The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 17, 2003


Japanese musicians find a home with CCHS band members

When the students of the Shiroishi-Sapporo High School Band from the Japanese island of Hokkaido came to CCHS to play in a joint concert at Symphony Hall, they were met with a hearty welcome from students and their families in the community. Instead of staying in a hotel, the Japanese students were housed with Concord or Carlisle kids. My family and I took in two sixteen-year-old Japanese girls, Ayumi Kumazawa and Saori Takada. I am so glad that we agreed to do this because I learned a lot about both Japanese and American cultures during their stay here.

Piccolo players took front and center stage as is traditional during Stars and Stripes. Shown left to right are Meredith Eaton, Stephanie Abend, Jennifer Morse, Kasumi Ito, Jennifer Zuk, Lora Hogan and Laura Condon.
The day they arrived was, as can be expected, the most awkward. When all the students met at the reception, I had no idea about Ayumi's or Saori's personalities or their English-speaking abilities. As it turned out, they knew how to say introductory words such as "hello" and understood questions like, "When is your birthday?" and "Are you hungry?" but not much more. Throughout the stay I tried to keep my speech as simple as possible. Often, when talking to them, I had to omit whole parts of sentences I usually took for granted. They rarely used verbs when speaking, so neither did I. My family spent the first night trying to ask Ayumi and Saori questions about themselves and whether they were comfortable. We would ask the question first one way and, if they didn't understand it, we would ask it in another way, using synonyms. If that did not succeed, we would write it down or draw a picture. In one instance, I had to draw an alarm clock to ask if they had brought one so they could wake up at 6 a.m. to get to school on time.

Tim Morse serves his house guests, Haruna Oyama and Eri Goto, a traditional American breakfast. (Photo by Karen Morse)

The home stay also changed my perspective on my surroundings. I would try to imagine how Ayumi and Saori perceived what was around them. I can only guess, but I believe they were surprised about how large and far apart the houses were here, how rapidly we spoke English, how we responded to other people differently than they did and, most especially, the food differences. The first night the students had dinner at their host families' houses. We served a wide range of food because we had no idea what they liked to eat. I was surprised how adventurous our Japanese students were. They tried everything, but they really liked guacamole and chips and took numerous helpings. Perhaps it reminded them of food at home which, like salsa and chips, is often salty. I read that they traditionally ate salty foods for breakfast, so they must have been overwhelmed by the sweetness of the french toast, syrup, and sweet rolls we served for breakfast. On their last morning here, we ate miso soup and rice, and they were really happy about it.

Natalia Samman and Meredith Haggerty hit it off with their Japanese guests on Wednesday at the high school. (Photo by Karen Morse)

Ayumi and Saori were very generous. They brought us all sorts of gifts, including origami paper, Japanese candy and cookies, two calendars, pens, and information on their high school. We reciprocated with gifts at the end of their stay, and they were elated and kept saying "segoy," which I think means "very exciting."

I believe what helped our relations the most was the rehearsal and performance at Symphony Hall. To me, the Japanese band sounded more talented than our band did, but one has to take into account the fact that their band practices eighteen hours a week, as opposed to our four hours, and they are all completely devoted to their instruments. The Concert Band and the Sapporo-Shiroishi Band played four pieces together, and I was able to talk to them about that music. Music in general is an important part of almost all cultures, and it really connected everyone performing that night. The pieces the two bands played together just felt magical. The sound was huge but still melodic, and I felt like there was no way I could play a wrong note, even though I was tired and dehydrated.

As a result of the concert, I felt very close to Ayumi and Saori by the end of the three days. Unfortunately, they were to leave at that time. As all the Japanese students and host families were waiting for the bus, the students took many pictures. Once one person began taking her camera out, more people did the same, until it seemed everyone in the room got their pictures taken in some group or another. I think the Japanese did this to hold the memory of their experience, and I hope I do likewise. I look forward to seeing them again when the Concert Band travels to Hokkaido this April.

At Thursday's potluck buffet, Carlisle students Jenny Zuk, Katie Brown and Caitlin Holland accompany their houseguests. (Photo by Karen Morse)

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito