By Jazmin Angel-Guzman (Japan in DC)
Going to Japan was a life-changing experience for me. I’m really glad I went to Japan because initially I wasn’t going to, but I’m really glad I did. If I didn’t go, I wouldn’t have met my wonderful host family. The homestay was my top favorite thing of the Japan trip, because I made a new family and in the end I felt like I was at home. They took me and my partner Jamilet to Gifu City and there we went to a museum and learned lots of things of Japanese life during the Edo period, including learning how to make sparks, using two rocks. It was a lot of fun, and then we went to a castle on top of the hill on a zipline cart. Then we went to a shopping center because the stationery in Japan is amazing. Afterwards we went to an Okonomiyaki restaurant and in the end they took us to karaoke.
We had lots of fun and I learned a lot of things during my homestay, especially the fact that Japanese homes are very cold. I miss lying on a futon with an electric blanket and my host mom’s cooking. My favorite dish that she cooked was called tonjuru, which is pork soup. I learned a lot about my family in general and one of their surprises that they had for us is a welcoming party, which was as warm and fun when we first met them, they did a welcome sign for us. I miss them so much, but I know for a fact that I have a home in Japan.
Another favorite activity during the trip to Japan was going to a high school in Gifu prefecture. The students were so happy to see us and we did a lot of fun things that made me really not want to leave. First we talked and introduced ourselves, and then they took us to their gym to watch a taiko (Japanese drumming) performance performed by the students and it was awesome, I really like the energy that they put into the performance and the beat of the performance. Then we did taiko drumming ourselves, which was really loud and awesome. Afterwards they took us to do calligraphy, which is hard because I didn’t know a lot of kanji, though I did learn some. Then we went to listen to a koto (Japanese string instrument) performance and went to see a bit what Japanese archery is like. Leaving the school I was really sad, because I wanted to stay but I knew that I would come back, that it wasn’t going to be a last goodbye.
Personally, the impact that this trip had on me is learning how to take a once in a lifetime opportunity because you can’t get it back. I’m still learning how to get out of my comfort zone in order to do these amazing opportunities that I never thought I would have done. Going on this trip also deepened my interest to learn even more about Japanese culture and language, because going to another country on the other side of the world is mind blowing and has shown me how interconnected the world could be, but different with many different cultures. I would want to come back to Japan and probably live there for some time teaching English as a second language to students. Some insights that I learned in Japan are how time is really crucial and important in Japan, how it shows that you care and you’re respecting everyone else’s time. In addition, I’ve seen the respect in Japan and how cooperation is big, that no matter the job occupation a person has, everyone deserves respect. I’m really grateful for going to Japan, which changed my life and made me make new connections on the other side of the world.