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Japanese exchange student learns all about Waterford

Photo by Michele Newbanks Alayna Jones pitches a baseball to exchange student Shuji Mithuboshi Monday morning in the front yard of the Jones' Waterford home.

WATERFORD – Imagine spending a month with a family you don’t know in a land unfamiliar to your own when you don’t understand their language. Shuji Mithuboshi is doing just that.

Shuji came to the Waterford home of Alecia and Danny Jones on July 24 and will return to Chiba, Japan, on Aug. 18.

Alecia Jones said he’s visiting America as part of the LABO Party, which is Japan’s 4-H.

“Their LABO Party is what they call their 4-H over there,” Jones said. “It is strictly studying foreign countries, and where our 4-H is studying animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, things like that, his studies foreign countries. They studied America and then they get placed in homes with host families and some may be placed in other states of America, but there are 62 LABO members that came to Ohio.”

She said Shuji is the only LABO member that is visiting Washington County and he’s the first in 20 years for the county.

Photo by Michele Newbanks The Jones family listens while exchange student Shuji Mithuboshi answers questions translated through an American to Japanese phone app.

“This program is only a month long in the summer and it’s actually when they are on break from school, because they go year round,” Jones explained. “So they have a month off in the summer and spend that month off in America.”

Shuji said spending the last month in a rural area has been fun and that he’s gotten to do a lot of things that are different from what he knows.

“America…the culture, American food,” Shuji said of some of the things that brought him to America.

When asked his favorite American food, he said “noodle” and Jones explained that he tried chicken alfredo and loved it. He was quick to answer that his favorite Japanese food is sushi. He has a few favorite American snacks, such as bubble gum, zebra snack cakes, sour popsicles and homemade ice cream.

Jones said the language barrier has been tough at times. She downloaded an app onto her phone that translates sentences, as they’ve been able to work around the barrier with single words.

“If we say hungry, he may not know what that is, and we have to say eat,” she explained. “We’ve played a lot of charades to communicate, but it’s been fun. It really has.”

Along with Shuji, there are four other children in Jones’ household – her daughters Alayna, 16, and Laykyn, 14; and sons, Hayden, 10, and Colton, 13, who is Shuji’s host sibling.

“He’s ornery, just like these guys, so he fits in very well,” Jones said.

Shuji may not have total mastery of the English language, but he gets along well with Jones’ kids.

“I think it’s brought all of, even us kids, together,” Alayna said of having an exchange student visiting. “Like, not fighting as much. It’s brought us closer.”

Jones said it’s definitely been good for the family, as they want to spend more time together.

“It’s been a very humbling experience,” she said.

Being in a rural area like Waterford was a bit of a culture shock for Shuji, as Chiba, Japan, is a seaport about 25 miles southeast of Tokyo and is known for having the longest suspended monorail in the world.

“When we got here, he said ‘where are all the homes?'” Colton said. “He said you couldn’t take a step from his house and not be, like, at someone else’s house.”

Jones said Shuji likes the open space instead of having homes right on top of each other, especially since he’s had plenty of yard to play in this summer.

“Their yards, he said, are very, very small and they are nothing but flowers, so he said, here, mowing the grass and things like that are so different,” she said.

They’ve done activities such as dinner at the Fusion Steakhouse and a trip to the Ohio State Fair, but his favorite thing is right at the Jones’ home.

“His favorite thing to do is get in the pool,” Jones said.

“Yeah,” Shuji said, his face lighting up.

Alayna said he really likes to play baseball, which is evident Monday as the children headed out to the yard with a wiffle ball and bat. When the ball was hit foul, he let everyone know it.

“Foul ball! Foul ball!” he yelled.

Shuji is an only child and he only has one cousin, so the big family he’s been staying with has been a big surprise.

“We had a barbecue for family to come and meet him,” Jones said.

Shuji picks up certain words and repeats them after her, like barbecue, so his English vocabulary is growing. “Fun, yeah,” he said.

When asked what he’s liked about America, he struggled for words, but he has definite likes and dislikes.

“Host family, and cousins and friends,” he said. “Swim in the pool. Baseball, volleyball.”

He also likes sitting down to pray with the family before meals, and attending church with them on Sundays at the Fairview Church of Christ in Stockport. He said it’s very different from what he knows, as he’s a Buddhist.

Since it’s almost time for the Waterford Fair, the kids have been working to get their animals ready, and Shuji will be showing a pig and a cow at the fair.

He’s not a big fan of the pigs. He does like the cows and goats, though.

“Stinky,” Shuji said of the pigs.

He’s going to be showing Colton’s pig at the Waterford fair, as Colton has a broken wrist. He’s also going to show one of the cows.

Jones said one thing about Shuji is he’s always watching the clock, wanting to know when they are leaving and how long they will be there.

“We’re pretty on time because we’re so busy, but he’s very on time. We try to definitely tell him where we’re going and what we’re doing so he’s not lost,” Jones said. “I couldn’t imagine going over there where I don’t know much Japanese.”

This isn’t the first exchange student for the family this summer. They will be hosting a girl from Spain for 10 months starting Aug. 22. Alayna will be her host sibling.

Shuji and Hayden have bonded over their love of wrestling. Hayden is second in his weight class in Ohio, but Shuji is proud that he’s third in his weight class in Japan.

“He wants to make it known it’s not all of America, it’s Ohio,” Jones laughingly said about Shuji. “He says it all the time. Me three in Japan, Hayden two in Ohio.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

• Japanese student Shuji Mithuboshi has been staying with a Waterford family since July 24.

• He is part of the LABO Party, which is like our 4-H.

• There were 62 LABO members placed in Ohio homes this summer.

Source: Alecia Jones

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