Ikemajima to accept 5000 homestay students
June 19, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo
On Ikemajima, which is located to the north of Miyakojima in Okinawa Prefecture, local people are expanding the scope of their homestay business so they can accept students on school trips into the houses of fishermen and farmers. According to the Miyakojima Tourist Association, the homestay business of the island began in fiscal 2011, with about 250 inbound guests. The association expects approximately 5000 guests in fiscal 2012, and 7000 in 2013. When the initiative started on Ikemajima on June 11, 2011, only 20 host families were registered, so they could only accept school groups of approximately 100 students. However, after the association held workshops to promote the homestay business 57 new host families came forward, making it possible to accept school groups up to about 300 students.
In addition to on Ikemajima, the Miyakajima Tourist Association is promoting the homestay business at Hirara-Karimata, Miyakojima and on Irabujima. The association is responsible for sales to schools, and local groups on the islands liaise with the host families. On June 18, 317 second-grade students of the Okayama Joto High School, from Okayama Prefecture, visited Ikemajima as the first large-scale homestay tour to the island. On June 18 and 19, a total of 237 students stayed on Ikemajima and another 80 students at Karimata.
On June 19, the students had a farming and fisheries experience, after which they were immersed in the local cultural traditions with their host families. Each host family receives 5000 yen per person per night. The Tourist Association estimates that including the transportation expenses, the total economic benefit of the homestay tour of Okayama Joto High School will be about 6 million yen.
Kiyoshige Maedomari, whose family hosted students said, “This project will help bring life to the island, so we want to continue the homestay business. The children on the island will also learn many things through exchange with the students from the main islands of Japan.”
On June 18, at Ikema Elementary and Junior High School a welcome party for students from the Okayama Joto High School was held at which the children from Okayama gave a musical and choral performance
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)
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