04/04/10 — Japanese agriculture students visit Rosewood counterparts

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Japanese agriculture students visit Rosewood counterparts

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 4, 2010 1:50 AM

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Santa Kanemaki, left, a member of Future Farmers of Japan visiting the U.S. with two other students and a teacher from his school this week, looks at sweet potato plants in a greenhouse at a local farm. At right is Allison Jennings, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Rosewood High School, one of four schools in the state chosen for the cultural opportunity.

When Kylie Glisson joined Future Farmers of America at her school, she knew it would better prepare her for a career in animal science.

What she hadn't anticipated was how much it would broaden her world.

The Rosewood High School senior and her family this week played host to one of three Japanese students, who, along with their adviser, were visiting the U.S. to learn more about farming and getting a firsthand look at high school agricultural programs.

Rosewood was one of four schools in North Carolina chosen to host 10 students from FFJ -- Future Farmers of Japan. The North Carolina FFA State Association chose high school FFA programs that have diversity in their events and the agricultural area around them.

The Rosewood agriculture and FFA programs focus on several areas, including horticulture, animal science, agricultural mechanics classes, contests and businesses.

During their six-day visit, the Japanese contingent, from Tokyo Metropolitan Engei High school, attended high school classes, traveled to Raleigh to visit the state FFA livestock judging contest, attended career development event practices and a chapter meeting and toured various agribusiness sites around Wayne County.

"All of the students are interested in some form of agriculture," said Allison Jennings, Rosewood agricultural instructor and FFA advisor, noting a few differences between the two country's programs. "Their animal science program at school, they breed dogs. It's very companion-animal based. They understand about beef and dairy and goats -- they got to touch goats for the first time (while here).

"In their school greenhouses they do a lot of floriculture, flower arrangements. Here, when we're showing them some strawberry farms, they only know about the small container of strawberries, which cost about $20."

One of the main contrasts between the two countries, Mrs. Jennings said, is relative size.

"Everything there is so compact," she said. "I think my students are kind of understanding a lot more about production agriculture in (Japan) being very science-based whereas we kind of, you might say, plant and go. There, everything is done on such a smaller scale."

"Everything here is bigger," agreed Kayo Fujiyama, the advisor for the Japanese contingent. "There is more activity (in the U.S.)."

One of the highlights for the students, she said, was the livestock judging.

It's been an interesting and educational week, Mrs. Jennings said, with the biggest challenge being the language barrier.

Fortunately, technology helped out a lot. One program allowed students to type a question in English and have it translated into Japanese.

There was also a way to pull up pictures of schools, houses and greenhouses in Japan to better illustrate their student counterparts' homeland.

Santa Kanemaki may have struggled a bit with English, but there was no mistaking his excitement at being in America. He said he was impressed by "very good efficiency" of the small farms he visited.

The 17-year-old intends to study agriculture in college, with plans to become an orchid farmer.

During his visit, he stayed with Jeffery Powell, a junior at Rosewood.

The two became fast friends, finding common ground and laughing about some of the differences.

"We talked about what they do for hobbies. He'd never been on a four-wheeler," said Powell, who has one and offered Kanemaki a ride. "He said it was dangerous."

Food was another popular topic for the young men.

"There are no biscuits in Japan," Kanemaki noted.

At the same time, the U.S. influence has been felt in Japan, with such universal fare as McDonalds popping up everywhere. Ironically, Kanemaki holds down a part-time job in one of the fast food restaurants in his country.

The menu is the same, he noted, except the American versions of sandwiches and drinks are all much bigger.

Kylie said she was also amazed by how much she had in common with her house guest, Ikuko Hayashi.

"She likes to shop and go to the mall," Kylie said. "They have KFC and McDonalds, she listens to Lady Gaga.

"The thing that was different was the first day we went to the beach, my mom couldn't go. I got in the driver's seat. (Ikuko) was a little scared at first."

In Japan, Powell pointed out, one must be 18 to get a driver's license.

It also appears that the Far East country doesn't have a Wal-Mart, he added.

"Mama took them to the Wal-Mart last night. They walked around for an hour and a half," he said with a smile.

The cultural exchange also incorporated a bit of a gift exchange. The teens traded trinkets on an almost daily basis.

"He gave us a whole big bag full of stuff -- chopsticks, candy bars, change purses, origami, he made a whole bunch of them and gave them to us," Powell said.

In turn, he also tried to give things his guest might enjoy. Like candy, which is a universal language of its own.

"He likes Hershey's kisses with almonds in them," he said.

"Every night she gave me a different gift," added Kylie. "Jewels to put on my phone, a box you have to have a certain combination to open it, pictures from school, a fan and she gave my mom some Japanese T-shirts. We have got her college T-shirts -- N.C. State because that's where I'm going ... ECU, Carolina."

The experience did more than promote agricultural understanding and an appreciation for diverse cultures. It also produced friendships.

"We talked about staying in touch when they go back, and maybe going over there and staying with his family one day," said Powell. "It's been awesome. It's been really neat. We learned a lot."

Kylie said before the students came, she hadn't even realized FFA was international.

"I have never been out of the country," she said. "I felt like I experienced someone else's culture for a week. ... This has just upped my love for FFA."