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Getting a taste for Japan

Members of Port Hardy’s Twinning Society mingle with their hosts during their last trip to Numata, Japan, in 2009.  - Photo by Leslie Driemel
Members of Port Hardy’s Twinning Society mingle with their hosts during their last trip to Numata, Japan, in 2009.
— image credit: Photo by Leslie Driemel

PORT HARDY—Gyoza? Yaki Soba? Oyaka Don? What’s your favourite Japanese dish?

At one time many locals would have confessed that they’d never even tried Japanese food.  But times have changed. These days, folks are regularly tantalizing their taste buds by sampling the many dishes served at several North Island eateries.

It seems there is nothing like food to spark an interest in another culture.

But while eating at a restaurant is great, members of Port Hardy’s Twinning Society have also had the chance to take it to the next level by sampling authentic Japanese cooking as guests in the homes of Port Hardy’s sister city of Numata, Japan.

They’ve also joined in with a community picnic where beef was cooked over outdoor hibachi grills; watched a chef demonstrate sushi-making, then prepared their own; and even sampled a “McSushi” at the airport food court.

But food is just one part of the cultural travel experience that Twinning Society members have enjoyed on trips to Numata, a town with a population of about 3,600, situated in the northwestern part of Hokkaido Island about 100 kilometres north of Sapporo.

The Twinning relationship between Port Hardy and Numata goes back almost 20 years.  Every year trips alternate between the communities, with North Islanders traveling to Japan one year and hosting visitors to Port Hardy the next.

Planning for the next trip, in August 2013, is under way now, and if you’ve ever thought of visiting Japan, this summer may be just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. About a dozen people usually participate in each trip, usually a mix of adults plus several high school students (especially those keen to practice the Japanese language skills they’ve been learning at school).

A few of the Twinning Society members who were hoping to go to Japan this summer have had to postpone their trip, so there now looks to be spaces for more people to join the group this August.

If this sounds interesting to you, a trip with the Twinning Society begins by contacting the group, many of whom have already been to Numata and can answer all your questions. The best way to do this is to come to the next meeting on Monday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Hall, or by contacting one of the phone numbers below.

On a trip, everybody pays for their own plane tickets and there are usually a couple of nights in hotels along the way, but after that the costs are minimal because our Japanese friends welcome you into their homes as home stay guests and make arrangements for  sightseeing and cultural outings. A highlight of the visit will be a chance to participate in Numata’s famous “Yotaka Andon Festival”, an event featuring huge seven-metre-tall, colourfully lit “andons” (Japanese lanterns) that are paraded through the town streets accompanied by dancing, flute-playing and the pounding of Taiko drums.

This trip is a great way to experience real Japanese culture, while traveling safely in the company of your Port Hardy neighbours.

For more information, contact Leslie at 250-949-6665 (daytime) or 250-949-2315 (evening) or Pat at 250-949-6488.

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