[Judi Smith] 

The Seikei program by 2020 will have been going for over 50 years. It was begun by a very far-sighted Cowra Mayor, who had served in WWII, Ab Oliver, and who believed the future of reconciliation lay with young people getting to know and understand each other. My name is Judi Smith. I was for over 30 years, a Japanese teacher at the Cowra High School, and I’m currently the Deputy Mayor at Cowra Shire Council. It became an annual exchange whereby one Cowra High School student went to Tokyo for a year, lived with a number of host families and attended Seikei Gakuen, a very well known private school in Tokyo. And in the same way, one person came from Seikei Gakuen to Cowra High School.

[Jemma Pokoney] 

So when I was just 15 years old, I decided to go to Japan for the year after previously never been overseas. At first I thought it was going to be so easy, but I was very wrong. Hello, my name is Jemma Pokoney. I’m from Cowra and I’m 17 years old. So I was the 47th exchange student. I was in year 10 when the principal came around and said, was there any applicants who wanted to apply? I couldn’t speak any Japanese. I had no friends. So the first few months was quite shocking and a real eye opener, and it was only because of my host families that I was able to overcome the anxiety and the shock of being in a foreign country. My second host family, the first day I moved to her house, mama gave me a cup of tea, and we just talked and talked. Her English was amazing. That family, I just loved them, and mama, every night would put cherry blossom scent in the bath. And oh, kawaii, she was so cute!

Being able to just go, you know what, I’m going to do it, I’m going to accept their culture, I’m going to take it in my stride, I’m going to eat the fish, I’m going to go to kendo practice for three hours. By doing that, I was able to not only gain amazing friendships, I created a peace within myself, but also with my friends and my family from Japan. If I can go over there, not speak the language, have them as complete strangers, and let them invite me into their own home, why can’t we do that in the rest of the world? Because peace, it’s about feeling the same things. And that’s why the Seikei Exchange is so important. It’s because it is creating peace for the younger generations.

Producer/Sound Design: Masako Fukui

Music Credits: Guitar Music Performed by Graham Apthorpe and Peter Reeves

Blossoming by Podington Bear ( CC BY-NC 3.0 

Sunset Stroll into the Wood by Podington Bear ( CC BY-NC 3.0 

Photo Credits: Photo 1: Cowra High School student Anna McLean and Seikei Gakuen Exchange student Aoi Nito, 2009; Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Photo 2: First Seikei Gakuen exchange student Keiji Takezawa with Mr & Mrs Ab Oliver and friend Clarrie Hannaford at Cowra Airport, 1970; Oliver Family Archives / Cowra Guardian

Photo 3: Cowra High School student Anna McLean and Seikei Gakuen Exchange student Aoi Nito at the POW Campsite, 2009; Photo by Mayu Kanamori


The Cowra Voices Audio Archive Project 2023

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