Japanese Exchange Student Marvels At Life, Miles From Home

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The taste experience of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one that 16-year-old Japanese exchange student Misaki Kadowaki is happy not to repeat.

She would much prefer to make curry rice for her host family, the Nosseks.

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Calligraphy is an art Japanese students learn in school, but Misaki Kadowaki enjoys it so much she has taken private lessons.

But even the gross tasting sandwich is an exciting part of the new culture she is experiencing as a foreign exchange student at Payson High School.

"I liked Christmas and Easter," she said.

"There's no Easter in Japan. We don't dye eggs and hide them like we do here. There are no presents at Christmas in Japan."

Kadowaki came to the United States to perfect her English and learn about the culture through the Youth for Understanding International Exchange program.

She left her parents and older brother behind in Japan. She communicates with them at least once a week through e-mail.

"School is so easy here," she said. "I don't even have to study. In Japan, we have to study a lot. Like before a test, I can't sleep. I study the whole night."

Math is the toughest subject in Japan.

"We don't have split classes," she said. "We all take the same class -- algebra, calculus, geometry -- together."

The school day in Japan is seven-and-a-half hours long.

Her high school, Miyagi Daini Jyoshi, in her hometown of Sendai has physical education, but not intramural sports.

Shot put and discus are Kadowaki's track and field events.

In Payson, she is a member of the Modern Choir (soprano) and plays alto saxophone in the band.

After school in Sendai, Kadowaki sings in a band.

In fact, she has dreams of someday singing like her hero, Japanese pop star, Utada Hikaru.

But she also has a desire to see the world after college by becoming an airline flight attendant.

While staying with the Nosseks, she has been able to visit Sedona, Ohio, California and Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Mexico.

There is no desert in Japan. So, she was intrigued by the cactus and sandy terrain on the five-hour drive to Mexico.

"The sea was really pretty," she said.

Payson is a complete contrast with the home she knows. That is one of the reasons she likes the town. "And, the people are so nice here," she said.

Sendai is a couple of hours from Tokyo by express train.

She is the first of her friends to leave home on a foreign exchange program.

"In Japan we can watch TV, listen to the radio, e-mail, use GPS and listen to music on our phones," she said.

Some of her friends will get to meet Payson student Ryan Nossek. He will return with her to visit Sendai for several months this summer.

"I would come back to Payson," Kadowaki said. "I like America."

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