By Nancy Gutierrez
The slow rhythm of the Japanese national anthem could faintly be heard outside the memorial building in Lindsay on April 1.
Inside a group of Japanese visitors made up mostly of junior high and high school students, were singing for the Kiwanis Club in an impromptu performance. Just before that the group gave a flawless performance of "Edelweiss." The lunch with Kiwanis was one stop on the group's packed itinerary.
For 30 years Lindsay has received visitors from its sister city, Ono, Japan. Likewise, Ono welcomes Lindsayites to Japan and every so often the cities trade students, so they can learn about the differences and similarities in Japanese and American Cultures. This year four junior high and four high school students as well as two school teachers and one dairy farmer journeyed to Lindsay. Throughout the week they toured the city and areas of industry outside of Lindsay.
The 2004 Ono visitors were: Yoko Yoshida a dairy farmer in Ono; Ayumi Konishi a 23-year-old high school teacher; Kaori Tachibana a 22-year-old staff member at the high school; Emi Iwamoto, 17; Emi Kohori, 17; Yutaro Kubo, 17; Nobuhito Imamura, 16; Risarisa Otsuka, 15; Hazuki Oda, 14; Genki Inoue, 13; Marina Kimura, 13; Harumi Otsu, the Coordinator of the Ono International Association; and Takashi Matsuyama a member of the Halo Travel Company.
On Tuesday the group took a tour of Lindsay schools. They went first to Lindsay High School, had lunch and a show at Lincoln Elementary school then ended the day at Steve Garvey Junior high School.
"It is a very free atmosphere there," 13 year old Marina Kimura said. "In Japan there are many obligations in school. School rules and uniforms."
While the group visited Lincoln they were treated to a song by a large group of second graders. The students signed a John Denver song that has both English and Japanese lyrics. Following the welcoming presentation the group observed a fourth grade class and received friendship bracelets from the students.
Also on their itinerary were visits to Champion Home Builders Co., Lo Bue Farms Inc. Orange Packing Co., VIta Pak, Three Sisters Dairy and Yosemite National Park, among many others.
"[Yosemite] was very inspirational," Kimura said. "To be so close to nature made a great impression."
Ayumi Konishi was surprised by dairies in the county.
"So many cows," she said. "To see so many large fields. It was fantastic."
What seemed to make a greater impact were the families that played host to the students.
"American people are so funny," Kimura said. "Their kindness and humor make it easy to communicate with them."
Harumi Otsu who was not only the coordinator but group translator as well said many of the students would like to attend college in the U.S. When they do they will have friends in Lindsay to keep them company. In a few weeks several high school students from LIndsay will make the trip East to visit Ono.