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Japan Homestay: Two Cultures, Many Memories

07/11/2014, 7:30pm CDT
By Isaac Haight, NSC Media Intern

The Tokiwagi Gauken High School has made it a tradition to attend Schwan’s USA CUP as they have been making the trip from Sendai, Japan for years. To put in perspective, Pam Webb is enjoying her 15th year in the Homestay Program with Tokiwagi.

Hinako Suzuki dribbles the ball downfield for Tokiwagi as Erin Lunde chases for Dakota REV Venom during a U16 girls Super Elite game. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Webb, who is a local resident, said her family started participating in the Homestay Program in 1999 when her daughters played in Schwan’s USA CUP.

“Back in 1999 our daughters were that age and we decided as a team to host their team and now the girls have all grown up and we’re still doing it,” Webb. “Our children have grown and they have joined the program too.”

This year Pam will be hosting three girls from the Tokiwagi team. What keeps Webb’s family in the Homestay Program is the impact they make on the girl’s experiences during their visit.

“Every group has new experiences and the girls are all really fun,” Webb said. “We get to know them and they are such a great joy.”

Seigo Masubuchi, who is the team leader and helps organize the team’s trip, said the Homestay Program adds something unique to the tournament.

What they enjoy most is the homestay and the families that they meet,” Masubuchi said. “This experience, they don’t get that in Japan. The kindness of the host families and Minnesotans and the friendliness is great.”

A group of seven girls from the Tokiwagi team will be staying with Pat Quinlan, who is from Stacey, Minnesota and has hosted many girls from past teams. He said the joy of showing the girls around and spending time with them is well worth it every year.

“It’s fun to show them Minnesota, not just the United States,” Quinlan said. “It’s also fun for us to hang around with them and to see how they interact, but we try to show them as much of Minnesota as possible.”

Being the land of 10,000 lakes, Quinlan said some of the girls have never seen so many lakes in their lives and they were astonished by them.

Pam Webb has hosted Japanese teams for 15 years.

Just yesterday we took them to the Mall of America and on the way home they were surprised by how many lakes we have,” Quinlan said. “They would point out all the lakes and boats and they were just saying ‘wow another one and another one’. They just couldn’t believe it.”

Every tournament brings a batch of new memories and experiences for players and hosts alike and most of the players still have a lot of gratitude towards their hosts.

With all the visits year after year, Webb and her family still receives notes from previous guests who have enjoyed their stay at Schwan’s USA CUP.

“One of the players we hosted from a few years ago actually sent along a note with one of the players here this year to my daughter saying ‘hello’,” Webb said.

Despite all obstacles of trying to communicate and maintain a relationship, Masubuchi said some players and families do make the effort.

“It’s hard with the language barrier for [hosts and players] to communicate, but some older girls still remember their hosts and send notes back,” Masubuchi.

One of Webb’s most personally conflicting moments was when she was watching the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup while one of her hosts from a few years ago was playing.

“One year we hosted one of the girls who played on [Japan’s] National Team and she was the one who scored the winning goal [in the shootout],” Webb said.

The goal was in the World Cup final against the United States and gave Japan the World Cup title.

Even with all the different players and experiences, Quinlan describes the Homestay Program perfectly.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Quinlan said.

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Tag(s): July 11, 2014