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Updated : February 24, 2021

Remote Exchange Between Host Families and Foreign Exchange Participants (January 17, 2021)

Participants of the Saitama Homestay Program held a New Year’s Party on January 17, 2021 (Sunday) as part 2 of the host family remote exchanges. 22 guests from 11 countries abroad took part in the event, including Paralympics-related personnel and representatives from embassies in Japan, and even athletes who were set to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Together with participants from 36 host families, the exchange event was highly enjoyable for everyone!

Self-Introductions by Foreign Guests and Learning about Traditional Arts in Saitama 

The party kicked off with a toast between all participants. Regardless of the distance and time differences between the guests, everyone enjoyed celebrating the New Year together.

making a toast

To begin, the foreign guests gave self-introductions. Representative for the National Paralympic Committee of the Republic of Cameroon, Georges Bassilekin, who first came to Japan just two years ago, spoke fondly of his image of Japan, stating, "I’ve come to really love Japanese people and Japanese cuisine!”

a guest from Cameroon guests from Slovakia

a guest from Sri Lanka guests from Maldives

Next, Mr. Fujinami Yoshihiro, a host family member from Ageo City, spoke about the traditional arts of Ageo, in particular, the Azeyoshi Sasara Shishimai (Lion Dance) group he performs with. He carefully explained the meaning behind each intricate movement of the performance, showing the other participants videos and materials, as well as an actual lion mask he kindly borrowed from a local shrine to show everyone. The guests were fascinated by the impressive 450-year traditional art of the area, saying, “We’re really glad we could hear about this from someone who actually takes part in these kinds of performances!”

Sasara-Shishimai

Group Exchanges

During the latter half of the event, everyone broke off into groups for a more intimate exchange. The seven Paralympic athlete participants from the Republic of Maldives exclaimed, “Oh beautiful!” upon seeing their host families’ Japanese kimono, adding that, “When we visit Japan, we’d really like to try wearing kimono!”

a group exchange

Next, Joseph Cassar, from the island nation of Malta in the central Mediterranean Sea, who is the Secretary General for the Maltese Olympic Committee, spoke about the popularity of soccer in his country. Participants from Saitama City eagerly pointed out that Saitama City is, “The home base for professional soccer teams in the area,” adding that, “If players from the Republic of Malta come to Saitama, we hope they will have a match with our local teams!”

a guest from Malta

The time flew by while everyone enjoyed themselves, but it soon came time for everyone to reluctantly part ways. Host families offered comments such as, “We instantly became good friends with everyone,” “We really enjoyed talking with everyone even using just a few words of English,” and, “It’s really important to be able to interact with people abroad even while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. It gives us hope for the future!”

The guests remarked that, “It was amazing to be able to talk to these people, who we wouldn't have been able to meet if it wasn’t for this opportunity,” “This exchange event with host families has really boosted the athletes’ morale! I hope to participate again in the future,” and, “I was really moved by the sincerity and kindness of the host families!” Even after the party came to an end, many guests exchanged contact information with host family participants so they could continue to communicate in the future.

saying good-bye to everyone

Outline of the Remote Exchange (New Years’ Party)

 Date

17 January, 2021 (Sunday)

Participants

Host Families

36 Participants

Guests from Abroad

22 Members from 11 Countries

<Participating Countries (Alphabetically)>

【Olympic Committee-Affiliated Personnel】

Malta, Sri Lanka

【Paralympic Committee-Affiliated Personnel】

Cameroon, Maldives, Mexico

【Embassy-Affiliated Participants】

 Ethiopia, EU (Romania), Indonesia, Philippines, Slovakia, U.S.