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Tsuruta visitor renews bonds formed during 2007 visit

A childhood trip to Hood River helped shape a young woman’s interest in the world.

When Narumi Ota was in middle school — about 2007, she said — she was part of a visiting group of middle school students from Tsuruta, Japan, Hood River’s Sister City. She remembered visiting Hood River Middle School and May Street Elementary, as well as snowboarding on Mount Hood, and the fun she had with her host family.

Hosts needed in October

Families are needed to host middle school students from Tsuruta, Japan, the week of Oct. 27.

Check out the Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City Facebook page or email Niko Yasui at:

niko.yasui@hoodriver.k12.or.us.

Sister City Program also announces a community visit to Tsuruta in August 2014. Contact Yasui for details about making the trip as a Hood River ambassador.

“At that time I couldn’t speak English that well, but I had a good time with my host family,” she said.

Now at age 20, Ota returned to the Hood River Valley on Labor Day this year, staying for two weeks with hosts Jean Harmon and Paul Randall. The visit was arranged by Niko Yasui, president of the Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City program.

Ota’s reasons for visiting Hood River were two-fold. First, she is studying Chinese at Tokyo University for Foreign Studies, and feared she was forgetting the English language. The second — and main — reason is that her visit to Hood River helped spark her interest in international studies.

“Now I’m in Tokyo University for foreign studies,” she said, “because before I came here six years ago, I was not so interested in foreign countries.” Her middle school host family “helped me want to learn about the world.”

Ota’s two weeks were packed with activities. Harmon took her to Portland to see the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden and Nikkei Legacy Museum, among other stops. Randall took her on a 12-mile rafting trip along the White Salmon River with his children. She visited Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge and Panorama Point.

There were a few things on her list, too, like attending her first-ever football game. She saw the Hood River Valley Eagles play their first home game of the season with HRVHS alum Emily Roberts.

“It was so tough!” she said of the game, adding, “The cheerleaders were so cute.”

She also wanted to go to a barbecue and eat hamburgers. “It’s different from a Japanese one,” she says. “Bigger. It’s American culture.” While she likes American food, “it’s so large and big for me,” she said, referring to portion sizes.

Ota’s favorite part of her trip, however, was just being in Hood River. The scenery is beautiful, she said, and does resemble Tsuruta a bit, with the orchards.

Her trip was “very busy but so great.” She left Sept. 16 to go back to Tokyo, where classes start in October.

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