April 8, 2002
Seto women bring gifts of friendship
by Deborah Stone
Woodinville's "Passport to the World" celebration, held in conjunction with Celebrate Woodinville 2002, invited the community to experience various cultures from several countries, including Russia, China and Japan. In addition to students from the Washington Chinese School in Bothell, who highlighted aspects of their culture, nine women from Seto, Japan traveled to Woodinville to share traditional Japanese arts.
The women, Masayo Ohara, Kumiko Hosomichi, Takako Ito, Machi Suzuki, Miyoko Kondo, Tamiko Murakami, Setsu Morita, Mikiko Sakakibara and Misako Kawamura, made the trip, accompanied by their English teacher, Pat Taniguchi.
Taniguchi, who lived in Woodinville for a number of years before moving to Seto, is a longtime friend of Liz Aspen, Woodinville's Parks and Recreation Commission Chair.
Aspen and Taniguchi have been working toward the goal of forming a sister city relationship between Woodinville and Seto, an idea that has already been proposed to the City Councils of both cities and is in the research gathering stage of the process.
Taniguchi invited the women from her class to join her in introducing Japanese culture to the Woodinville community. They jumped at the opportunity to visit the U.S. and have the chance to experience American life, as well as be able to share their traditions with others. The women brought calligraphy materials, bamboo pieces to serve as vases for flower arrangement displays, origami paper and tea ceremony items for the "Passport to the World" celebration and spent an entire day demonstrating the special arts of Japan to the public.
Several of the women are actually teachers of these arts in their hometown. Dressed in brightly colored festival kimonos, they also took part in the city parade, lending an international flavor to the event. Although many of the women had traveled to Hawaii before, with the exception of one, none had been to the Seattle area. They were excited to come here because, unlike more formal tours, they would have the chance to stay with American families during their visit and also participate in a community celebration.
Through their teacher Pat Taniguchi (who served as an interpreter), the women conveyed their impressions of Woodinville and the people they met. "They have been so impressed by Americans' generosity and friendliness," says Taniguchi. "Everyone they met was so kind and welcoming to them. They especially enjoyed their homestay experiences, as they felt like they were treated as members of the families. One thing they commented about in particular was American husbands and how they fully participate in family life. They really take care of their wives and families and show their concern for them. Japanese husbands, on the other hand, don't usually act like this."
In addition, the women were impressed with the spaciousness and beauty of the area, including the abundance of tall trees and greenery. They were able to take time to visit Snoqualmie Falls, tour a local winery and downtown Seattle, check out Molbak's in Woodinville, shop at Bellevue Square and go horseback riding in Monroe.
"It has been a full week," comments Taniguchi, "and I know each of the women is very sad to leave Woodinville. They are eager to return and now have new motivation to continue studying English."
To communicate during their visit, the women used the English they had learned from Taniguchi's classes, but also relied on dictionaries, prepared help sheets with useful expressions, body language and pictures. "They did pretty well," says Taniguchi. "But I do know that they will study hard when they go back to Japan because they want to be better prepared when they return."
Each of the ladies is excited about the possibility of a sister city relationship between Seto and Woodinville and sees the benefits for both cities if this goal becomes a reality. They emphasize the cultural exchange opportunities, which would result in such a relationship, and they feel that these would promote mutual understanding between the two countries.
"There are so many benefits," explains Taniguchi. "I think it would also definitely open the tourist trade in Woodinville to the Japanese. Plus there's lots of import/export opportunities to explore with Northwest wines and Seto's ceramics (Seto is one of the oldest and revered ceramic centers in Japan). But most importantly, the relationship would lead to understanding, which in turn would hopefully lead to a more peaceful world."
The Seto women departed last week full of Woodinville's warm hospitality and many special memories of their stay in this community. They enriched the lives of those who met them and left behind their gift of friendship.