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All things Japanese celebrated at annual festival

ENCINITAS — In the summer of 1988 Patricia Williams boarded a plane to Tokyo as an exchange student representing San Jose State University.The two-month visit was a life affirming experience that included an official welcome from city leaders bearing bouquets, media coverage and a ride on the bullet train. She lived with two host families during her time, taking classes in the Japanese language, koto (Japanese stringed instrument), calligraphy, flower arranging and paper doll making.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 3 Williams will have the opportunity to reciprocate the hospitality by rolling out the red carpet for six Japanese middle-school students for the fourth annual Japan Festival at the Encinitas Library.

The five girls and one boy are exchange students from Encinitas’ sister city — Amakusa City (formerly named Hondo).

“Everyone is invited,” Williams said. “It doesn’t matter if you are from Encinitas or not.”

Coincidentally, 1988 was also the year Encinitas established a Sister City relationship with the people of Amakusa City as a member of Sister Cities International, an organization dedicated to advancing and promoting friendship and good will among world nations.

The festival celebrates the Encinitas Sister City Program and includes performances by Reiko Obata, a leading American koto player; the Japanese Chorus Kaguya; and Kikuta Kai, a Japanese folk dance group who will encourage audience participation in the bon odori festival dances.

Local restaurants including Ogata Japanese Cuisine will provide a sampling of ethnic food for the afternoon such as inarizushi (sweetened rice wrapped in fried tofu) and edamame (soy beans).

Other activities include origami lessons as well as a “Spin & Win” prize wheel.

All attendees will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win more prizes.

“Books, movies and music related to Japan will be available for checkout, and a Japanese book giveaway will also be featured,” Williams added.

Williams said the idea for the festival came about five years ago when Grace Hanggi-Noe of the Encinitas Sister City Program filled out a program suggestion form at the library.

“I thought ‘Wow, this is great’ and I contacted the committee,” Williams explained. “It was too late to organize a festival in 2008, and the following year our exchange students visited Japan, so we held our first Japanese Festival in 2010.”

Hanggi-Noe is a parent whose daughter visited Japan in 2002. This year her family joins others in serving as host families to the exchange students who will be arriving on Monday.

The visitors’ itinerary includes a tour of Encinitas and City Hall on Tuesday.

The next day they will take the Coaster to a Padres game at Petco Park.

On Thursday, the schedule includes a visit to Torrey Pines State Park, including the glider port, along with a beach walk and surfing lessons.

Friday the students will visit the Carlsbad Outlet Mall, race at K1 Speed in Carlsbad, go bowling and hike at Double Peak Park in San Marcos.

Saturday morning will be free followed by the Japan Festival and later a farewell potluck dinner.

The students will depart City Hall on Sunday morning with a

stop at Disneyland before boarding a plane back home.

“I’m so glad that Patricia organized the festival because it complements the Sister Cities Program so well,” Hanggi-Noe added.

After college Williams returned to Japan with her mother, Ayako Driscoll, who was born and raised in the Land of the Rising Sun. Later, she routinely traveled from San Jose to Tokyo as a flight attendant for American Airlines.

In 1997 her essay, “Okayama: My Memory” was published as part of a collection of exchange student essays commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Okayama-San Jose Sister City relationship.

On April 6 Williams was presented with the 2013 SoCal Outstanding Sister City Member Award.

The Japan Festival is free and made possible by the Friends of the Encinitas Library. Volunteers supporting their efforts come from Encinitas Sister City Program, San Dieguito Academy’s Japanese Honor Society and Palomar College.

For more information on Sister Cities International, visit To learn how to get involved with the Encinitas Sister City Program, call the Parks and Recreation Department at (760) 633-2740. The Encinitas Library is located at 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas.


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