ST. PETERSBURG – St. Petersburg’s Perkins Elementary students recently traveled halfway around the world for a lesson in friendship. The students paid tribute to one of Takamatsu, Japan’s most delicate forms of nature.
Thanks to technology, Perkins and Kinashi Elementary students got acquainted via Ustream Oct. 17.
The exchange is an encore of the informal Sister Schools relationship between St. Petersburg and Takamatsu when students from both schools marked the opening of the 2012 Takamatsu Bonsai Ueki Festival. During the virtual visit, students shared information about daily life, sports, pets, favorite foods, and hobbies. Kinashi students also taught their new friends about bonsai, also known as the Japanese white pine.
Takamatsu is a primary producer of Japanese bonsai. Its western region represents about 80 percent of Japan’s matsu, or pine bonsai market. Takamatsu bonsai are recognized for their beautiful forms and are favored by growers for resistance to root rot and other damage. The city is also home to the Ritsurin Garden, a popular tourist attraction, which dates back to the Edo Period when the first bonsai were cultivated.
The Sister Schools exchange expands the formal Sister Cities affiliation between St. Petersburg and Takamatsu, which celebrated 50 years in 2011. As part of that relationship, the city’s International Relations committee selects high school students to live with Japanese host families for three weeks each summer in a cultural exchange. This year, Katherine “KC” Shelton and Tien Weber visited Takamatsu’s cultural attractions, attended high school and learned the art of Udon noodle-making. Meanwhile, Takamatsu student ambassadors Eriko Fujita, Ikumi Yamamoto, Ayaka Ono and Ken Takahashi spent two weeks in St. Petersburg visiting museums, shopping, attending a City Council meeting and sampling a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.