More than 100 Centennial High students met with a Japanese diplomat and discussed strategies for strengthening ties to Japan during ceremonies at the school Tuesday.
Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Furusawa from the Consular Office of Japan in Portland, Ore., toured Centennial and met with students from the school’s Japanese foreign language program. Furusawa also presented Japanese teacher Dale Garrard and principal Mike Farris with a framed commendation recognizing Centennial and its staff for “distinguished service and contribution to the mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the United States of America.”
“I am really amazed that the state of Idaho has so many students studying Japanese,” Furusawa said. “I certainly hope you all go to colleges and continue to study the Japanese language. Hopefully we have jobs for you to get involved using the language skills.”
Garrard said Furusawa’s visit was a first for Centennial and a significant recognition of the growing relationship with Japan. With 130 students enrolled in Japanese language courses, Centennial offers the area’s largest Japanese program and boasts first-, second-, third- and fourth-year classes for students.
In 2012, 24 West Ada School District students participated in a two-week tour of Japan sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with 24 Japanese students returning the favor by visiting Centennial High the next winter.
“After putting in 20 years and watching our program grow from a handful of kids to being a huge program is so rewarding and I’m glad people are noticing,” Garrard said.
During the visit, Furusawa also issued calls to increase business partnerships between the United States and Japan, to bolster the number of student exchange programs here and to initiate more sister city relationships between Idaho and Japan — saying only two such relationships are now in place.
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While interacting with students, Furusawa expressed his gratitude for the reception they gave him and for their interest in the Japanese language and culture.
He also leveled with them, describing how difficult it was for him to learn English, saying that he could relate to their struggles with Japanese.
“The feeling is mutual,” he said.
When a student asked Furusawa about his favorite travel destinations he replied: “I’m a diplomat. To your question, I say Boise” before conceding that San Francisco was also nice.
Furusawa shared a few laughs with the students as they presented him with welcome gifts. He perked up playfully when students handed him handmade paper gifts — even placing a few on his head, as if they were hats.
When a student handed him an assortment of Idaho Spud candy bars, he smiled eagerly and said: “Now you’re talking.”
Furusawa’s region includes Oregon and Idaho, and his visit to The Gem State included stops at four other Treasure Valley schools that offer Japanese foreign language programs.