Local's voice Yoshihiro Nagasawa
Q. What made you start interacting exchange students? And also how do you interact with them?
I have been to Canmore gathering in Alberta province, Canada in1995, which has a sister-city relationship with Higashikawa-cho, and I stayed with the host family. I had a difficult time communicating because I could not understand English. I felt lonely at that time and I did not want the tourists who visit Higashikawa-cho to feel the same way so I established the volunteer project with former town hall stuff Mr. Morita for supporting tourists.
Exchange students face to the difficulties over their half a year, or a year stay in Higashikawa-cho. Looking for an emergency hospital in the middle of the night, driving them to the airport so they can make it to their flights, etc. We support them as much as we can. We are doing it because we enjoy it. That sums up everything.
Q. Any stories with exchange students?
On the snowy day, they get excited and jump into the snow. They come to the Kori matsuri for the first year, but not the next year. It must be cold for them! Most of them enjoy the town with the four seasons.
Some exchange students go to Biei-cho by bike. On the way back to their dorm, they got off the bus at the next town and they called me like “Dad, I got off at the next town.” I said “I got you. Wait for me.” and went pick them up. Everything is the lessen for them, everyone makes a mistake, so I want to continue supporting them. I want to support them as much as possible.
Q. Isn’t it hard to manage your store and support exchange students at the same time?
I am doing it as much as possible while I am working. I think I can do it because I really like supporting them. If we go to the unfamiliar places in other countries, we will get into the same struggling situations. If we have places to contact with and rely on it would be great for mentally it is something like a ray of light. I want this place to be where they can just rely on from time to time. They are young and will be homesick. If they have some places where they can relax it would make a huge difference in them. We eat food on New Year’s Day.
There is an exchange student who comes to the store alone, and there is one who cannot apply for support. For those people, I talk to them like “we have an event on Sunday so come visit us.” So I can share some information with them.
Q. Do you still contact with exchange students after they graduated?
I do not want to be a stranger to them after their graduation. We still keep in touch with ones who employed by Japanese companies and ones who went back to their hometown.it became easy to talk to them with using LINE and Facebook. I say, “If you have a problem, tell me. Keep in touch!” Some of them went to Osaka, and some went to Tokyo, and I do not know how much I can do, but I will keep supporting them.
Q. A quick word for people who want to study at Higashikawa?
We need more of your help in Japan. We hope you will go all over Japan and play active parts. When you have some problems after got into Japanese language school in Higashikawa-cho, please come visit us. We are looking forward to seeing you!
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