- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) - With the help of a Japanese exchange student, the Vermilion County War Museum staff has a better understanding of some of its items.

Risako Doi, a junior at Schlarman Academy, has visited the museum a couple of times and has translated Japanese words on several items.

“It was very enlightening,” said Jim Kouzmanoff, museum president. “She was immensely helpful.”

Doi, from Chiba, Japan, is an exchange student with Youth for Understanding. She is staying with Kathy and Kurt Miles of Danville, and their grandson, Mathias Miles.

“It was a real pleasure for her,” Kurt Miles said. “It made her feel good she could help.”

The room displaying World War II items is in transition, and Doi’s translations will be helpful in identifying and displaying items, Kouzmanoff said.

In the past, students studying Japanese at the University of Illinois have tried to translate words. However, they were stumped by the old-style Japanese script, he said. Although Doi speaks and writes modern Japanese, she was familiar with some of the old-style characters, thanks to her schooling - enough to make a translation.

“Some old Japanese words are similar to the words we use now,” she said.

Also, the old-style script reads from right to left, while the modern goes from left to right.

Most of the words were easy to understand, she said, but a bit difficult to translate into English. Kouzmanoff understood her English better than she expected, she said.

Doi made her second visit to the museum last weekend. A classmate, Bryce Vorick, works at the museum and suggested she return to do more translations. The visit yielded several surprises - both for the translator and the museum president.

Doi was surprised at the number of Japanese items at the museum, and joked that the museum needs a spot just for those items.

Kouzmanoff explained, “We have so many things from World War II that the men brought back.”

Doi was able to translate the title of one hefty book as the Japanese Navy International Code Book, and the year it was published, 1933 (which was written out in words, not numerals).

She looked at another item, a fabric pouch, and after reading the words, said it was a medical pouch, possibly used by a medic.

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