Students in sister city exchange program arrive

The students will spend this week traveling the region.

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Students in the sister city exchange program from Sasayama, Japan, arrive in Walla Walla on Thursday.

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With sign, flowers and camera Laura Reiter and Liliana Reiter watch for exchange student Mitsuki Hoshino, who will be staying with them.

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Exchange student from Japan Mitsuki Hoshino hugs host mother Laura Reiter.

WALLA WALLA - Almost 20 teenage students and their adult guides arrived from Sasayama, Japan, on Thursday, as part of the sister city exchange program that has taken place here since the 1970s.

Sasayama, which is approximately 380 miles from Sendai, Japan, saw little effects from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

None of the exchange students said they had friends or family missing or dead because of the earthquake, but a couple of students said they had friends still living in shelters.

"She's spending the time at the shelter. After the three days of the earthquake she finally get the email," Yuri Nichimura, 16, said through a translator. "Even now the transportation is shut down and we worry about friends and family members. Are they OK? Are they getting food?"

In spite of the devastation, exchange students and their teacher guides said they had always planned on making the trip to Walla Walla.

"They are worried about the area. Lucky nobody missing between family. So it was a good feeling for them to continue coming here," guide and teacher Hirokazu Nagameto said.

"We consider the trip to cancel, but we made it here. We were very shocked. But the trip helps us. This trip makes them happy," guide and teacher Kumi Tsuchiya added.

The students will spend this week traveling the region, and Monday they will be at Walla Walla High School for the day.

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