By Chetachukwu Obiwuma
The Kakehashi visits in Japanese class were very insightful and caused a complete paradigm shift in my view of Japanese students. The idea proliferated by popular media dramatizes the true life of Japanese students. To understand the lives of Japanese students, you must first know if they live in rural or urban Japan. Rural high schools are more isolated and tightknit, but there was an eagerness we witnessed that did not necessarily apply to the urban group. Especially one of the girls, she was very adamant about us visiting Okinawa. They really were curious about the differences between us as students and asked a lot of questions about our daily lives at school. When explaining their daily lives, there were many more stark differences than what you would normally see in an anime.
In anime, you see a lot of kids in their uniforms, and of course, the women are hypersexualized while the men are made to look suspiciously grown up. This was not the case for the urban or rural students. While the girl from Okinawa did have some similarities to Sailor Moon, her uniform was not as depicted in anime. Also, some of the urban kids were in college and had no uniform policy. Another thing that I was surprised to see was that the rhetoric between students was not as formal as shown on anime.
Also, animes dramatize participants in clubs or bukatsu. For example, the anime Haikyuu makes volleyball seem so intense. Even looking at the anime Free, swimmers are shown as intense grown ups rather than teens. It is starkly different in real life. The level of intensity and dedication to sports differentiates between everyone. During one of the Kakehashi visits, there was one girl who said she played three sports, and there was another who played none at all. It was wonderfully enlightening to see the variation of club activity, with one person even giving us a martial arts display.
The conversations that we had with the students were not what I expected. We quickly bonded and talked about many things that happened in our daily lives. Although there were some language barriers, we tried to talk in Japanese and they also practiced their English. The importance of Kakehashi visits are not only to travel and make new friends, but to also dismantle assumptions made about a culture based on media portrayal.