Japanese students tour Grand Valley

Twenty Japanese exchange students studying to be travel agents are spending three weeks traveling around the region learning how to better market the area as a tourist destination.

The students are from Tokyo and are studying at JTB Global Marketing and Travel’s travel-agent school. The students were brought over through Cultural Exchange, a program owned and operated by Jean Herring.

“It’s three weeks of absolute nonstop,” Herring said of the students’ trip.

The students’ day usually starts at 8:30 a.m. with English lessons and continues until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. with an afternoon field trip, Herring said.

The students do some sort of cultural activity, which has included teaching origami to local elementary school students, visiting local television stations, visiting Moab and trying new foods, Herring said.

Madoka Arizawa, one of the students of the group, said one of her favorite things thus far is trying hamburgers and chocolate. Food tastes sweeter here than it does in Japan, she said.

The students Wednesday spent their class time celebrating Hina-Matsuri, or the Japanese girls festival, which is a parents’ celebration of their daughters hopefully becoming successful women.

In a melding of Japanese and American cultures, the students designed dresses and staged a fashion show as part of their celebration.

Herring said the benefit of the trip is twofold. The students gain experience for their travel-agent studies, and the region gains some international exposure. Grand Junction isn’t as well known as a tourist destination, outside of the outdoors enthusiast crowd, she said.

“These kids are studying to be travel agents,” Herring said. “What better way to do that than to be here and experience it firsthand?”

Shinobu Masumizu, one of the students, said she has enjoyed the friendly reception she has received.

The students had the option of traveling to larger cities, but that would have been “going to just another Tokyo,” she said.

The students take their classes on the Mesa State College campus and stay with host families for the duration of their trip, Herring said. Preparing for their arrival takes months, she said, adding, “A lot goes on behind the scenes.”


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