International Exchange Progam Highlight

Japanese boy marvels at Cattaraugus County Fair

By RICK MILLER Olean Times Herald


LITTLE VALLEY — Shinnosuke Wakasa, a 15-year-old Japanese boy from the Toyko suburbs, is one of the last people you’d expect to meet at the Cattaraugus County Fair in rural Western New York.


Yet, there Shinnosuke was early Monday afternoon, showing a goat that belonged to his 4-H host family, the Ubertys from Farmersville.


The New York 4-H requested host families, Holly Uberty said. “We applied and were accepted.” Shinnosuke is part of a 4-H equivalent organization and came for a 3 1/2-week visit on July 23.


“It’s an immersion program,” Uberty, a mother of five, explained. “He’s part of our daily life — chores included.”

Shinnosuke speaks a minimal amount of English. Uberty said they have been using Google translate to communicate.


“There’s a little language barrier,” she said. More so for her than her children. “Their culture is a little different. He’s not glued to his phone and he’s willing to help with the chores,” she added.


They plan on visiting Allegany State Park, Niagara Falls and Little Rock City while Shinnosuke is here.


“He’s trying to pick up more English, so we’re trying to keep it simple,” Uberty said, adding, “He’s amazed by everything rural — the people, the food, the clean air and the space.”

Shinnosuke is camping at the fairgrounds with his host family. He hasn’t come to appreciate fair food — so far.


“It doesn’t matter what country you are from,” he said. “A kid is still a kid.”


Shinnosuke, Uberty said, “speaks with the kids much more easily than adults.” She added: “To be able to provide this experience is a good feeling. The 4-H here welcomed him with open arms.”


Shinnosuke walked into the goat judging area with five other youth, all Cloverbuds, the youngest of 4-H age groups.


Judge Carly Santangelo was briefed on Shinnosuke’s limited English and kept her comments to him brief with plenty of gestures and lots of smiles. A licensed judge, she is an agriculture teacher at Cuba-Rushford Central School.


In his brief remarks to the Olean Times Herald, Shinnosuke summed up his exhibiting one of the Uberty’s goats before an appreciative crowd at the county fair as “fun.”


Uberty’s son Dagon said he’s “learned some Japanese” from Shinnosuke, and son Wyatt said he’s “learned about the culture.”

Renee Uberty, 14, was also showing goats Monday, as was another Uberty son, Otto, 12, and daughter, Verna, 5, who was one of the Cloverbuds Shinnosuke was competing against.

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