Japanese students get the full Burbank experience during two-week exchange

Japanese students get the full Burbank experience during two-week exchange
Visiting Japanese students react as makeup artist Sean Conklin adds scrapes and cuts to fellow student Mikeila Fujimoto on Wednesday. The students are from Ota, Japan, one of Burbank's sister cities. (Roger Wilson/Staff photographer)

Mikeila Fujimoto, 16, sat patiently as Sean Conklin, an artist from Burbank's Make-up Designory, applied bloody gashes onto her face.

It was one of the many activities scheduled Wednesday for Mikeila and her 11 other classmates from Ota, Japan on their two-week visit to Burbank.

PHOTOS: Japanese visitors get made up

Each year, Burbank families host students from one of four sister cities while sending local high school students to another. This summer, a dozen Burbank students visited Incheon, Korea, and another eight visited Gaborone, Botswana to volunteer on its malaria elimination campaign, said Library Services Director Sharon Cohen, whose department partially funds the program.

"Our kids, when they go, they come back changed," said Win Ieraci, a seven-year Burbank host parent whose two teenage sons visited Japan and Korea in the past. "They become more grown up."

This summer, her sons are staying local.

"My kids consider this their vacation," Ieraci said. "It's not a matter of what they see, it's getting to know people and making new friends."

After Mikeila's face was made up, she glanced in a mirror and gasped.

"Eww, oh my God," she said, as a bunch of her Japanese and American counterparts snapped photos.

"You poor thing," said Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, who earlier in the day gave the visitors a tour of City Hall. "This is amazing."

Mikeila thought so too.

"I kind of felt like a star getting my makeup done," she said.

While in Burbank, Ikuo Takahashi, an Ota teacher chaperoning the trip, has most enjoyed learning about American culture through the host families.

"I believe this program will be the turning point of their lives," Takahashi said of his students. "This program makes students active."

Mikeila is boarding with Ashley Garber, a 17-year-old Burbank High School senior. The pair met in Japan last year and planned to reconnect in Burbank this summer.

"I've been looking forward to this for a while," Ashley said.

Mikeila, a huge "Hannah Montana" fan, is most looking forward to her trip to Disneyland.

"I'm really lucky because not everyone can come to America and have this much fun," she said.

-- Alene Tchekmedyian,

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.