With neither a passport nor an airline ticket, Sherece DeMill traveled throughout Japan - struggling to speak the language, swallowing sushi or miso and slipping into kimonos.

DeMill journeyed vicariously, never leaving her West Jordan home, as her family hosted a series of exchange students from the "Land of the Rising Sun."While most teenagers study Japan through a Sony Walkman or a Mitsubishi VCR, DeMill choose a hands-on approach - hands on a dictionary to assist in communication.

"The kids who come to stay with us speak English, but it doesn't sound like English. They understand more than they say," the Bingham High senior explained. "But none of us speak Japanese, so we all carry dictionaries."

Somehow during the four-week summer stays, communication barriers dissolve and the dictionaries disappear.

"We get so attached to these kids," admitted EvaJean DeMill, Sherece's mother. "They become just like one of our own family."

The DeMill family of five children expands to include a Japanese exchange student each summer. The DeMills participate in an exchange program sponsored by 4-H, which brings a group of Japanese students to Utah while their Utah counterparts explore Japan every other summer.

According to Marilyn King, 4-H agent for the Utah State University Extension Service's Salt Lake County office, the exchange program began in 1966 and has offered hundreds of students the opportunity to share in a cultural exchange.

The current Japanese sponsoring agency, UTREK, also provides an annual internship to a Utah student who has completed high school and who has also participated in a previous Japanese home-stay experience.

Maresa Tonioli of Tooele, the current intern, lives with a Japanese family in Tokyo and works at the UTREK office.

Maresa's mother, Andre', described some of her daughter's adjustments to Japanese family living.

"She'd been in Japan before, we'd had summer students stay with us and Maresa even took a semester of Japanese at the Y. before she left, but the language barrier was so frustrating for her. In the beginning, she talked a lot with her hands, but we just got a letter that said she made it through an entire dinner speaking nothing but Japanese."

When the two cultures blend, getting through dinner is another story.

"Maresa hated fish when she left; she was really apprehensive about what she'd eat for a year, but she's tasted things she never dreamed of . . . things like octopus and raw fish, and she's learned to like them," her mother reported.

Some things aren't as easy to swallow, according to the DeMill family.

"Remember when Yoshi (one of the summer students hosted by the DeMills) fixed us that stuff that tasted like fish scales?" recalled Shad DeMill. "He ate it down so fast I almost choked. Or that worm thing? Those slimy, round, raw fish deals? Or remember the salted prunes?"

Traditional native foods define a culture, but occasionally a single dish bridges varied cultural patterns.

For the DeMills and their Japanese guests, that dish was Ramen-type noodles.

"The students all brought their own noodle packages," said Shaunelle DeMill, "but they are just about like ours."

Host families discovered the gracious Japanese guests are willing to try any American foods - at least once. Some students even admit a preference for Stateside menus.

Masahiro Usukura, a year-round exchange student hosted by West Jordan's Ronald Bateman family, thrives on the supply of steak available in his adopted home.

"The Batemans have a cattle ranch; we eat a lot of beef here. I hardly ever have it in Japan because it is so expensive."

But it wasn't the beef that claimed the title as Usukura's favorite food.

"I like the chicken enchiladas best, or pizza, but don't like root beer at all. It tastes like medicine."

Japanese students in Tonioli's home reviewed root beer in the same manner but, like Usukura, found favor in another ethnic-related food.

"Navajo tacos are the favorite of every student we've hosted," added Andre'.

And Emmi Nishizawa admits a fondness for lasagna at the home of her hosts, the Dennis Thatcher family.

"I won't tell you how many (pounds), but I've gained weight since I came to Utah. It's too much lasagna! That's my favorite," Nishizawa said.

Though differences in diet may arise, the Japanese students seldom acquire a sweet tooth, the dessert addiction that claims Americans. The visitors virtually ignore treats, accustomed as they are to ending meals with fruit.

But DeMill's cinnamon rolls become a temptation.

"Our Japanese kids don't eat sweets; they simply aren't interested in desserts . . . except for the cinnamon rolls. I've made them here and sent them to parties of exchange students and they go crazy over them."

Just like they go crazy over America.

Though there are significant differences in language, culture and food, both Nishizawa and Usukura arranged to return to Utah for a second year, continuing the journey on the bridge between countries.

*****

Recipes:

Navajo Tacos

Navajo Bread:

4-5 cups flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup instant dry milk

2 cups warm water

Filling:

1 can pinto beans

3/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

Chopped onions

Grated Cheddar cheese

Salsa

Lettuce\ Mix dry ingredients and water. Knead dough lightly; cover and let rest 15 minutes. Heat 1 inch vegetable oil in 10-inch skillet. Pat dough into a thin 8-inch shell; brown on both sides.

Brown ground beef and drain, add beans and garlic salt. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Spread on fry bread with lettuce, onions, grated cheese and salsa. Makes about 10 servings.- From Andre' Tonioli

Chicken Enchiladas

4 chicken breasts, baked or poached and cubed

12 large flour tortillas

1/2 pound Cheddar or mozzarella cheese, grated

1 can (4 oz.) green chilies

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

2 cans (10 oz.) cream of chicken soup

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup chicken broth\ Mix cubed chicken, onion, celery and green chilies. Divide chicken mixture between tortillas; roll up and place in 9-by-13-inch pan. Blend soup with broth and evaporated milk. Spoon soup mixture over top of filled tortillas. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over top during last five minutes of cooking. Makes 12 servings.- From the Donald Bateman family

Yakisoba

1/2 head cabbage

2 carrots, diagonally sliced

1 large green pepper, seeded and sliced

4-5 chicken breasts, boned and skinned or

1 pound lean beef

Vegetable oil

Yakisoba noodles with seasoning

Cut chicken or beef in thin strips; stir-fry in vegetable oil. Add vegetables and stir-fry until crisp tender. Sprinkle with noodle seasoning packet; add noodles and stir to blend. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Yakisoba noodles are available in Oriental specialty markets.

Cinnamon Rolls

4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup shortening

2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 cups hot water

7-8 cups flour

2 tablespoons yeast

1/2 cup margarine

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Raisins or chocolate chips

Glaze:

1 package (2 lb.) powdered sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Milk to make spreadable glaze Cream sugar, shortening, eggs and salt; add hot water and about 5 cups flour. Blend in yeast, then additional flour to make soft dough. Knead lightly with dough hook or in bowl. Let rise 1 hour; roll out to 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Spread with melted margarine; sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Add raisins or chocolate chips and roll up. Slice with thread, place on baking sheet and allow to rise 1 hour. Bake at 400 degrees 11-12 minutes until lightly browned. Cool 5-10 minutes; glaze. Makes 2 dozen large rolls.

For glaze: Combine sugar, butter and vanilla; beat until smooth. Gradually add milk until glaze reaches desired consistency.