On October 17, 2017, Japanese students came from the town of Fukushima to visit Riverside Secondary school. In 2011, the small town of Fukushima was rattled by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, resulting in a tsunami that struck the town and left many dead and hundreds devastated.

Students playing a traditional Japanese game.

Students from Japan traveled to Vancouver to share their stories with the students of Riverside through various presentations and activities. One of the teachers that taught at an elementary school around the time that the tsunami happened, explained that over 72 students and teachers were washed away by the tsunami, and several had died. Ms. Catherine Yamamoto had something to share about the earthquake and tsunami story. “The tragedy of it was that they could have survived if they ran towards the forest behind the school instead of the open river bank. Their evacuation area was the wrong place to go at the wrong time, which left them in a devastating situation,” said Yamamoto.

Yamamoto explained how she arranged the Japanese visit. “There is an organization that arranges for groups of Japanese students to come throughout the year. They do winter, summer and spring programs. We’ve hosted groups of students before around spring break, but this is the first time they’ve asked to come in October and November. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a nice exchange,” said Yamamoto.

The Japanese students spent time with the Japanese classes here at Riverside, to learn more about the Japanese culture being taught. The Riverside classes had prepared questions in English ahead of time to ask when they arrived. Some questions asked were: what hobbies they had, what classes they took, their age, etc…

Riverside students viewing presentation about Fukushima.

The students had lots of fun exploring the halls of Riverside and learning more about Canadian culture, but unfortunately, they only spent a limited amount of time at the school. The presentations and activities were only held for one day during Block A and Block B. The Japanese students’ main priority at Riverside was to share information about the tsunami that struck Fukushima, but they also did other activities with the students as well. They held a tea ceremony, volleyed a traditional paper balloon, handed out multiple snacks, and played a traditional Japanese game called “Karuta” that uses playing cards.

Kaito Yamada, a grade 12 leadership student attending Riverside, had some thoughts on his experience learning from and teaching the Japanese students. “I translated the Japanese language to English for the students, planned their activities and provided a Japanese traditional food called “Dango”. The event was very exciting for the Japanese and Riverside students,” said Yamada.

Yamamoto has other events like this planned for the future, but will make sure there are more activities and time provided to the students. The Japanese visit was an extraordinary experience for both the kids of Japan and Riverside.