“Itadakimasu,” they said in unison as they joined their hands together.
The students then got their chopsticks moving — as best they could — in attacking the variety of Japanese food in the traditional bento boxes in front of them.
One of the students, Daniel Figueroa, said that eating raw fish in sushi was something he’d have to get used to, “but I’ll give a good try.”
The students, who had said in Japanese that they were grateful for the food and now ready to eat, will be using the words and gestures they practiced at the Tracy restaurant when they go to Tracy’s sister city, Memuro, Japan, next month.
The 10 eighth-grade students will make the weeklong trip, June 4 to 12, as part of the annual sister-city youth exchange between the two towns. A group of students from Japan has already visited Tracy this spring.
The Tracy students were selected to take part in the cultural exchange through a process of essays, interviews and personal recommendations.
Since the first of the year, they have been meeting twice-monthly with chaperones Pat Crowley and Joan Keith and cultural advisers Hiroe Vogt and Cindy Sandford.
Vogt and Sandford, who were both born in Japan, were with the students last week at Mikasa, explaining the mealtime rituals practiced in Japanese homes and telling the students about the Japanese food they were eating.
Ken Yasui, a founder of the Tracy-Memuro sister city program in 1988, told the students they would have a good time in Japan.
“You will return with added confidence that you can deal with new situations and meet new people,” he said. “You will have grown up and become more mature.”
Students making the trip to Japan are Faith Treiss, Daniel Figueroa, Stephany Uhl, Hannah Riley, Isa Guragain, Sydney Feinstein, Jack Crowley, Ashley Christopher, Kiana Soeung and Eleazar Lee.
Tracy residents wanting to help the students defray trip expenses can send tax-deductible contributions to Sister City Memuro Youth Exchange, P.O. Box 428, Tracy, CA 95378. The tax ID number is 94-3127353.
• Contact Sam Matthews at email@example.com or 830-4234.