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A platform for cultural exchange

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SHARING EXPERIENCES: Exchange students from Japan at the Soka Ikeda College in Chennai.
SHARING EXPERIENCES: Exchange students from Japan at the Soka Ikeda College in Chennai.

K. Lakshmi

Japanese students visit Soka Ikeda College

CHENNAI: It looked more like a meeting among long-lost friends at Soka Ikeda College at Madhanankuppam near Ambattur. Except that the students were from two different nations, and strangers just a couple of hours earlier.

The entire college wore a festive look as 21 Japanese students, including two men, visited the college on a two-day cultural exchange programme. The local students bid adieu to class sessions for a few hours and explained to the visiting group what Indian values and traditions were.

The classrooms were transformed into a platform for cultural exchange wherein the girls sang their traditional songs, spoke about their food and education. Japanese students surprised their Indian counterparts by easily adapting to Indian customs. While they enacted sumo wrestling, Soka Ikeda students sang Tamil songs.

As excited as her other Japanese friends were about her new `bindi' and `mehendi', Mika Nagata, a first year student of Soka University, Tokyo, said "We discovered several similar things between the two nations from rice as staple food to festivals ... But, the food here is spicy." Her friends nodded approvingly. Their favourite Indian food `Dosa', the girls shouted in unison. Kumi Ishizaki, a first year student of English literature, said the education process was tough in Japan when compared to India. Students had to write exams to get entry into junior level and high school level. A degree course meant four years. But, job opportunities were aplenty, she added.

Yuko Nemato, a final year student of Sociology, read meticulously from her book in which she had jotted down few Tamil words "Vanakkam, Nanri, Appa, Amma."

Isao Takagi, a professor at Soka University who accompanied the students, said the students visited educational universities in Calcutta and Delhi during their two-week stay in India.

College chairman Sethu Kumanan said the institution welcomed Japanese students every year for cultural exchange programmes as it facilitated understanding of other nations' culture and customs. The college was named after renowned Japanese poet Daisaku Ikeda, also the honorary founder.

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