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Mayor and Group
Delegates and Several Members of the Antioch-Chichibu Sister City Organization at Official Welcoming Ceremony at Chichibu City Hall during visit of July 2015.

.Seated in front row from left: Mrs. Lani Wright, The honorable Mayor Sean Wright of Antioch, the Honorable Mayor Kunayasu KUKI of Chichibu (center with flags), Ms. Monica Wilson, member of Antioch City Council, and Mr. Katsuo IKEDA, president of the Sister-City program in Chichibu.

How it Works

Cchiai Bedroom

Delegate's room during visit in 2015.
Note "paper" room dividers.

Delegates visit each other's city in the last two weeks of July, coinciding with the Summer Festival in Chichibu and with summer vacation for Antioch students.

Each delegate to Japan will be assigned to a host family in Chichibu. From the host's home, delegates will go on tours and activities planned by the host Sister City organization. The most fun is living with the host family, seeing a bit of life in Japan. From a cultural exchange point of view, you can't get much better than this.

The type of home where you may be invited to stay may include:

  • A traditional Japanese home with shoji (Japanese doors), tatami (bamboo) mats with futons on the mats
  • An older residence with historical appearance and few modern conveniences
  • A western style that resembles our houses in Antioch

Past delegates have also stayed in a Buddhist Temple and enjoyed listening to the sounds of the early morning rituals. No matter which style of home you might visit, each is uniquely Japanese and the delegate is invited as a family member.


Greeting Japanese People

Delegates in Yukatas
Delegates in Yukatas
Haley Wright . Terri Lee . Melissa Olson

Bow from the waist. Do not offer to shake hands; a Japanese person may not know how to respond,

Japanese are not "huggers", and adult members of your host family may be startled if you try to hug them when you depart. An over-the-shoulder hug may be acceptable, whereas a face-to-face hug could be considered vulgar. Also see cultural notes.

Ask for Instructions

Ask for instructions on Japanese politeness and customs, the use of sanitary facilities, and other features of the home. Asking these questions will make it easier for your host families to educate you on politeness in Japan without fearing that such instructions are taken as criticism (something which a host would not to to a guest). It is understood that our cultures have differences, and that the visitor can learn them best from the host family. However, Indirectness and implication is the Japanese way. They will may deliver such suggestions so gently that you may not recognize these as instructions. Instead of telling you directly, "Please don't wear your shoes in the house", they may ask , "Don't you want to wear your slippers?" or "Wouldn't you be more comfortable in slippers?". DELEGATE ALERT! This "question/suggestion" is NOT a suggestion. It is a request by your host.

A sensitive guest will keep their ears open for such "suggestions" and understand that this is instruction on behavior in their home.

Also, keep a keen eye on your hosts for examples of protocol and behavior. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do.

Also see Shoes and Shoe Customs

Let your host(s) know what your interests are; they will want to share what interests them in return.

Give your full attention to whatever it is they are trying to show/teach you.

Special Events for Delegates

On most occasions, delegates are tourists, well taken care of by their host families. At other times, delegates will represent the Antioch-Chichibu Sister City Program at official events or meetings with Chichibu City officials. On those occasions delegate students are expected to be quiet and respectful, speak when spoken to, and speak clearly and slowly.

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Essential Phrases

Our Japanese hosts will work long and hard to make sure our stay is enjoyable. Among the Japanese, expressing appreciation for such efforts is expected behavior. For us, for whom our hosts are making a special effort, it is especially important to express our thanks.

Following are basic phrases that will be essential for any delegate:

  • Please = Onegaishimas*
  • Thank you = Arigatoo gozaimas*.
  • No thank you = Kekko des* (literally: "it is good")
  • Excellent meal! = Goochisuu sama!
  • It is delicious - Ooishii des*
  • Good morning = Ohayo gozaimas*
  • Good afternoon (before sunset) = Konnichiwa
  • Good evening (greeting after sunset) = Konbonwa
  • Sorry, I don't understand = Summimasen, Wakarimasen

* As noted elsewhere, the Japanese verb "to be" in present tense (I am, you are, he/she/it is) is written "desu" in Romaji, reflecting the two Japanese symbols ("de" and "su") that make up this word. However, this is commonly pronounced "des". "Gozaimasu" is pronounced "gozaimas". The phrases above apply incorrect spelling to avoid confusion for those first attempting Japanese phrases.

Who Can Go

Families that host a Sister-City delegate from Chichibu may be part of the delegation to Chichibu the following year. If your family has not hosted, then families of student delegates visiting Japan through the Sister City program are expected to host visitors from Japan the following year.

Those that have hosted in previous years will be given priority in future visits (see Be a Host Family.).

Delegates must be members of the Antioch-Chichibu Sister City Organization (Application form - MS Word).

Festival Kids
Festival Kids Lead Shrine in Parade

>> Adult delegate applicants must:

  • Submit the application form for adults (MS Word)
  • Complete a release form (MS Word)
  • Complete the Emergency Notification form (MS Word)
  • Have Valid medical insurance
  • Have a valid passport
  • Attend scheduled meetings in preparation for the visit

>> Student delegate applicants must:

  • Be at least 14 years of age
  • Have a minimum "B" average in school
  • Submit the application forms for students (MS Word), including a Release form (MS Word) signed by a parent or guardian
  • Complete the Emergency Notification form (MS Word)
  • Have valid medical insurance
  • Have a valid passport
  • Attend scheduled meetings in preparation for the visit

At times more than six students apply to be delegates to Chichibu. In this case, delegates are selected by the Antioch-Chichibu Sister City board. A likely student candidate would be:

  • A member of a family that has hosted visitors from Chichibu in the past.
  • A sophomore or junior in high school with interest in international studies and who has taken a Japanese language course.
  • A student active in school or civic activities (Key Club, Student Council, etc).

    A typical breakfast in Chichibu:
    From upper left: egg, cucumber, tofu, green tea, miso soup, salmon, barley tea, and rice
    (with shrimp flakes - optional),


Delegates should be able to walk at least a mile on unpaved surfaces and up gentle, unpaved slopes.

Food Preferences, Allergies and Other Digestive Issues

Adventurous eaters are welcome in Japan. The Japanese eat much fish, and delegates can expect to have fish served at most meals. Breakfast may include fish, miso soup with tofu, a small salad, a small rolled omelet, a small portion of vegetable, and rice. Eggs are a common food in Japan.

"Picky eaters" will make feeding difficult, and may inadvertently insult their hosts by turning down common dishes which the host has carefully prepared for their guest.

>> Expressing Preferences

  • If you don’t like something let your host(s) know in the most polite way possible. A good phrase is "Kek-ko des(u)", which means colloquially "I am good". Your Japanese hosts likely understand this as "no thank you".
  • If you tell them you like something when you really don’t, it is likely that they will serve it to you again.
  • DO NOT WASTE FOOD; this is one of the fastest ways to insult your host(s). Keep an open mind and try it anyway.Psyllium
  • Also see our notes on politeness and preference.

>> Food Allergies and Intolerance

Make sure you list any food allergies on your application form. Include in this category food intolerance, such as the inability to digest eggs.

If the above are significant issues for you, then visiting Japan would be difficult for both you and your host.

>> Japanese Diet

The Japanese diet is low in fiber compared to that of Americans. Past delegates have become very uncomfortable, due to this change in food characteristic. One delegate required hospitalization in Japan due to an intestinal blockage.

To avoid such digestive problems, bring fiber supplements and/or a mild laxative.

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The cost of housing and activities for the two weeks in Japan is provided by the host organization and family in Japan.

Transportation to Japan is provided by the delegate. The cost of airfare for the 2015 visit from Antioch to and from Chichibu was approximately $1,300.

The Antioch-Chichibu organization seeks to facilitate fund raising by the students to make the trip more affordable. Past student fund raising activities include car washes, candy sales, and similar. The Sister City organization has subsidized student delegates to a limited extent when possible.

We are a "grass roots" organization operated by citizen volunteers. Funding for the program is primarily through the organization members and delegates. In 20111 through 2015, the Sister-City organization received no funds, and little assistance, from the City of Antioch.

What to Bring

With You On The Plane

  • Passport and one other form of identification.
  • Host family name, address and phone number (you will be required to enter this on the customs forms passed to you before you land).

Gifts for Your Host Family (ies)

Delegates Mayor Sean Wright and Family Ready for Parade

  • Gift giving is a very important part of Japanese politeness.  Please see our information on gift giving. and watch this YouTube video regarding gift giving
  • It is an important Japanese custom to present your host(s) with a small gift upon meeting them.  This item does not have to be expensive but should be thoughtful.
  • Items made in the US, or specifically from Antioch, are ideal.
  • Small snacks/regional favorites are usually a hit
  • Take only items that will easily pass through customs.

Luggage and Weight Limits

  • Checked baggage is limited to 50 lb per bag
  • You are limited to two checked bags, one over-head carry-on bag, and one "personal" item that will fit under the seat in front of your seat
  • Attach a tag with your name and cell phone to the bag before you get in line Attach some identifying feature to your bag, such as a distinctive ribbon, so you can identify your bag among the hundreds that will be delivered from the plane along with yours.


  • Pack for warm/hot humid weather. Chichibu summers can be brutal.
  • Japanese ladies dress modestly, even in the hot summer, preferring loose layers. Delegates should be similarly modestly attired, especially considering the shrines and temples that delegates visit.
  • Bring one set of dress clothes for special dinners.
  • Bring broken-in walking shoes, easy to remove see Shoes and Shoe Customs. 
  • Bring lots of clean socks, you will likely be removing your shoes often.
    Can you find the bottle of
    dyphenhydramine sleep aid?
    Drugstore shelf
  • Bring a light jacket, it may rain or get chilly. This is not likely, but it can happen.

Medications: Bring Them With You

  • Bring whatever medications you might need, and extra in case you need more. You may be sleep deprived and overloaded with newness. Every day, every hour, every minute there is something new. Do you take vitamins, possibly vitamin B stress complex? Bring them. You will not be able to find them in Chichibu.
  • You may have trouble sleeping due to time change and the excitement of being in Japan. Do you sometimes take sleep aids? Bring them. Bring lots.Your host family may be able to find them, with some effort, but they are expensive and a burden on your hosts to find something you should have brought with you.
  • Do you get car sick? Bring dramamine or equivalent.

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Gifts for your Hosts

Gift giving is an important aspect of visiting Japan. See Cultural Notes - Gifts.

  • Bring gifts. Something from Antioch or California would be more appreciated than something made in China. There is a local olive oil shop on Balfour near intersection with Deer Valley. Photographs of your own home, printed and presented nicely, would be wonderful.
  • There are likely to be multiple members in your host family, give something that has multiple pieces that everyone can easily sample, like a box of cookies as opposed to a single cake. Ghirardelli Chocolate (nominally from San Francisco) is always appreciated. Also Sees Candy. Coffee table books about your region are also a great idea.
  • Present your gifts after arriving at the host family's house, after you have put your luggage away.

Souvenirs to Bring Home

Before you pay more for “touristy” souvenirs, ask your host(s) if you may visit a Hundred Yen store, the Japanese equivalent to a dollar store but with merchandise of higher quality than dollar stores in Antioch. You can find some nice souvenirs for a great price, and also other items that you may need during your stay.


  • Medical insurance card or copy
  • Spending money, depending on your budget, generally $200-$300
  • Prescription medications or any over-the-counter medications you may need
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Camera/batteries
  • Journal
  • Small hand towel or small pack of tissues; not all public places will provide these

Bathing in Your Hosts House

Changing area
Changing Area

Shower Room with Soaking Tub

Changing and bathing ares are "clean" areas in which slippers, socks, or bare feet are worn.

Typical bathing arrangements include:

  • A changing area. This is likely to be the laundry room adjacent to the shower room. Note that while you are changing, and probably when you are bathing, this room will likely not be available for family use.
  • A bathing/shower room. This will be is a separate room, covered in tile not unlike the shower stalls in American bathrooms, but much larger. Within that shower room you will likely find:
    • Short stools upon which to sit while you clean yourself.
    • Temperature-controlled shower wand.
    • A soaking tub ("ofuro") with cover.

Normal bathing procedure is to sit on the short stool, wash and rinse with water taken from the tub. Ask about the use of the shower.

Ask your hosts about how to use these facilities. Where should you disrobe? How does one turn on the shower? How does one adjust the temperature?

For many Japanese, soaking in the tub is considered a normal part of end-of-day relaxation and clearing-of-mind. If you use the soaking tub, always completely wash and rinse your body and hair at the shower before getting into the tub. When finished, replace the tub cover to conserve the water's heat. The same batch of water is used for everyone to soak, hence the showers and rinsing beforehand. This tub usually drained at the end of the night after everyone has had a turn, or the water is used for the laundry the next day.

As honored guest, you will likely be offered first use of the shower, and thus the first to soak if you so desire. Ask when the appropriate time for you to shower, and plan on showering early enough to give your hosts time for their shower.

Japanese will generally shower before bed because they feel hot and sticky after a day the hot, sticky Chichibu summer. Californians who's habit it is to shower in the morning may find an evening shower necessary.

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Air Conditioning

In the visit of July 2015, it was observed that most rooms in the hosts houses had separate air conditioners. Each of these units was separately and remotely controlled, and were quiet when in operation.

Generally, rooms are cooled when they are in use. Bedrooms are cooled at night, and "core" family areas, such as eating area and one TV area, are cooled during the day. Areas not in use, such as formal dining areas, are not cooled during the day. This procedure is made possible by the compartmentalization of the house with closing doors and sliding "paper" screens.

Such an arrangement is much more efficient than the noisy whole-house cooling systems common in the US, where the entire house must be cooled to make one person in one room comfortable.

Typical Air Conditioning Unit Near Ceiling



  • You may receive a handkerchief or similar on arrival. This is used to dry ones hands after washing in a public washroom, or for drying ones face of perspiration in the hot, humid weather of Chichibu. It is NOT a handkerchief into which one blows ones nose. DO NOT BLOW YOUR NOSE IN PUBLIC IN JAPAN. Blowing one's nose is considered in the same category as activities that only occur in our bathrooms.
  • A good number of public places will not provide toilet paper or paper towels (OR western style toilets for that matter).
  • It is a good idea to carry a small pack of tissues or a handkerchief with you.
  • Take advantage of people passing out free packs of tissues.

Keep Your Room Neat

Honor you host(s) by keeping your room clean and organized. (Students - If you think your hosts won’t come into your room, you are mistaken. Please remember that, as a delegate, you represent Antioch and the Sister City program.)

Help Around the House

Student Delegate in Antioch assisting w/ Host Family Dishes
Student Delegate Ms. Yuri Ochiai
helping her host family in Antioch with dishes.

They may not let you, but if you are observant, you may discover ways to help around the house: carrying in groceries, clear or set the table, etc.

Leave a Thank-You Note

When it’s time for you to leave your host family (ies) try to leave a nice thank you note in your room so they might find it after you’re gone. Let them know you appreciated their willingness to let you into their home and all they have provided you while you were there.

Earthquake Awareness

Japan experiences stronger earthquakes than California, and more often. Usually no harm is done, but it may be a good idea to briefly speak with your host(s) to find out if they have a designated plan in the case of an emergency. Not to worry about, just be aware.

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Delegates and Sensei
Delegates with Sensei Katsuo IKEDA - July 2015

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