By Yoos, Cam on August 22, 2019.
A little over a year ago, Gloria Gouthreau got a first-hand taste of Japanese culture.
Starting today, Gouthreau and a group of Softball Alberta representatives will return the favour as part of the Alberta-Hokkaido Softball Exchange.
Last August, Gouthreau headed to Japan as the Softball Alberta representative with a girls team of players aged 16-18 for a week-long trip consisting of international ball and cultural experiences, an exchange that started in 1980 when Hokkaido became the sister province of Alberta.
This year, the Japanese contingent comes to Canada and their plane touches down today in Calgary before heading to Edmonton to kick off a week of softball and, just as importantly, Canadian culture.
“It has changed from 20 years ago when I first went from more sports to now they’re learning more of the culture side of it, getting the kids as much exposure to a different country from their traditions and how they live, to their food,” said Gouthreau, who was a member of a host group of Alberta softball players that welcomed a girls team from Hokkaido to Alberta back in 1985.
“When we went over there (last year) we got to do the kimono thing. They dressed us all up and we toured all over. We even went to school. We went in the morning and took a cooking class and a music class and then, of course, we taught them how to line dance.”
Now, the Japanese contingent is going to experience all things Alberta over the next week.
After landing in Calgary today on a direct flight, the group heads straight to Edmonton.
“They’re going to stay at West Edmonton Mall,” said Gouthreau. “We’re going to have dinner right there and go to the Spaghetti Factory. On Friday we go to the legislature.”
After a training session, the team heads to Snow Valley Aerial Park before a welcome banquet Friday night with government dignitaries from both Hokkaido and Alberta.
“They do their meet and greet and present all of their gifts to each other,” said Gouthreau. “They have to do it with the proper protocol, give them their gift and hand them the business card.”
The Japanese team will play two games in Edmonton before heading to Strathmore for another pair of games.
“Five of the girls from the team that went over last year are playing for the Alberta team and they’ll play all of the games,” said Gouthreau.
From there, the tour heads to the mountains.
“We’ll go to Lake Louise and they can see the Ch‰teau Louise and from there we’ll go to Banff and they’ll go up the gondola and have supper at the top,” said Gouthreau.
Back in Calgary, the Japanese athletes will shop at the Chinook Mall, visit the Olympic facility and luge and go down the Bow River.
“On Tuesday, a family is going to take them out to their acreage and they’re going to have a family barbecue,” said Gouthreau. “When we have western night at the final banquet on Wednesday night they’re going to get their cowboy hats.”
The Japanese contingent flies out Thursday, but thanks to social media staying in contact with their Canadian friends won’t be a problem.
“There will be lots of tears, the same as when we left there,” said Gouthreau. “Our girls are crying and their girls are crying. Of course now, it’s not like in the old days where you have to write a letter. Now we have FaceTime and Snapchat, so they’ve kept in contact with each other.”