MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — About 40 American families are being sought to participate in this year’s Japan/USA Homestay.

Now in its 18th year, the program pairs Japanese and American children in a cultural exchange spanning two weekends over the summer.

American students stay with Japanese families July 28-30 and then reciprocate the visit in their home Aug. 4-6. The children are matched by age and sex.

Sponsored by the Family Support Center and Misawa City Board of Education, the program aims to expose the students to new cultural experiences and “hopefully forge lifelong” friendships, said Deanna Dlugiewicz, Family Support Center community readiness technician.

Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki envisioned the program in 1988 to encourage communication, cultural exchange and friendship between American and Japanese students living in Misawa.

Forty American families are needed: 20 with a fifth- or sixth-grade student and 20 with a child in seventh, eighth or ninth grade. Application deadline is June 9.

Host families are given a suggested activities list, from shopping at the base exchange to bowling. Staying in an American home and base life are unique experiences for the Japanese participants, said Danielle Mitchell, also a Family Support Center community readiness technician. They’re amazed “at how big our homes are, they get one whole bed to themselves,” she said. “They go through a briefing on how to take a shower” in an American home.

The Japanese home stay can be equally eye-opening for the Americans, she noted. “They’re going to sleep on mats … sit on the floor to eat and use chopsticks,” she said. “They are going to get a hands-on cultural experience.”

Home-stay families are required to attend a July 13 orientation. They’ll learn helpful English and Japanese phrases and cultural “do’s and don’ts.” For Americans, that includes when to bow, the importance of showing general respect and a reminder not to be too rambunctious.

The families will come together again Aug. 6 for a gathering at Davy Jones Locker on base. Presents and letters of appreciation will be exchanged.

Program applications are available at the Family Support Center in the Torii Building or from the Department of Defense Dependent Schools’ counselors at Misawa.

Call DSN 226-4735 for more information.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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