Special to the Gazette
The Port Hardy Twinning Society is gearing up for another year of cultural exchange and friendship with our sister town of Numata, Japan, and everyone in Port Hardy is welcome to get involved.
If you have ever dreamed of experiencing a new culture and travel, the Twinning Society offers a great opportunity.
The Society has more than 15 years of experience facilitating alternating exchange trips between residents of Port Hardy and Numata, a small town on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Each person pays their own airfare but once in their sister town their costs are minimal as they stay with home-stay families and participate in activities and outings arranged by the Twinning Society.
While details have yet to be finalized, the plan for 2012 is for Port Hardy to again play host.
Locals open their homes to high school student or adult chaperones and help to arrange outings for them throughout the North Island.
Then in 2013 it will be our turn to visit Japan.
Port Hardy unfortunately missed a turn when the trip in 2011 was cancelled due to the uncertainty of travel following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. However, Numata was not impacted by disaster and travel to our sister town is safe.
Leslie Driemel is a Twinning Society member who has both hosted and travelled to Japan several times.
“When you host a guest from Numata, whether it is a student or an adult, you get to share what you love about our community and our country with someone special,” she said.
“Someone eager to learn our language, to see our great outdoors and take part in our daily life. When you visit Numata you are welcomed not just by the people you stay with, but by the whole community. Everyone goes out of their way to be kind, generous and helpful — from five year olds to 80 year olds — everyone in Numata knows you are from their sister city and treats you like an honoured guest.
While there you get to experience a completely different language, culture and daily customs but learn as well that when it comes down to it, the people of Numata are just like us.”
A highlight of the visits to Numata has been participation in the world-famous Yotaka Andon Festival. The parade features five-tonne, 25 foot tall Japanese Lantern floats, called Andons, which engage in bamboo-smashing “duels.”
Mayor Bev Parnham recalls her trip: “I was fortunate to travel with the Twinning Society to Numata in the summer of 2009. My favourite memories are of the wonderful family I stayed with and the Andon festival. What an incredible sight to see all the beautifully decorated andons and the exciting rituals surrounding the andon “challenges”.
The vibrant colours, the singing and chants, costumes, dancers and the beauty of the whole event will stay with me forever, along with the friendliness and hospitality of the Japanese people.”
Stacia Johnson teaches languages at Port Hardy Secondary School, including a Japanese course.
She points to the educational benefit of learning about culture and language first hand: “Many PHSS students and their families have been enriched by the twinning relationship by hosting Numata visitors in their homes and by traveling over to Numata and taking part in community and school events.”
The Twinning Society is holding their AGM and first planning meeting of the year on Feb 13th at 7:00 pm at the Municipal Hall.
Everyone is welcome to attend and bring their questions and ideas for hosting our Japanese visitors this summer.
Heather Jones is a member of the
Port Hardy Twinning Society