Embracing the Japanese culture in Merced County


The steady beat of the Taiko is the sound of students learning about the Japanese culture in Cressey.

The weeklong Tomodachi Gakko Friendship School introduces them to everything from karate, to the samurai swordsmanship of kendo. It also gives them a chance to make Japanese food and even learn the language.

Sheryl Sauter Tomodachi Gakko School Director said, "It started out as a way for the 3rd generation parents to teach their kids about the Japanese history and culture and language, and it's just grown over the last 27 years."

Now kids from all different backgrounds and from all over California come to learn about Japanese traditions. But for Maiko Lum and her sister, this school is a way to connect with the home they left behind. They were living in japan when the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck in March.

8-year-old Maiko remembers hiding under a table at her school in Tokyo when the shaking started. "Everybody holds tables leg. Then it was moving so much, so everybody was scary, but it stop."

The girls have come to this camp for the past three years while spending summers with their grandmother. But now they're living with her fulltime because of radiation concerns in japan.

Emiko Tanioka said, "This is a wonderful place because it makes them feel like there's something here that's like home."

This year students at this school are also helping those still living in japan by raising money and writing letters to children there. It's a way to give back to a country that has taught them so much.

The school is open for kids from pre-school through eighth grade.

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