Aya Arashiro, “Mother of Okinawa,” has been looking after local foreign exchange students for over 20 years

Aya Arashiro, “Mother of Okinawa,” has been looking after local foreign exchange students for over 20 years

Photograph: Aya Arashiro (center) smiling with Son (left) and Sujatmiko (right) on March 18, Nago

March 28, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

At the graduation and completion ceremony at the National Institute of Technology, Okinawa College in Nago on March 18, Aya Arashiro, 70, who runs the dining bar “Aya” in Nago, watched over two foreign exchange students. Arashiro has been supporting foreign exchange students from schools like the Okinawa College and Meio University as the “Mother of Nago,” before sending them off to their respective countries, since around 20 years ago.

The two students graduating from the Okinawa College this year are Sunny Sujatmiko Hartanto, 22, from Indonesia, who is graduating from the Machine System Engineering department, and Son Tuayai, 23, from Laos, who is graduating from the Biological Resource Engineering department. Arashiro looked after the two students by letting them stay at her house on the weekends, and introducing them to local people at the restaurant.

Arashiro said of the two graduates, “I am at the same time both happy to see them go on to do their best on their respective paths, and saddened to see them leave.”

Sujatmiko will be moving on to Toyohashi University of Technology in Aichi Prefecture to continue gaining knowledge and skills for another two years. He is looking to start his own business in the future, and was commended at the graduation as an exceptional student. [Sujatmiko] said to Arashiro, smiling, “I want to take my grandchild with me at some point. I don’t know when that will be though.”

Son has his sights set on the biotechnology world. As his home faces rapidly decreasing forests due to things like agricultural development, Son says, “I want to protect the environment.” He is planning on returning to his hometown in Xaisomboun Province, and put his skills to work in agriculture. He reflected, “In my three years in Okinawa, everyone was very nice. The weather in Okinawa is similar to Laos, so it was easy to live here.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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