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Pemberton develops close bond with sister city

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Spud Valley temporarily became the Land of the Rising Sun last week as a group from Pemberton’s Japanese sister city visited the area on a cultural exchange.

"It was a wonderful experience," Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner told Pique Newsmagazine .

Miya Village, a small rural community comparable to Pemberton, has sent a delegation of Grade 7 students and adult chaperones across the Pacific Ocean for the past seven years. This year 34 students, five teachers and six Miya Village council members made the trip.

According to Warner, the cultural exchange "promotes understanding and the growth of unity" between the two villages.

After arriving last Thursday and getting settled in with their host families, the Japanese students attended classes at Pemberton secondary school.

According to PSS principal Margaret Pallot, the exchange is a learning experience, not only for the visitors, but for local students as well.

"The exchange really broadens their horizons by exposing them to a different language and culture," she said.

The highlight of the day, Pallot said, was when the Japanese students met their Native counterparts and made dreamcatchers together.

Later that day, the Japanese students performed a mix of cultural demonstrations, traditional ceremonies and songs in front of a large crowd in the school gym.

"Everyone had a really good time and the two groups really developed a close bond," said Pallot. "It helps our students develop a world view and put things in perspective."

The visitors spent the remainder of their stay getting to know the community and enjoying the area’s natural surroundings before leaving Monday.

"It was a great four days and it was a very emotional time when they left," Warner said. "Everyone was crying."

Miya Village is located on Japan’s main island of Honshu near the Whistler-type ski resort of Takayama. According to Warner, the village economy is based on forestry and agriculture – just like that of Pemberton. "It’s very, very similar," she said.

A handful of PSS students will now get a chance to travel – for the first time since the exchange started – to Japan this November after the Miya Village delegation donated $60,000 towards the trip.

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