moment, everyone regrouped once more at the Civic Center, but this time to exchange goodbyes. 

As the Hanno students departed, they left behind not just memories, but lasting friendships with the Brea community. 

“We hope that our visit not only contributed to the relationship between Brea and Hanno, but also between America and Japan as well,” Mayor Arai said.

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Lauren Ko, News Editor
Lauren Ko, junior, is hoping to gain valuable experience as News Editor during her first year as a member of the Wildcat staff. The current president of Mock Trial, she is also an active member of organizations such as American Red Cross Club, National Honors Society, and Link Crew. Outside the classroom, Lauren delves into the field of law with the International Humanitarian Law Youth Action Campaign. You're likely to find her admiring art in museums while she explores a big city -- two of her favorite hobbies. 
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