Seven Japanese high school students and two Ichinoseki Council staff are visiting the Central Highlands this week as part of the annual student exchange program between the region’s sister-city Ichinoseki.
Australian students, who travelled to Japan in June, and their families, are hosting the students.
With the usual translator unable to join the group, 18-year old Gold Coast student Aki Hiro Zhang travelled with the students to provide interpretation. It was his first time in the Central Highlands and as official translator.
He said the students are happy to reconnect with their Australian friends and everyone enjoyed themselves. So far, Aki found the Central Highlands to be a great place where everyone knows one another.
‘People treat us kindly,’ he said.
He said the group visited the Sapphire Gemfields and was yet to learn about the local coal mining industry. And, despite not looking forward to leaving, he said, everyone was anticipating the goodbye party before traveling on to the Gold Coast and returning to Japan.
The students toured the Emerald council office on Monday and were welcomed by Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes and Councillor Paul Bell.
Mayor Hayes said the exchange is important to the students and the community.
‘The friendships we see develop between our students and Japanese students and the experiences we hear about are invaluable to young people both in the Central Highlands and in Ichinoseki,’ he said.
‘We’re very lucky to have this great sister-city relationship as a source of cultural education for our communities.
‘We warmly welcome the Japanese students and hope we can reciprocate the incredible hospitality we receive when we go to Japan.
‘And, we look forward to returning to Ichinoseki and Fujisawa soon.’