NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Japanese delegation is in Nacogdoches this week celebrating a very significant milestone.
It's a cultural exchange which has lasted for 25 years. It's intended for eighth graders, but the lessons and friendships cross generations.
“My goodness. How are you?” retired Stephen F. Austin State University professor Dr. Leon Hallman exclaimed to a member of the Japanese delegation.
"We are all a little over," laughs former Nacogdoches mayor Judy McDonald prior to a Rotary Club luncheon honoring the delegation.
McDonald first accepted the invitation for a sister city exchange.
“It is so significant to know 25 years ago Mr. Goto came to Nacogdoches and invited us to participate in a program with the Nissho Gakuen Educational Foundation. Twenty-five years later we are still celebrating that interaction,” McDonald said.
She shared how she and her husband, the late Dr. Archie McDonald, made trips to Japan to secure the relationship. She was touched when her good friend Tomimoto Takara, the school’s office manager in Kagoshima, Japan, asked to visit her husband’s grave site.
“In the rain, he placed flowers and said a prayer. The gesture represents the true friendship and nice gestures so typical of the Japanese,” McDonald said.
Japanese students left Nacogdoches today after spending a week living with Nacogdoches families. They visited historic sites, took a trip to Whataburger, and played at the Pineywoods Fair.
In May, Nacogdoches 8th graders will travel to Japan, just as others have done before them over more than two decades.
Nicholas Bacareese, a Mike Moses Middle School 8th grader recalled, “We stayed in a traditional-style Japanese hous,e and then we went to Kagoshima where we went to school for a week.”
“For someone my age to go, it’s definitely a good idea to go when you’re younger, so when you’re older ‚you don’t regret not going at all," said Mae Johnson, Nicholas’ classmate.
There are noo regrets in the group that visited both Nacogdoches middle schools and the night before was treated to Texas barbecue. The president of the education institution, Yoichi Goto, may not know fluent English, but his message of providing youngsters from both countries lifetime experiences is clearly understood. It was a mission of his father, the institution’s founder.
“They can grow up. They can use the skill for their business and make a bridge between the two countries,” Goto said through an interpreter.
This 25-year relationship appears to be set for another generation to come.