Since 1959, the Sister City Program has meant a reciprocal cultural program that includes a student exchange.
Each summer, San Bernardino students (Tachi-kids) and Tachikawa students (San-kids) trade places, sharing cultures, ideas and memories that last a lifetime.
On March 11, 2011, Japan suffered a devastating earthquake that shook the country into a catastrophic wave of events.
Americans joined the rest of the world in grieving as video from Japan documented incomprehensible death and destruction.
Hideaki "Hide"' (pronounced Hidday) Tokutake, a 2012 San-kid and senior at Tokyo Metropolitan Musashi High School, wanted to warn Americans about the dangers of an earthquake and tsunami.
"The very huge earthquake in Japan and tsunami water was very dangerous. Maybe Americans don't know the danger and because there are so many beaches in America, Americans need to be careful," said Hide', who had not been close to the earthquake but had seen his countrymen not run fast enough to escape the disaster.
"America is very nice - not skyscrapers everywhere," Hide' said.
Momoka Akazawa said her grandmother lived in the area hit by the earthquake.
"My grandmother lost her house in the tsunami and my grandmother was very sad. Tsunami is very dangerous. Because many Japanese don't run away, many people are dead."
The disaster, in fact, affected the 50-year-old Sister City program. The four students scheduled to go were put on hold.
But thanks to the city of Tachikawa, which paid for their trip, the students were invited for two weeks this summer for a "make-up" trip, said Judy Maculsay, who coordinates the program's activities with Jeanette Avila.
"So, Tiffany Armenta, Anthony Nguyen, Arianna Ruvalcaba and Maddy Sayre, along with Jennifer Avila - a 2009 Tachi-kid who had broken her leg - enjoyed a whirlwind visit to Japan and had the experience of a lifetime," Maculsay said.
The 2012 youth ambassadors are: Cajon High School's Leah Fox-Hatton, who is "sister" to Aya Miyazawa; Public Safety Academy's Tori Cantu, who is "sister" to Momoka Akazawa; San Gorgonio's Danielle Mendez Villanueva, who is "sister" to Tsukasa Negishi; and Public Safety Academy's Michelle Alva, "sister" to Hide'.
The American teens were impressed with the Japanese culture and enjoyed the temples and shrines, hot springs and festivals and how clean the country was.
To help break linguistic barriers, the local kids study Japanese. They communicate with each other quite well - and if not, they work around it.
Tsukasa found that his name was often mispronounced by his new American "siblings," so when the group went to Disneyland on Wednesday, Tsukasa purchased a hat with the name "Jack" on it. He liked the name and now prefers to be called Jack.
All the American "Tachi-kids" agreed that Japanese food was "amazing."
Momoka said that in America she liked tortillas best.
And all the Japanese "San-kids" agreed they loved In-N-Out.
On Saturday, Tachi-kids shared a Thanksgiving dinner with their Japanese counterparts, who had never experienced the American custom.
Birthday celebrations, with cake and candles, balloons and gifts, are on the schedule because the Japanese don't celebrate them.
In addition to Disneyland, outings have included the beach and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. The teens still look forward to the Huntington Library, Mission Inn, Lake Arrowhead, a Garner Holt tour, and a sayonara party with Mexican food before they return to Japan on Aug. 18.
The Sister City program, run by volunteers, is funded solely by efforts of San Bernardino-Tachikawa Committee members.
Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.