Miku Saimaru was anxious about her visit to Elizabethtown this week. The student from Koori-Machi, Japan, Elizabethtown’s sister city, still is learning English, so she struggled to communicate with students at T.K. Stone Middle School.
But, thanks to Google Translate and smartphones, she was able to overcome the language barrier.
“I feel free,” she said of the American school. “There are so many rules in Japan.”
She said students at her school can’t wear piercings or makeup, much to the chagrin of the other eighth-grade girls sitting at her table in Clark Green’s science class. She said students also don’t get to pick their own hairstyle.
Saimaru and other students from Koori-Machi spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Elizabethtown High School and T.K. Stone. Residents from the sister city last visited in 2015. This year, leaders from both cities celebrated the 25th anniversary of the partnership.
Saimaru attended classes at T.K Stone with eighth-grader Kyann Clark, who is hosting her. In different classes, she was part of the group.
In Kerrie Bal’s English class, students had to come up with examples from Disney films of protagonists, antagonists and other types of characters.
Saimaru suggested Maleficent as an example of a villain.
“That’s a good one,” Bal said.
She later presented about Maleficent and anime villains to the rest of the class.
The delegation from Koori-Machi arrived Sunday and leaves Friday morning. Their visit includes many sightseeing stops, such as Mammoth Cave. Saimaru said the cave was cool but cold.
“A lot of spiders were on the ceilings,” she said. “It was very disgusting.”
They also toured Lincoln’s Birthplace, Japanese Saturday School and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.
Koori-Machi and Elizabethtown agreed to become sister cities in 1992. The purpose of the agreement is to exchange educational, cultural, industrial and sports activities and establish other forms of cooperation across a wide scope of fields, according to the city’s history of the relationship.
Saimaru was excited about sharing Japanese culture, especially their food, with her American peers. She enjoys eating udon noodles and sushi.
“I’m happy that American people are interested in our culture,” she said.
But the cultural exchange goes both ways. Clark has made sure to introduce Saimaru to her share of American food.
“It’s fun to see her reaction when we take her to eat American food,” Clark said.
They ate at LongHorn Steakhouse and Saimaru tried a T-bone steak, which she liked.
Clark said she liked getting to know Saimaru and learning things about Japan.
“I learned that foreigners have to wear shoes in the house,” she said.