Japanese Steampunk Style

Inspired by the current trend in Japan, we decided to create an event in our local Newport Beach area for a bit of fun and fundraising. We themed it “Japanese Steampunk Style”. The teenagers loved dressing up and trying out different themes. Many of the girls picked the Japanese Lolita style as a twist on the standard steampunk fashion, whilst the boys aimed for a more dapper look of an old English gentleman or the edgy, fun current style complete with aviator look steampunk goggles.


We started the night with a few games and fun before ramping up to a full on party complete with a local band dressed in Steampunk style to complete the night. We also had competitions for the best dressed male and female, the best hand made costume, and the best accessories on the night. It just made it all a bit more fun.

By the next morning, after we cleaned up the venue, we did a tally of the night’s takings including entrance fees, drinks and food plus donations and we’ve raised over $5000 to help our exchange students get to Japan. We were amazed at the response and will be planning our next event in around 6 months’ time.

Successful Student Exchange

This year’s exchange with year eight students between Okazaki and Newport Beach is now all over. The students all had a fun time learning about each other’s culture.

The exchange involved ten teenagers and was a great success. The students from Okazaki came to our much smaller city, whilst our students were staying in a much larger city. Okazaki has a population of nearly 400,000 people, but as you can see in the video below, it isn’t a busy mega city like many of the Japanese metropolis areas.

Okazaki Snow in December

Our local teens were able to experience different aspects of the Japanese culture when they were over there. The biggest lesson many of them learned was the level of respect required when living in a Japanese household. It is very different to the USA with the adults of the Japanese family having full authority over teenagers. Our kids found the rules to be quite strict in regards to being at home at a certain time, advising the adults where they were going and what time they expected to be home. Meals were generally all eaten together in a formal setting rather than in front of the TV like many of our teens experience at home.

One thing that our students noticed was the very different pop culture. The cartoons (known as Anime), the music culture is incredibly different and also the style of dress of teenagers is a far cry from the types of clothing worn in the USA. Our teens did notice how difficult the language was to pick up and also reading. Not many things are in English in Okazaki being a smaller, regional city. Even though many of them have been studying Japanese starting in elementary school, there is a big difference when it comes to actually being integrated into the culture and language and many of them struggled with communication.

Japanese Teens in America

We also enjoyed chatting to the teenagers that came over from Japan. Thankfully we have a fluent Rotarian in the Balboa club. The Japanese kids were quite shy initially and as expected, incredibly respectful. They very much enjoyed the outdoor events that were held where they were able to get together every few days with their fellow teens. Many of them were quite amazed at how large the USA really is – especially how long it takes to drive such long distances. Most of them enjoyed a camp out that we organised for them, but some were, understandably, a little freaked out by the open wilderness. I guess that is something we take for granted growing up outside the large USA cities.

All in all the students really enjoyed the exchange. Some were glad that it was only for a week though as they weren’t sure they could stay for a lot longer. Each and every one of the students though relished the opportunity they had been given to take a glimpse into life on the other side of the world in what is very much the opposite of cultures.

Happy Holidays

As the end of the year comes close, we would like to wish our fellow Americans a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Please stay safe in your travels and enjoy time with your family and friends. We would also like to thank the local Rotary Groups, particularly the Balboa club for your support of our exchange and sister city programs.

If you are wondering whether Christmas celebrations are being held in our sister city, here are some snippets of what happens in Japan at Christmas time:

  • Christmas is celebrated despite only 0.5% of the country being Christian
  • It is celebrated on Christmas Eve not Christmas Day
  • The male of the house (as a general rule) brings home Christmas cake to be eaten on Christmas eve with the family
  • KFC (yes Kentucky Fried Chicken) have done an incredibly successful marketing campaign to make the Japanese think that westerners have a chicken Christmas dinner. People pre-order their ‘Christmas dinner’ at KFC and then line up on Christmas eve to pick up their order.


  • Presents are exchanged, but generally this is mostly between those in a romantic relationships. It is actually more like Valentines Day in this respect. Teddy bears, rings and small but expensive gifts can be given

There is also an unusual twist to the Christmas cake thing. They are heavily discounted on the 25th of December so that they are all sold out by the 26th. This has led to many young Japanese women being labeled as ‘Christmas cakes’. If they are not wed by their 25th birthday, they are then classed as being heavily discounted in order to be married asap before they turn 26. Fascinating.

My Favorite Japanese Dish

A special post written by Harry Connor one of our short term exchange students

Most people in the USA have never heard of my favorite Japanese dish Okonomiyaki.


It is a Japanese pancake but made savory not sweet. It is usually made with seafood or some form of meat. The meat I liked best was pork mince. Inside the pancake is obviously the meat, plus scallions and pickled ginger, plus a few other things I couldn’t figure out. The batter is then cooked up just like a sweet pancake on a flat grill until it is brown on both sides. The best part of okonomiyaki is the sauce and Kewpie mayo.

The Kewpie Tag Line: "Love around the kitchen table"

The Kewpie Tag Line: “Love around the kitchen table”

So the sauce is a spicy, but not hot, deep red sauce. I have no idea what is in it, but it is like barbecue sauce on steroids. The flavor combined with the pancake is ‘da bomb. Add Kewpie to that and you have yourself one heck of a pancake. I was trying to find a recipe before I left Japan, but couldn’t. It was served in a lot of the local restaurants and street markets. I can’t wait to find out if somewhere locally here in Newport Beach makes it, though I am sure it won’t be the same as the real deal in Japan.

Rotary Student Exchange Okazaki

The Rotary International Club of Newport Balboa has been active for over 30 years in assisting the Newport Beach Sister City Association with it’s international exchange students. Each year, along with our long term exchange students, we also arrange short, one week exchanges.

This exchange involves year eight students who swap homes between Okazaki, Japan and Newport Beach, USA. This gives our young students a great introduction to each other’s culture and what family expectations are in different cultures. This occurs every year, usually in July and October. The rotary club does everything they can to help support the local families in the exchange. This can be any type of financial support, but usually is just help for local expenses during the exchange week. This financial help is done via interviewing the students and their family to ascertain the level of need required.

Whilst on the week of exchange, the students swap schools for the week to really engage in life in another culture. Quite often they have very different experiences as a part of this. It is often a great lead up to a year long exchange, as it can give the students a taste of what to expect from the family, the school and the community.

Newport Beach Information

Newport Beach is a developed city in the Orange County, California where tourists and settlers alike would spend a fantastic time. It is located about 16 km south of populous country seat Santa Ana, and was incorporated in 1906. This coastal paradise is a scenic place filled with amenities and accommodations that are sure to make your stay extraordinary.

One of the highly acclaimed attributes the city has is its booming economy. Household income and property values ranked high among others on a national level. A study even showed that more than 25% of the households have an income more than $200,000 and homes have a median value of greater than $1 million. It hosts many companies like Pacific Life, Acacia Research, Galardi Group and Jazz Semiconductor, and provides local residents with high paying jobs.


The tourism of the state has also been highly praised. Tourists have a myriad of things they can do at Newport, whether it be for families, couples or a solitary trip. The whole place is littered with luxury hotels, live entertainments, and first-class restaurants where visitors can enjoy hanging out. Outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, surfing, and sailing can also be convenient for adventurous tourists. One can shop at luxury shops and home furniture stores like patio décor, bamboo sheets for your bedroom, and kitchen appliances.

Truly this is a city where you could create lasting memories that leave you desiring to return to.



Image courtesy of:


Fostering Relationships Between Japan and the USA

The two cities have vastly different backgrounds yet not so different today as modern cities. One is an American city incorporated at the dawn of the 20th century while the other is an ancient Japanese city with roots in Japan’s glorious Shogunate. These differences have created opportunities to foster understanding between Japanese culture and American culture. Here is a brief look at these two cities:

Newport Beach

Situated in the California’s Orange Country, it is a highly developed American city with very high standards of living. The population of Newport Beach is 85,990 and the city is situated directly on the US’s Pacific Coast.  The city is situated only 16km from the populous Santa Ana in California.

It is a scenic coastal paradise with numerous amenities and services including great accommodation, financial services industry, and a generally booming economy.  It is a fairly wealthy city with 25% of its households having an income of more than $200,000.  Many major companies have headquarters in Newport Beach including Pacific Life, the Acacia Research, the Jazz Semiconductor and the Galardi Group amongst others.  Newton Beach has a well developed R&D, biotechnology and even aerospace industry.

The city not only has a booming economy but also a booming tourism sector.  There are myriad attractions that tourists can take part in here such as surfing, cycling, hiking and even sailing.  Many of its activities and attractions are based on its Pacific coastline. You can also experience some fine dining here.


Okazaki is situated some 200 miles to the West of Tokyo in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture.  The city is situated in the Mikawa province in the Aichi Prefecture.  The place is best renowned as the birthplace of Japan’s first Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa.

Today the city is known for its industrial heritage and hosts numerous industrial enterprises and many other craft industries.  Some of the Okazaki industries produce stonework, fireworks, automobiles, textiles and chemicals amongst others. It is in a way a quintessential Japanese city with its rich old heritage and a modern industrial base.  The city has a population of 375,321as of 2014.  The city of Okazaki is situated in the coastal plains of Aichi in a hilly and heavy forested region.  Some of the most common city attractions include the Okazaki Castle constructed in 1455, its famous fireworks, its dark miso paste and the great temple of Takisan-ji which was constructed in the 7th century.

Newport Beach-Okazaki Twin City Alliance Exchange Programs and Community Groups

Since the inception of the Newport Beach-Okazaki twin city alliance, the two cities have been involved in various exchange programs. These include the following:-

  • Student Exchange Programs between the two cities with the fundraisers organized by the Newport-Balbao Rotary Club.
  • Sister City Alliance anniversary celebrations
  • Delegation visits and exchanges between the two cities

Okazaki Committee

Okazaki, Japan is located 200 miles southwest of Tokyo and is the birthplace of the first Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa. The city is best known for its production of stonework, miso, fireworks, centers for automobile, chemical and textile industries. Since 1984, the Newport Beach Sister City Association, in conjunction with the Newport – Balboa Rotary Club, has annually selected 4-6 Jr. High students to visit our sister city. Each July students and chaperones will travel to Okazaki for a ten day visit. In October these same students will host their Japanese friends here in Newport Beach.

Baja Cities Committee

Ensenada, located in Baja California, is our closest sister city. While we are currently committed to establishing more programs, we enjoy an art exchange with the elementary school children and have it displayed at local businesses. Most notably though, is our years of celebrating the annual Ensenda and Newport regatta. For several years, NBSCA continues to celebrate this event with our neighboring friends by hosting the annual Mayors’ Luncheon with the Mayor of Newport Beach and Mayor of Ensenada. All NBSCA members are invited to this event and it is easy to attend, as this event is hosted in Newport Beach.

Antibes Committee

Antibes, France is located on the southern coast of France, on the Mediterranean, between Nice and Canes. Antibes is best known as the Rose Capital of Europe and the home of the largest yachts in the world. Newport Beach Sister City and Newport Beach students and their families welcome students and their chaperones from Antibes in February. In April the Newport Beach students travel to Antibes where they are hosted by the families of the Antibes students.

For further details about our Antibes Committee please contact us at:

FEBURARY 21, 2013

6:30-8:00 PM


If you are interested in being part of a delegation trip to Antibes, France, information will be discussed with dates for the trip in July 2013. Antibes and Newport have had a sister city relationship for 23 years. Enjoy the south of France that is known for it’s Jazz à Juan one of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe, and participate in a Bastille Day celebration.