GREAT BARRINGTON -- On his first try bowling at the Cove bowling alley on Friday night, Kenichi Yanagi's smile said everything his host family needed to know about the experience.
Twelve Japanese high school students from Koma High School in central Japan, including Yanagi, were welcomed by host families in Berkshire County on Thursday for a four-day visit as part of a cultural educational exchange.
The students came to the U.S. on March 9 and visited their sister city school in Des Moines before arriving in Great Barrington. Their last stop on the foreign exchange trip coordinated by PeopleLink is New York City. They will take the long flight home on Monday.
Though limited in his English, Yanagi was able to communicate his thoughts about bowling with laughs and smiles as he unsuccessfully tried to hit the pins.
Yanagi threw a bowling bowl into the gutter, generating a large round of applause from his host father Nik Monty and host sister Bridget Monty. He returned the applause as they took their turns bowling.
Showcasing some showmanship, Yanagi took a bowling ball and tossed it from behind his back down the lane, though the stylish attempt ended up in the gutter.
"Kids are just kids," said Lee resident Nik Monty, who treated Yanagi a rib-eye steak and salad when he arrived Thursday.
"This is a hands-on experience of a different culture and it's a very important [experience] while learning English," said teacher
On Friday, they shadowed students at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington.
Before exchange student Kie Muramatsu, 17, left for school, Great Barrington resident Liz Smith prepared her a "proper American breakfast" that included bacon, eggs and pancakes.
Muramatsu told Smith that in Japan she would have had a boiled egg with some rice.
During her day at Monument Mountain, exchange student Rina Ozawa, 17, walked into a drama class, a new experience -- her school in Japan doesn't include theater in its curriculum. She said she was surprised by the amount of discussion between teachers and students.
"She wishes it was the [same] way [in Japan]," Great Barrington resident Dai Ban translated for Ozawa.
Among the places the students got to experience on Saturday thanks to their host families were Ski Butternut, the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Lee Premium Outlet Mall.
"I see everything through new eyes," said Julia Erickson, of West Stockbridge, who served as sophomore Moe Ashizawa's host parent.
By Friday evening, junior Ozawa said she had accomplished one of two goals she had set for herself. She said she hoped to improve her English, but she admits that is still ongoing process.
The other goal was to try some American fast food.
Expecting larger portions in the U.S., she said she ate a "Zombie burger" in Iowa.
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