By Charity Chukwu (Japanese Plus)

Given the harsh social and political climate right now, it can be difficult to find positive things about the U.S. I often compare it to Japan, pondering how much better the U.S. would be if it were more like Japan. I was ashamed of my country, so I had the notion that some of the Japanese people would feel the same way.

I never would have imagined how many things Japan and America have in common. Tokyo looks so similar to Baltimore or another nearby city in my eyes that at one point I wondered when I would start to feel homesick. The rainy, overcast sky outside the Grand Palace Hotel was met with a kind of nonchalant serenity; it felt as if it were an everyday sight despite knowing I was in a completely different country! Not to mention that the Rainbow Bridge resembles the Key Bridge in Baltimore so much that it’s uncanny.

The trip also convinced me that America has a lot more respect from Japan than I previously thought. I have to admit, I worried too much about any mistakes I made in the way I presented myself. While we were visiting the high school in Ogaki City, one of the girls giving my group a tour reached out to feel the curls on my ponytail. She complimented me and asked if I braided my hair myself. I told her that my mom braided it for me, and the look of pure amazement on her face honestly made me blush. I was used to hearing how pretty girls from Japan are, so I jumped to the incorrect conclusion that I would somehow be deemed inferior in some shape or form.

It’s interesting how traveling to another country teaches you more about your own. Now, I try to learn about the U.S. with more ambition, just like I do when I learn about Japan.

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