Japan Study Tour holds special significance

The University of Lethbridge has been sending students on Japanese study tours for more than 20 years, but you would be hard-pressed to find two students more appreciative of the opportunity to visit Japan than cousins Aaron and Taryn Tamayose.

The duo will accompany education professor Dr. Lance Grigg as part of the 15-student group selected to participate in the Hokkai-Gakuen University exchange program later this month. Fourth-generation Japanese, or Yonsei, the two will finally realize a lifelong dream of visiting their ancestral homeland.

"This trip is an opportunity of a lifetime, and there's no words to explain how excited I am to be a part of this with the University and my cousin," says Aaron, a psychology major.

"I feel very strongly about my heritage, I like to express it, and what better way to learn a little bit more about the culture?"

Their grandfather's family moved to Canada shortly before the Second World War and was born and raised in Hardieville, just north of Lethbridge. Their grandmother, who had visited Canada as a small child but returned to her native Okinawa, was eventually forced out of Japan after the Battle of Okinawa. Her family eventually wound up in Hardieville and the Tamayose legacy was born.

Over the years, both Aaron and Taryn have experienced the Japanese culture through their grandparents and are eager to see it firsthand.

"We have a really strong family relationship. Growing up, we kept a lot of traditions but I know a lot of them have been westernized as well," says Aaron.

"One advantage we have is our Japanese background but at the same time, that background is a more westernized or assimilated view. A lot of our traditions are related to traditions in Japan, but I expect they are nothing like what it is there."

Taryn, a new media major, says her grandmother would often relate stories of the war years and how her family was forced to live in caves during the 82-day long Battle of Okinawa. She won't get to visit Okinawa on this trip but feels it will lay a foundation for future visits.

"This is a life experience for me and an opportunity to really get immersed in the Japanese culture," she says. "It's already a part of me and this has been a lifelong dream to go there, so I expect to take a lot away from it."

The Tamayose's say they were aware that travel opportunities existed for students at the
U of L but never expected to participate. Once the Japan trip became a possibility, they made it a priority.

"I felt that this was worth the sacrifice to delay my convocation because the rewards would be greater to go to Japan and experience something I might never get the chance to do again," says Aaron, who will now convocate in the fall.

"I understood there were a lot of applied opportunities for U of L, students but I never really thought I'd be a part of it. In the last few years, I've really engaged myself with the applied learning process. It's one of those things that enriches the
educational experience the University offers."

That they will live this dream and get to share it with one another only enhances the experience.

"I've never been away for a month so it's comforting to go with someone who's grown up in the same family and has learned many of the same things about our culture," says Taryn.