By Penelope Morris
Yesterday, Japanese Plus students got to meet Japanese high schoolers participating in the Kakehashi exchange program. The two groups met up for lunch at Z-Burger in Tenleytown, then went to All Souls Church in Columbia Heights, where we got to view images created by Japanese schoolchildren after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during World War II.
Before the exchange, I was a little nervous to interact with Japanese high schoolers because I wasn’t sure if my Japanese would be good enough to communicate with them. We were able to communicate just fine though, and we bonded over topics ranging from food to school to extracurriculars. It was really fun to be able to learn what life is like as a Japanese teenager! The students were able to communicate well in English, and one girl that I talked to said she had been studying the language at school for eight years, which I found really impressive considering I’ve only been learning Japanese for a few!
Another highlight of the exchange was being able to see drawings created by Japanese schoolchildren in the aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped during World War II. The images were created using art supplies sent by the All Souls Church community to schools in Japan, and seeing the images was a deeply moving experience. It was hard for me to imagine how these Japanese children could have created such beautiful art following such a terrible event. But as I looked at the pictures, I saw that the children were using art as a medium to express their hope for a better future. At first I was surprised by the hopeful aura of the pictures: many of them depicted children playing, sunny days, and people going about everyday life, which was likely not the reality of most of the young artists. However, as I continued looking it became clear that the students weren’t necessarily drawing what was around them, but what they hoped would eventually grow back.
I really liked the program and it was amazing to meet Japanese teenagers. I hope we will keep in touch in the future!