By Chidera Obiwuma (Japanese Plus)
First of all I would like to start this by expressing my appreciation to the Japanese Embassy, JICE, and everyone who helped and hosted us in Japan. This trip was my first time visiting Japan so I had a lot of expectations about Japan and for me, Japan was more amazing than I expected. I loved meeting the people, exploring the different cities and popular sites, looking at the beautiful scenery, and learning the history and current events about Japan.
To me this trip showed me the importance of developing more global awareness and exposing myself to people with different cultures from my own to develop an understanding of each other. Many aspects of the trip such as the high school exchange, homestay, and visits to temples and shrines helped me come to this realization. Before coming to Japan I thought that Japanese high school students were very different from American high school students, however, that was not the case. I saw that they were just like any normal high school student or teenager, cheerful and excited. The homestay was a very exciting part for me. It was nice to see how hospitable that Japanese people were. My host family took me into their home and made the homestay a very fun experience for me. I have always been a firm believer in not judging others because they are different from you racially, ethnically, religiously, etc. but this was furthered by my host family, especially my host mother. She treated me like I was one of her daughters and showed me many interesting things, like Ogaki castle, Myojorinji temple and making arts and crafts. Leaving them was difficult for me and I even cried when they left. I was so surprised because I didn’t realize that spending just one day with a person can impact you so much. Through my host family, I was able to get more insight on what a typical family in Japan was like. I saw that in Japan family is very important in life and seeing my host family I think that it wasn’t so different from what I experience in America.
On the trip I learned a lot of things about Japan and the culture that helped me to understand Japanese culture and the reasons for certain things in the culture. Something interesting that I learned was that the statues in front of temples and shrines have specific positions for their mouth. The statue on the right always has its mouth open and the statue on the left closed, which symbolizes life and death, so walking through the temple or shrine is like walking through life. This made made me feel that Japanese culture is very thoughtful. The KAKEHASHI trip was an incredible trip and I will definitely want to return to Japan one day.