2013 Trip Story

MSCA trip to Miasa-Omachi, Japan, June 27 - July 14, 2013

It's been over a month since the MSCA Student and Artist trip ended but I find myself thinking about it quite often even though I am now in central China. As opposed to the almost aborted 2011 MSCA trip to Japan, where we had only two students on the trip, this year a total of 14 students joined us, along with nine adults which included leaders, chaperons and two artists who were there for the 6th Annual Sister Cities Artist Exchange. As always there were unforeseen surprises in both itinerary and student discipline. But, none of which put a damper on the fun, excitement and education of all involved.

The Student Group in our traditional group photo
at Kinkaku-Ji in Kyoto

This year, my co-leader Marci Van Sicklen and I were joined once again by our MSCA Co-President, Debbie Crowningshield and our faithful guide Travis Rzeplinski, along with chaperons, Christine Kenton, Louisa Morris and Susan Symonds and students: Molly Mielke, Madelyn Crowningshield, Sophie Swan-Edlund, Melissa Jimenez, Emily Symonds, Amaya Garcia, Hali Holmes, Carmen Searles, Zephania Bishop, Theo Burgess, Sean Symonds, Jackson Kenton-Braden, Rowan Kawczak and Logan Gruys. Also, we were together for portions of the trip with the two Mendocino Artists representing our town at the Asagura Art Center Artists Reception this year, Carolyn Zeitler and Rhoda Teplow.

Students relaxing at the Miraikan
as they watch the Earth go around and round.

We landed at Narita International Airport just after 7:00 pm and were met by our good friends Sorano Oda, who spent a year attending the Community School in Mendocino, Shibutami-san from the Miasa City Office and a new young volunteer by the name of Nakamura-san who is attending high school in Colorado for two years. We all boarded a bus and headed for Iidabashi station and the Tokyo Central Youth Hostel. We arrived only an hour before they locked the doors at 11:00 pm. The next day was the beginning of 10 days of non-stop travel and sight seeing before arriving at our Sister City of Miasa-Omachi in Nagano Prefecture. Before we were due to show up in Miasa-Omachi, our Itinerary called for us to spend three nights in Tokyo, two nights in Hiroshima, three nights in Kyoto and two nights in Takayama, with day trips to other cities while in each of those cities. It proved to be a constant escapade of self-realization for each of the students and adults.


Weather Globe at the Miraikan. The object eveyone is watching in the previous photo.

In Tokyo we visited one of our favorite places, The Miraikan Future Museum in Daiba. The students really enjoy wandering around this facility and interacting with all the various displays. Also, Asimo the robot puts on a show for everyone a couple of times a day.

Also we visited the Edo Museum. Everyone enjoyed the detailed miniatures of old Edo (Tokyo), and the armor and clothes display's almost transport you back to that harsh but delicate period of so long ago. If you have ever read “Shogun” by James Clavell you have some idea what I am talking about.

As with most evenings in Japan the group split up for lunches and dinners, mainly because it is difficult to find a restaurant that can fit all of us at the same time. Also, it allowed people to choose what they would like to try in this new and different culture.

Before we departed from Mendocino I had looked into having the group attend a Japanese baseball game at the Tokyo Dome, Home of the Tokyo Giants. Well, it just so happened that there was a game between the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and the Yakult Swallows and some of our group enjoyed the game one night in Tokyo.


A jet-lagged Jackson & Sean attended the Baseball game
between the Hawks and Swallows at the Tokyo Dome
with Amaya, Travis, Susan and Christine.

From Tokyo we took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima to view the Peace Park. Travis even took some of the students to the Hiroshima Castle for the first time. The students are always pretty overwhelmed by the Atomic Bomb Museum and the Hiroshima Castle was a good release from viewing all the horror of the war. Also we spent the next day on Miyajima Island, a great place to take a break after the hectic pace of Tokyo.


Miyajima. Spending the entire day on this beautiful island helped restore everyone's energy for the rest of the journey to Miasa-Omachi.

Our schedule then took us to Kyoto for a couple days of sightseeing and then on to Takayama for a day and finally to Miasa-Omachi for six nights with Homestay hosts and the Artist's Reception Party at the Asagura Art & Cultural Center in Omachi.


During our visit to Nara we toured the Todai-ji, or The Eastern Great Temple. The students crawled through "Buddha's nostril" to receive 100 years of Happiness.

This years School Day at Mendocino K8's Sister School, Miasa 1-9 School was the best School Day we have had. Our Miasa hosts always think of fun things for us to do and this year was the most fun. The entire day was spent with students in the gym, their classrooms and eating lunch with the the entire school. Our group had a great time reacquainting themselves with their Homestay guests from 2012.

The students and adults joined in paint symbols and pictures on the Taiko barrels made by Tokio Oda.

The 6th Annual Art Exchange Show looked great and the reception was very well attended by many area residents. This year there was also a show at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art for one week in May where over 1,500 people viewed the show.

The entire six days in Miasa-Omachi were filled with activities for students and adults and I think everyone was quite worn out by the time we departed for Tokyo. Many a tear was shed on our departure day.

This Sister City relationship has grown over the years to form a close bond between Miasa-Omachi and Mendocino. The t-shirts we were given this year by our Miasa hosts say: “We are Family” and I truly think this is true. I have lived in Miasa for a year and I was treated like I was part of the family by all my friends. The Japanese are the most hospitable people I have met. I look forward to repaying their hospitality next May when they return to Mendocino with a new group of students for the 23rd Annual Student Exchange and artists for the 7th Annual Art Exchange.


Marci, Satomi, Oda, Debbie & Hiromi Kondo enjoying a good laugh at the Artist's Reception at the Asagura Art & Cultural Center in Omachi.


Maekawa-san teaching Travis how to cut fish to make Sashimi.
Travis and I stayed with Maekawa-san during our visit to Miasa.


A Panorama view of the Artists Dinner at the Wachigai Restaurant in Omachi. Our Miasa-Omachi hosts are pouring us drinks.

Now the planning for the May 2013, 23rd Student, and August, 7th Artist Exchanges to be held in Mendocino are in preparation and things are looking like next years’ trips may well again be the “best trips ever.”

I want to thank everyone, individuals and businesses, who are involved with the MSCA for their help in making this and every exchange the successful and educational events they are. Without the many volunteers who take on all the many required tasks these exchanges could never occur.

If you would like to know more information about, or become a member of the Mendocino Sister Cities Association please go to our Home or Contact pages at: Home or contact for Membership information.

You can also read about the 2013 Student and Artists trips by reading the MSCA 2013 Newsletter by licking on this link: 2013 Newsletter

I lived in our Sister City of Miasa-Omachi from July 2011 to May of 2012 when I returned to Mendocino with the Artists group, shortly before the Student Group arrived in mid May, 2012. You can read about my activities in Miasa-Omachi in my Blog "A Mendonesian's year in Miasa, Japan" at: http://amendonesianinmiasa.wordpress.com/


As of September 6, 2013 I started living in Xiamen, Fujian, China.
I arrived in China on July 15, 2013 after co-leading the MSCA Student/Artist groups for two weeks in Japan. I traveled around China for almost two months before arriving in Xiamen. You can read about my adventures in China in my Blog "Traveling Asia with the ebb and flow of Causality" at: http://mendoasia.wordpress.com/

Ja mata,
Mike L. Evans
MSCA President




Playing a massive game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with the entire Miasa School against the MSCA Student Group.


A line of losers following behind one of the undefeated players.


Logan with a group of teammates before beginning a game during the Miasa School Day.


Hali with a group of Miasa Students stringing the drum heads onto the newly painted Taiko.


The First course of the Artist's Dinner at the Wachigai Restaurant.


Debbie, Travis, Yuichi Yoshida, Christine & Susan stop for a photo after enjoying the Artits Dinner on their way to enjoy Karaoke.


Pouring Sake at the Asagura Cafe Bar during the Artist's Reception.


Jackson & Sean playing with the Miasa Kindergarten students.


Kokoro & Harura enjoying flavored shaved ice during the Miasa School day.


Dinner Party at Maekawa-san's house with neighbors and past and present Miasa School Principals.


Miasa Taiko Group performing at the Miasa School Day visit.