Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

HAINES - This must be the slowest a child has ever eaten popcorn - one piece at a time, maneuvered from table to mouth with chopsticks.

But the fifth- and sixth-grade students caught on quickly to this new skill, and their piles of popcorn disappeared as they practiced using the wooden utensils.

Of course, instruction from Grace Amasuga and Kazuko White helped, too.

On Tuesday, students at Haines Elementary School were treated to a visit from Japan on the Road, a program of the Japan-America Society of Oregon.

They also gave presentations at Keating, South Baker and Brooklyn elementary schools.

The JASO has 30 volunteers who give these programs, but they mostly stay within the Portland area.

"It depends on our budget," said Sheryl Fuller, program director for the Japan on the Road school visitation.

The program is funded by grants. If the budget allows it, Fuller said they like to travel around the state.

"At the end of each year, I open the map of Oregon and think "Where have we not been?' " she said.

This year they chose Baker's schools. Fuller came with Grace Amasuga, Harumi Marshall and Kazuko White.

Their first presentation in Haines was to Sue Richard's class, which is combined Grades 5 and 6.

To give the students a feel for school in Japan, the three Japanese women sent Richard out of the room and then gave quick instruction on how to greet the teacher (or, Sensei).

When she entered, the students stood, bowed, and said "Ohayo gozaimasu" (which means "good morning.")

Then, they continued standing until Richard was seated.

And then it was off to Japan, as the three women took the students on a virtual field trip.

But first came an explanation about the time difference. It's a 10-hour flight, but if you leave Portland at 2 p.m. Tuesday, you'll arrive in Tokyo at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

"If you have a birthday in flight ... sorry, it's going to be really short," Fuller said.

"But coming back, you'd have two birthdays," Amasuga said with a smile.

In Tokyo, White decides to take the kids to a restaurant.

"Ramen noodle is a very common food for everyday," she said. "Let's go to the noodle shop."

Then she cups her left hand around an imaginary bowl, and clutches imaginary chopsticks in her right.

"Bowl in one hand, chopsticks in the other. Let's slurp," she said.

(Eating noodles is supposed to be noisy - that's how the chef knows you like the food.)

Next, Marshall takes the students on a train (at 250 mph) from Tokyo to Fuji City, where she grew up.

She holds up a photo of a field of green tea plants growing below a great snowy mountain.

"What do you see? Mount Fuji," she said.

She climbed it when she was 13.

"You can go to timberline by bus, then walk six to eight hours," she said.

Next she unrolls a kite shaped like a fish - it takes three people to stretch it across the classroom. Kites like these, she said, are flown on May 5, Children's Day.

The next stop on the field trip is to Okinawa.

"I want to take you to this beach with sand that looks like stars," Amasuga said, passing around vials full of the unique sand.

And finally, Fuller takes the children north to Hokkaido.

"In your imaginary suitcase you have warm clothes, right? I want to go to the Snow Festival, which is in February," she said.

After the field trip, Marshall and White put on a skit showing a typical school-day morning in Japan.

First, Mom (played by Marshall) puts on an apron and prepares the meal, then goes to wake her daughter (played by White).

The daughter groans about getting up - just like American kids.

And then, the meal: miso soup, fish, pickled vegetables, rice and salad.

Most kids make a face at the notion of fish for breakfast. And salad? No thanks.

Before heading to school, White packs a shiny red leather backpack. These are quite expensive, she said, and one will last a student from first to sixth grade.

After trying it on, the Haines students were surprised at its light weight. That's because, Marshall said, their books are smaller.

And then she held up a hard sheet of plastic, which is slipped between pages so the pencil doesn't poke through.

She demonstrates its other purpose by fanning her face.

"Schools don't have air conditioning," she said.