Young Japanese students discover Kaua‘i

WAIPOULI — For the second year in a row about 30 Japanese elementary school students from fourth and sixth grades descended on Kaua‘i for a summer trip.

Coordinated by Kumiko Hasegawa, The Science Club group is made up of students from different elementary schools in Japan, who meet on weekends. The Kaua‘i trip is one of the group’s field trips.

Group leader, writer and nature guide Sumio Kondo said the students are between 10 to 12 years old and the summer field trip is oriented toward nature, culture and traditional Hawai‘i.

“They have a really full schedule,” Hasegawa said. “They leave the hotel early in the morning, and spend the entire day in study before returning at night.”

Those studies include exploring, as well as meeting and talking with people, said Hasegawa, who operates a small tour company on the Big Island.

“This is the fifth year the group is coming to Hawai‘i,” Hasegawa said. “The first year, it was only one group coming to the Big Island. The program expanded to two groups and an additional group coming to Kaua‘i.”

She said this year the program based out of Tokyo, Japan, was planning on expanding the tour to include a spring group of junior high school students which was supposed to arrive in March. But the earthquake and resulting tsunami caused the trip to be canceled, although Hasegawa said the science club assured her they want to come here next March.

Under the direction of Hiroshi Hironaga, the science club operates in 26 different locations in Japan, most recently expanding to a location in Kansai, Hasegawa said.

The science club involves about 10,000 students in elementary, junior high school and high school. The tours through Hawai‘i are based on nature and indigenous aspects.

Midway through this tour, the group was thrilled to meet with Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who dropped in to visit during the group’s dinner at Wahooo’s in Waipouli Monday evening.

The tour took on more meaning when they received cards and luggage tags featuring sites from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie which was filmed on Kaua‘i, said Kaua‘i Film Commissioner Art Umezu, adding that this is the place of the Fountain of Youth.

The group arrived Saturday, and is staying at the Courtyard by Marriott at Coconut Beach until Thursday, when they are scheduled to depart the island.

“They’re coming for breakfast early Wednesday,” said Kenny Ishii, owner of Ono Family Restaurant. “Then, on Thursday, we pack breakfast for them when they leave.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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