Portsmouth welcomes Japanese students

“PORTSMOUTH — Twenty Japanese students sang a traditional 1904 Japanese song “The Hills of Home” to the assembled student body of Portsmouth High School on Thursday, Oct. 5.

The Portsmouth High chorus answered them with the same song, in English, which they’d prepared as part of the Japanese welcome assembly.

The visiting students, three teachers and the school principal Shougo Fujiwara formed this year’s delegation from Nichinan Gakuen Junior-Senior High School, Portsmouth High’s “Sister School” since 1997. Their song would have been familiar to Baron Jutaro Komura, born in Nichinan, who led the Japanese delegation to the 1905 peace conference in Portsmouth that produced the Portsmouth Peace Treaty signed at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Sept. 5.

The visit is the 10th annual home-stay visit to Portsmouth. The Nichinan students, all high school freshmen, spent the weekend with Portsmouth families, accompanying their companions to classes at the high school, group activities and sightseeing with their host families.

The students are: Anon Sakamoto, Momona Hidaka, Haruna Minobe, Shion Morino, Shiori Numata, Akari Takeda, Sora Ninomiya, Manaka Kuroki, Miyu Yoshida, Nene Kadogawa, Rua Araki, Karin Wakamatsu, Hinako Kawano, Yusuke Nozaki, Issei Yamauchi, Tatsuki Oiso, Yugo Miyamoto, Keiya Nimura, Shuta Sakimura and Kiryu Sekiya.

Their hosts were Ellen Baker, Claudia Groleau, Sara Gardner, Olivia Hammer, Isabelle Neubauer, Emma Katona, Julia Matthews, Elly Guzikowski, Anneliese Raynolds, Olivia Duplessis, Caroline and AnnCatherine Conneen, Cassandra Farrell, Kianna Crooker, Wemple family, Stefan Langer, Harper Shea, Ryland Blaine, Padraic Donovan and Daniel Rincon

In addition to the choral performances, the welcome assembly included a demonstration of karate by three of the female Japanese students and the male black belt second-place winner in the Japanese state championship. The assembly also featured traditional Japanese dance and the PHS band performed the Japanese national anthem. Following welcomes by Mayor Jack Blalock and Principal Mary Lyons, 10 “Little Clippers” from Little Harbor School presented a dance and then helped distribute gifts from the city and the high school to each student.

The three Gakuen teachers included Key Barlow, English teacher; Tadanobu Kuranaga, a culinary arts teacher who joined the kitchen team at Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café on Thursday night; and Manami Kawasoe, a nursing school teacher who observed a team of Portsmouth Regional Hospital nurses at work on Friday. She was the guest of Dr. JoAnn Warren, who accompanied the 2016 Sister City/Sister School visit to Nichinan with her daughter.

On Friday, Stephanie Seacord, director of public affairs for the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum, welcomed the Nichinan students and their Portsmouth counterparts to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty exhibit in the John Paul Jones House Museum where they viewed a 1905 film of the diplomats arriving in Portsmouth and the original chair Baron Komura used at the peace conference.

Mary and John Lyons hosted a dinner Friday for the three teachers and Principal Fujiwara along with five teachers who have accompanied previous Nichinan trips, including PHS English teacher Laura LaVallee, who has coordinated the trips for the past three years, and five teachers planning to accompany the spring 2018 trip.

The Japanese visitors on Saturday enjoyed a traditional New England autumn weekend with their host families, visiting the N.H. Fall Festival at Strawbery Banke, Applecrest Farm, Topsfield Fair and Dover’s Apple Harvest Day. The group will leave Portsmouth to visit New York City before traveling back to Nichinan.

Portsmouth and Nichinan formed an official sister city relationship in 1986. This year, the new Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Sister Cities & Citizen Diplomacy organized a pen pal program between Portsmouth and Nichinan students, with help from Portsmouth High School and the city’s library. The first batch of 18 letters from Portsmouth travels back to Nichinan with the delegation.

For more about the Portsmouth-Nichinan sister city and sister school programs and the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, visit PortsmouthPeaceTreaty.org.”

You can find the original press release here.