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A chance to experience Japanese culture in your own home | Arts & Culture

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A chance to experience Japanese culture in your own home
A chance to experience Japanese culture in your own home

If you’ve ever wanted the chance to get some international exposure, right here in Spokane, now is your chance.

Each year, the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in west Spokane hosts hundreds of Japanese students looking to learn more about America.

All of the young women come from Mukogawa Women’s University in Nishinomiya, Japan (Spokane’s Sister City). 

Spokane native Nicole Tamura helps coordinate the student’s stays here in Spokane.

“They are here for about 4 months to study English and American culture. Students live on campus in our dormitories and have their meals in our student dining hall. Our homestay program gives our students an opportunity to experience American life outside of campus and dormitory life,” Tamura said.

While the students stay on campus for most of their time in America, the school looks for Spokane families to host two Japanese students for a weekend.

“Our program is unique because we only ask our host families to provide one weekend of their time to show a pair of students what an American family weekend is like. We do not ask families to entertain our students, but just to have them join in on their regular everyday activities such as cooking, shopping or sporting events,” Tamura said.

Mukogawa provides host families with 24 hours of bilingual support and a variety of materials to make their first homestay a success.

Kathy Belisle is the student director at Mukogawa. She says that one of the biggest benefits is that a Homestay Weekend provides a global experience that is outside our usual “local” experiences. 

“The cross cultural exposure it provides to families, especially children can have an influence in their development such as greater awareness of our own culture and values and how it relates to becoming broader, more global thinkers and global citizens. I believe it can, many times, even influence the shaping of futures,” Belisle said.

Belisle and her husband have been involved at Mukogawa and have been a host family for 22 years.

“Our program enables families to interact with an international community while promoting cultural understanding. Even though our program only requires one weekend, our students usually feel like they have a second family in Spokane!  We have had students come back to Spokane to go to SFCC or EWU and they still spend holidays and weekends with their original host families,” Tamura said.

If you’d like to learn more about the homestay program, you can contact Nicole Tamura at (509) 232-2071 or at homestay@mfwi.edu.

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