Despite the earthquake that spawned a tsunami causing massive destruction in Japan on March 11, four students and their teacher were able to keep plans to visit Gahanna last week.

Despite the earthquake that spawned a tsunami causing massive destruction in Japan on March 11, four students and their teacher were able to keep plans to visit Gahanna last week.

As part of the high school's international business program, teacher Dr. Megumi Abe and students Yuri Hasegawa, Tomoka Kanda, Miki Sukekawa and Futaba Taneichi visited Gahanna March 21-25.

"They're from Aomori Prefecture, which is close to 200 miles north of the area that was the worst impacted," said Lee Link, Gahanna international business teacher. "The city they're from didn't have major damage, but food is in short supply."

Kanda, 17, said the people of Japan are in great shock from the disaster and food and water are scarce.

With Lee interpreting, Kanda said the Japanese have been taught to be conscientious of resources in daily life.

"She was surprised the people here are wasteful of food," Link said. "She would hope people would be more aware of limited resources and be more careful."

Taneichi, 18, said she has met many people in the United States, and she's happy with the sentiment that everyone has been praying for the Japanese people.

Sukekawa, 18, said the most meaningful part of her stay was when she was praying with her host family at Gahanna's Shepherd Church of the Nazarene. She also enjoyed a dance performance by African-American children at the church.

Link said the students from Hachinohe National College of Technology in Aomori visited the high school's global-cultures class as well as hers.

"They had nice wishes from the staff and they talked about high school things like the differences in cell phones, dress code and daily life things."

Gahanna's Paige Tesnow, 16, and her family hosted Kanda and Taneichi.

"I was very excited to have them stay with me," Tesnow said. "They taught me how to say things in Japanese, as well as (their writing system). They really liked my puppy, a teacup poodle named Rhett."

The group spent three days in Madison, Wis., prior to arriving in Ohio.

Link said the women were supposed to return home March 22, but their flight was delayed to March 27 because of infrastructure issues in Japan. The extended stay allowed them to visit the Ohio Statehouse, Amish country and a fitting for Lee's wedding dress.

"They tried on gowns, which was exciting to them because they don't have a prom," she said.

Link said the most important aspect of the visit has been the friendships they have developed. She said Gahanna hopes to establish a sister school with Japan similar to what already has been done with China.

When Abe was working on her doctorate 20 years ago, Link said, Gahanna Mark White, currently G-J's superintendent, was her host counselor.

Gahanna Lincoln alumnus Andrew Conti also visited Japan in 2006, when he was a high school student, and he recently was hired to teach in Japan.

"There are many ways to stay connected," Link said.

The visiting students become Facebook friends with Gahanna students before they left. They also told their high school counterparts that video messages would bolster spirits as the disaster-relief efforts continue.

On a related note, Gahanna sisters Sarah and Annie Coon decided they wanted to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami so they organized "Change for Japan" at High Point Elementary School.

Sarah, a fifth-grader, and Annie, a first-grader, led the fundraiser that involved change being collected in each classroom and being dumped into a large jar in the main office.

The girls' mother, Lora Cleary, said the students had collected $816.30 to go to the Red Cross for Japan disaster relief.