County families host Japanese students

| August 13, 2014

COSHOCTON COUNTY – Two families in Coshocton County welcomed foreign exchange students into their home and gave them a taste of everyday life in Coshocton County, Ohio.

Shu Kurihrar from Saitama, Japan and Aiku Suzuki from Yamanashi, Japan have been staying with two host families since July 23, learning from new experiences and making new friends. Both agreed that life in Ohio is vastly different from their own lives in Japan. Shu and Aiku are members of the Labo program in Japan where they learn about other cultures. At weekly Labo parties, children ages three through 18 learn bilingual songs, plays, and stories from around the world. Another aspect of the program is the international exchange program where students 12 through 18 spend a month with a host family in a foreign country.

Shu is staying with Dan and Mindy Duncan of Warsaw and their family. Since his arrival, Shu has been on the canal boat, and visited the Unusual Junction, Pearl Valley Cheese, horse shows, 4-H meetings, and Texas Roadhouse. He has been enjoying his time riding a tractor and helping on the farm, riding horses, fishing, and playing soccer, scoring his first American goal.

“What they want with this experience is for them to experience our everyday life,” said Mindy.

Shu has been amazed at the many animals in rural Coshocton County and has seen deer, raccoons, and when he saw a snake in the driveway, he had to capture the moment on his camera. He has also taken photos of the deer heads, wild turkeys, and bear skins in the Duncan’s home as he has never seen animals hanging on the walls.

“America is big,” said Shu. He was amazed at the big grocery stores, houses, and food portions. However, he loves American food, especially steak, pizza, and spaghetti. Shu has also cooked traditional Japanese food for the Duncan family.

“He’s tried everything,” said Dan. “He hasn’t backed down or been afraid of anything. I thought he would be scared of the animals, but he isn’t.”

When Shu arrived, he brought gifts for the whole family. Gift-giving is a tradition in Japan and he has a long list of family members and friends to buy gifts for before going home.

Shu has become a part of the Duncan family and they are dreading the day he has to return to Japan. He will be with them until Aug. 18.

Aiku is staying with Gary and Casandra Webster and their family in Bakersville. She has been spending her time in American traveling to Niagra Falls, the State Fair, and Amish country, as well as playing tennis and riding horses. The family even took her to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

“I wanted the kids to experience the fun of communicating with others who are from a different culture,” said Gary.

Aiku has taught the Webster family Japanese terms, performed the Japanese Tea Ceremony, made an authentic Japanese meal, and brought the family kimonos. She has also been telling them all about her family in Japan. Her father is a baker, and the girls have been baking with Aiku upstairs using an Easy Bake Oven.

Since she has arrived, Aiku’s English has improved and she has spent her time playing ping pong and helping snap green beans. She is impressed by America’s big gardens and big supermarkets.

“It’s just been a wonderful experience especially for the kids,” said Gary. “They learn other cultures aren’t that different after all.”

Aiku will go home to Japan on Aug. 18.

“I’m actually getting sad that she’s leaving,” said Casandra. “It’s amazing how attached you can get to someone in such a short amount of time.”

Shu and Aiku were able to see each other at a mid-point gathering on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at High Banks Metro Park in Columbus where they were able to check in with each other and share their experiences.

Shu and Aiku were two of 95 Japanese students who came to Ohio as part of the Labo program. Students stay for one month and decide if they would like to be foreign exchange students later in their student career. Host families do not have to be members of 4-H to apply, but they need to have a student the same gender and around the same age as the foreign exchange student.

“The program is wonderful,” said Casandra. “I hope more families will be able to experience this. It is a wonderful experience for the kids and the parents. I will miss her when she leaves.”

For more information on the Labo program, visit

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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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