By Cindy Guevara (Japanese at CHEC)
In the beginning I had all kinds of emotions. I was nervous, happy, a little sad, but most of all I was excited. This would be the first time I went outside the country without my family, and really far away. 6,747 miles away to be exact. When I first arrived at Tokyo, Narita airport I was very happy because after a super long plane ride I had finally stepped foot in Japan. I didn’t know what was coming my way, but I already knew it was something amazing. What I didn’t know though was that in just one week of being in a whole new and different country I would learn so many things about it. I thought the best part would be the food, but that wasn’t it. I mean the food was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I had so many fun and exciting experiences that I don’t even know what was the best part anymore.
The first day, we were introduced to Fujimoto San. And I tell you she was the best guide. She took us from Narita airport to a restaurant so we could eat dinner, and not just any dinner, my first ever dinner in Japan. It was delicious – a new flavor that I had never tried before. After everyone finished their delicious meal, we rode a bus to the hotel. The Grand Palace Hotel. While we were riding, I saw so many convenience stores and vending machines. I had heard there were a lot of them, but I never imagined that there were so many! It was like they were in every block.
Once we got to The Grand Palace Hotel, we were assigned rooms and roommates. And that’s where our Journey in Japan began. We went to so many different lectures. In the first lecture we learned the rules and expectations. After that lecture we were going to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for another one. There I learned that the constitution of Japan was actually influenced by the United States of America, I found that very interesting, because I didn’t know that. I also learned why Japan is a very safe country, they don’t use weapons like guns. In fact, article 9 of the Constitution renounces war and prohibits Japan from having Military Forces. That was shocking to me because I didn’t know about how their constitution was made or by who and when I learned that I was shocked.
After lectures we got on to do so many things. Our schedule would be really tight and we had to be mindful of how much time we had. Of the many things we did, one of them was to get in the Shinkansen to go to Gifu prefecture, where we would go to a school and later meet our Host Families. When we arrived at Gifu Prefecture we had 2 more guides. We went to another lecture to learn more about Gifu and I learned that every prefecture has something unique that lets them stand out from the others, and Gifu’s was Cormorant fishing. Basically they use Cormorant birds to catch fish. I found that interesting because normally the birds would eat the fish, but this was different. They were trained to not eat them.
Later we went to Gifu Sogo Gakuen High School, where I had so much fun. I think that’s the first time I actually had fun in a school. We watched and did so many club activities. This showed me that in Japan the students are very dedicated. At first I thought they would be stressed out because of studies and not really open, from what I had heard, but it was wrong. The students were so energetic and excited to have us there it was very cool. We watched the drum club play and it was amazing, they took it so serious. Then we also watched the calligraphy club, the archery club, and we not only watched, but we were given the opportunity to do it ourselves. I had so much fun. It was very sad that we had to part ways so soon. But I was excited that we would soon meet our host families.
Even though we would have partners, I was nervous. I was concerned about the language barrier. But when I met my dad I was so moved, because he was trying so hard to make sure that my partner and I understood what he was trying to say. It made we want to try even harder to learn Japanese. The hospitality was great, not only in my family but also at the school, stores, the hotel. Pretty much everywhere. I had so much fun and exciting moments that I will treasure them always. Overall the trip was phenomenal and I am so thankful for this opportunity that was given to me.