ip Menlo Park invites ten residents between the ages of 12 and 15 years old to apply for the Student Cultural Exchange Trip to visit the town and families of Bizen, Japan, a Friendship City with Menlo Park.
In 2016, Menlo Park students were matched with Japanese host families for a full Japanese-immersion experience. During the trip, the students lived with Bizen families and experienced many of the wonderful things their community offers: a Japanese tea ceremony, clay modeling class with a Bizen-yaki master sculptor, origami class, kimono dress and etiquette class and visit to two working middle schools where the students played games and attended a cooking class with Japanese students. In addition, the group had a welcoming ceremony with the Bizen City Council, a visit to the Shizutani School, Japan’s first public school dating back to the 17th century, and a day trip to Hiroshima to visit with a son of two survivors.
Bizen City in Okayama Prefecture is a traditional fishing village, the home of Bizen-yaki pottery, Osafune Japanese swords and a soy sauce factory. The Bizen ware pottery is a traditional art more than 1000 years old that is created with earth and fire and has a simple texture achieved without glaze or ceramic painting. This is one of the most famous potteries in Japan. Bizen is also home to the Shizutani School, the oldest public school in Japan and established in 1670, which provided education on farming and forestry activities. Its Lecture Hall, containing contrasting reddish-brown Bizen ware roof tiles and white walls, is the only national treasure in Japan that is a school structure.