SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Everyone likes to get away in the summer, but Iroha Sawada came over 6500 miles. The 13-year-old lives in Tokyo, Japan. She’s here for a month on a 4-H exchange program, staying with the Cook family on Onondaga Hill.

Elaine Cooke, the host mother, said she is impressed with how helpful Iroha is and what she has taught the family.

“I find that the Japanese kids are so respectful,” Elaine said. “They’re helpful. She helps me hanging the laundry in the mornings. She’s great with 4H, very crafty. She taught us how to do origami and felt wool.”

Emma Cook, the host family’s daughter and a student at West Genesee Middle School, said she has had lots of fun with Iroha.

“We both like playing instruments, and we both like to craft. We both like to play Nintendo Switch very much. We like to play that together,” Emma said.

This is the second summer the Cooks have welcomed a visitor from Japan into their home. Iroha has been learning our culture and sharing hers with her host family.

While Iroha was a little homesick at first, it didn’t take her long to find parts of our culture to warm up to, including her favorite American food, pizza.

Communication has been a bit of a challenge. Iroha is learning English as she goes along. But the more time she spends with the Cooks, and their friends, the more they all realize that the right approach helps to break down a lot of barriers.

Iroha leaves on Thursday, August 17, and she’ll take with her many wonderful memories of her summer in Central New York. She’s created some lovely keepsakes to leave behind, making sure her new friends don’t soon forget this summer either.