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What Yudai Shingai remembers most fondly about his first trip to the United States in 2010 was visiting Muddy Creek Charter School.

Shingai, who visited Oregon with a cultural exchange program from Japan shortly after graduating college, said it gave him a chance to really experience American culture.

“When you are a tourist, you only see tourist spots,” he said with the help of a translator. “(At Muddy Creek) I got to experience American life for the first time.”

So when Shingai, now a pastry chef at a luxury hotel in Tokyo, decided to visit Oregon again, he made plans to visit the school again, this time with a load of pastries he baked himself. During his appearance Wednesday at the school, he taught the students how to decorate the pastries.

“I always wanted to come back,” he said.

Bryan Traylor, Muddy Creek’s administrator, said Shingai stayed with him during the trip and spent a couple of days baking at a parent’s house to prepare green tea pound cake and cookies made with rice flour for the students to decorate.

Traylor said Japanese students in cultural exchange programs usually visit the school in the spring, but Shingai’s visit was a bonus for the school. He said the visits help Muddy Creek students get a multicultural experience.

“It gives our students a real international connection,” he said.

Noe Brophy, a fourth grader at Muddy Creek, said the lesson was fun and she got to learn some of the techniques used to decorate pastries.

“I really like cooking and we get to be creative with it. And eat it.”

Noe said she liked the green tea pound cake.

“It’s really good compared to the ones I usually have,” she said.

Celduin Livengold, a former Muddy Creek student who is now studying at Linn-Benton Community College, said he remembers playing Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards with Shingai and other members of the cultural exchange program during lunch breaks when they visited in 2010. He returned to visit with Shingai. He said the experience helped encourage him to keep an open mind — and it also motivated him to want to travel.

“I’ve been wanting to go to Japan for a long while,” he said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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