Tara’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Tara Martin (Japanese Plus; Japan in DC)

The KAKEHASHI trip was extremely impactful on me and my personality. I think it was the best way that i’ve been able to experience and deepen my understanding of Japanese culture. One of my favorite parts of the exchange trip was going to Kidochen, a sweet shop in Ogaki City. I was really looking forward to this because my family (my aunt and my mother especially) are amazing bakers and I really love sweets. I found the process of making the different flower mochi very fun. It also made me pay attention to detail and be very patient with the process, because rushing it would make it look nothing like the examples the chef made. It was a great way for me to learn an underlying cultural aspect of Japanese culture and appreciate my work.

My other favorite was the homestay. I think it was the best way for me to really experience Japanese culture that I already heard about. It was helpful for me to really understand how these practices influence daily living. It’s one thing to hear about how you live in Japan versus actually experiencing it. I had known before that you shower before you get in a bath and the bath is only for soaking, but what I didn’t realize was just how cold the shower water was. It definitely made the warm bath feel amazing. I also really enjoyed sleeping in a futon because it was really warm and cozy; also because my host family had no central heating, so I was freezing most of the time. They also fed us different foods than the program did, which helped me try new things. This really meant a lot to me because throughout this entire trip I was able to meet new people and get a new experience and it changed me.

I realized just how different Japanese culture is from American culture, especially the small things like shoes (high tops seem like a great idea until you have to keep relacing them every time you take them off). Going on the KAKEHASHI trip also made me even more aware of the Japanese and American relationship. I definitely want to go back to Japan and have more time for sightseeing, and somehow make it for the 2020 Olympics.

Jeff’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Jeff Jenkins (Japanese Plus)

I must say that the program was marvelous, and I enjoyed every moment of it. From the people that I met and the things that I was able to experience, especially the homestay and the Gifu High School visit. I find it amazing how traditional Japan remains, while other countries are rushing to new advancements and technology, forgetting their cultural roots. The High School that we visited was a great example, because they had clubs for Japanese calligraphy, Japanese archery and Kumi daiko (traditional Japanese drums). It is amazing that teenagers can participate in more old-fashioned clubs, instead of just track and field, football and basketball. It’s awesome to know that they have a larger variety of activities to choose from for their afterschool activities, something I wish we had in America.

Being able to communicate with Japanese people in Japanese was super fun and it showed that I had come a long way from the last time that I had visited Japan, which was in the summer of 2016. Possessing the ability to read and communicate in Japanese filled me with me self-gratification and I couldn’t be any happier about it! Especially during my stay with my host family, I could convey my ideas to them and we could hold conversations with each other making our time together much enjoyable. I must say that it was quite interesting switching from Japanese and English, I remember quite clearly that I said the phrase “sumimasen” to both Japanese and English speakers one too many times, as if it was instinctively. The Japanese classes I have been taking for a year in a half truly paid off, and I’m thankful to my sensei and my Japanese Director for allowing me to see how much I’ve truly grown and gained a deeper perspective on Japan – specifically, their “Constitution,” which was crafted by the United States of America after WWII.

I had known that our relationship with Japan had been deep since WWII, however I never knew that we constructed a constitution that stops them from declaring war or going to battle with anyone. This was truly shocking to me, because I had always thought of the constitution as something that would only be used in America, not across the world. I only knew the tip of the iceberg when it came the relationship of Japan and America, but after my trip, I understood that it goes a lot deeper than we may know.

Clark’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Clark Gray (Japan in DC)

The lecture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was particularly meaningful to me. I got a lot of insight on how Japan handles important matters such as diplomacy and national security. We also talked about issues regarding Japan’s shrinking population and China’s loophole abuse of the UN Law of the Seas, which I learned about in much detail in my AP Human Geography class last year. This showed me how important the concepts learned in school are more useful than making one seem smarter. This shows me the understanding I have gained from human geopolitics can help me make a difference on the global scale possibly working in diplomatic relations and other international efforts.

The onsen was a completely new and interesting experience. I heard that an onsen was a Japanese spa. I did not know that it was a naked spa. I thought it would be really weird and I was a bit worried, but it was not awkward or weird. I spent most of my time in hot pools relaxing and rejuvenating, especially when my friend Jeffrey encouraged me to go into a pool saying, “that’s where the water was hottest.” I was shocked to find that it was a shock therapy pool. It felt almost like paralysis but my body felt like new afterward. This experience taught me again how to appreciate surprises and to be more open.

The homestay was amazing. My mom and dad were so nice, they treated us like family. They fed us like grandparents. We watched various tv programs like the Olympics and that reminded me of family movie night with my family. At home, my duty is to wash dishes so I tried to help my host mom which she was very much surprised by and appreciative of.  The second day was really when it hit me that I was in Japan waking up to people talking in an unfamiliar language. It felt cool and inspires me to learn Japanese.

Raven’s KAKEHASHI Trip Reflection

By Raven Bluford (Japanese Plus)

Going to Japan this time around, I am coming in with new eyes. A lot of things I learned the first time I went to Japan were reinforced this time around. But all in all, there were definitely many things I didn’t know before. A few things that really stood out to me on this trip was Japanese energy conservation, Japan’s foreign policy, Japanese customer service, Japanese school life, and Japanese home life. I already knew that Japanese people were environmentally aware and they did a lot of energy conservation. But actually experiencing how they conserve their energy in daily life was very interesting to me and made me think about how I waste energy on a daily basis. I should try to be more environmentally aware of the decisions I make, because the smaller decisions can have a negative impact on the earth as a whole. Examples of the energy conservation I observed were the eco-flush toilets, turning off all electricity when you leave the house, and the houses not having central heating.

Learning about Japan’s foreign policy was one of my favorite lectures that we’ve heard on the trip, because I already had an interest in the relationship between the US and Japan. This interest came from me writing a research paper about the US occupation in Japan after World War II, which was the foundation for the relationship that the US and Japan have now. So it was interesting to understand how that relationship evolved and to see what Japanese people really think about not having nuclear weapons. The point of view that a lot of Japanese people have about not having nuclear weapons was really fascinating and it really made me think about how much better the world would be if we all shared that same mindset, because it would force everyone to talk it out instead of just resorting to violence.

Another thing I learned that I didn’t know the first time I went to Japan was about Japanese school life. I already knew that it was required for the Japanese students to have a club. But I never knew how much commitment and time that they put into their activities and it was interesting to see how in America the goal is to do multiple activities and put just enough effort into them, but in Japan the students choose one activity and they put more than enough effort into their activity. Another thing that I learned about Japanese school life or from what I’ve seen from Japanese people in general, is that they know how to turn the professionalism on and off. When the Japanese students turned off the professionalism, I could see that we were not so different in that we could bond over the fact that we were all shy on first meetings and that we shared similar music interest. But I also found a lot of the students to be quite hyper, which was quite refreshing.

The main thing that stood out to me over the trip was Japanese family life. For home stay, I stayed with a family of 4 with a father, mother, daughter, and son. Prior to the trip, I expected the father to not be as active in the children’s lives because I’ve read about how sometimes the men that work in companies are overworked, so they aren’t home as much. But I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see my host family’s dynamic and I really valued that they took us into their home and allowed us to view this dynamic. All in all, this trip reinforced to me things I already knew and things that I learned. This trip also reinforced to me that in the future I would love to stay in Japan more long-term and I would not trade this trip for anything, because I am so appreciative of the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, and the things I learned.

Emely’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Emely Flores (Japanese at CHEC)

My name is Emely Flores. I’m in the 11th grade. I had an opportunity to get a free trip to learn about and go to Japan. What can I say about my journey? There was so much that I took in and wish it was longer, but even though it was in a short time, I can’t complain. I loved every second of it, especially having the chance to be hosted by a family over there. Now that was an experience! I was chosen because during the summer I heard about a TOMODACHI exchange program for Japanese students. They were visiting D.C. so I decide to go with them during a tourist experience, and met the students, and I was able to learn more about Japan and I was much more intrigued.

When I heard about the opportunity of going to Japan for a week, I jumped right on board. it was a lot of meetings and conversations to get me mentally prepared and ready to go across the ocean, and ready for a new culture lifestyle. I won’t lie, I was nervous. It was a lot to take in just knowing I was gonna be in a different country and meet a lot of people, who I thought I was gonna have a lot of trouble communicating with, but it was a once in a lifetime experience that I was gonna take. I mean not many can say at my age they went to Japan.

Although all this was a rush for me, everything changed the minute I got there. It wasn’t the fact that I had my best friend with me and my close friends, but the environment of Japan. The people making me feel accepted and safe was the best feeling ever. Not only that, when I went to stores or restaurants and my teacher wasn’t there to help me talk to the employee for help or in general anywhere, people were always open to do hand gestures or try to say things in English or anything possible for us to find communication. The things I did in Japan were stay in Tokyo and visiting famous tourist places and going to Gifu which was two hours away from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, which in America we call the bullet train. it’s a fast train that we were able to get on in Tokyo.

Going to Gifu was an experience I’ll never forget. I was able to go to a school there and meet kids around my age and see what they did, their activities, learn about their dreams and what they want to do, and how they’re gonna achieve them. I was able to see the cultural difference – how kids enjoyed their school – from their warm smiles when they saw us, their welcome gestures of showing us their music, sports, dancing and games, and so much more. I just couldn’t help it but  smile and felt so happy.

Additionally, meeting my host family was the true experience. Even though it was only for a couple of days, I truly can say it will never be forgotten. The tea ceremony and the kimono wearing and going to the temple and even cooking with my family was so much more than I could’ve asked for.

Japan overall was a trip that I wished lasted longer. The people were just so amazing. Just knowing now that there’s a bridge there for me to always cross is much more than I could’ve asked for.

Asa’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Asa Forte (Japan in DC)

Traveling to Japan has been an extremely informative experience. While in Japan, I learned many interesting aspects of the culture that I never would have even imagined. My group even got to visit Tokyo. We went to Akihabara, which is also known as Anime City for its display of anime and manga. This was personally one of the most meaningful moments during the trip. I also really enjoyed participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Before visiting Japan, I knew there were many vending machines in the public. However, I underestimated just how many vending machines I would actually see in person. I counted over one hundred vending machines in the first two days of the trip. I also noticed something rather peculiar about the majority of these vending machines. They all have drinks and cigarettes, but there aren’t any snacks, though it’s understandable, seeing how some snacks may melt or go bad, thus being incompatible with those vending machines.

I also noticed how power-conservative Japanese people are. While staying in my host home, I was politely instructed to turn off any lights and heaters that weren’t in use.

Later in the week, my group visited a high school in Gifu. This school had a list of after school programs. The students were very dedicated to the programs in which they were involved. Since then, I’ve decided to assert more effort in the arts of my interest, and be more successful as an individual Duke Ellington high school student. I’m an instrumental major, but I’m also multi-talented. It’s very difficult to maintain my interest in my talents and artistic interests attending this school, because it requires the majority of my attention. However, seeing those Japanese students and their dedication to the arts has reminded me of my passion, and the responsibilities that I’m entitled to. I will, however, keep my attention balanced between my responsibilities and my talents to ensure success, not only in school, but in life.

Rakiya’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Rakiya Washington (Japanese Plus)

My experience traveling to Japan through Globalize DC’s Kakehashi program was the most exciting and motivating experience that I have had while being in the Japanese Plus Program. Not only was this the longest travel experience I’ve had, but it was also the first time I had traveled by plane. I am glad that I was able to kill two birds with one stone and travel to a country that I have always desired to go to. During our trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to travel to several areas of Japan, including; Tokyo, Akihabara, Gifu prefecture and Harajuku. If were to choose my favorite places out of those I visited, I would have to choose Gifu and Harajuku, because they had very different atmospheres and made me feel more connected to Japan.

Gifu prefecture is where I stayed with my host family, and for me, this experience was the most sentimental and meaningful event in the entire trip. My host family consisted of a Grandmother, Grandfather, their son, daughter-in-law, and their two young children. I really enjoyed the two days that I experienced with them as we travelled to various places, such as Inuyama Castle, a ramen restaurant, a mall, and a temple/shrine. Inuyama Castle was a beautiful experience as I was glad to take pictures of the amazing view from the top of the castle. I’m not usually one who takes photos; I’d rather live in the moment; however, this trip pushed me to start taking more pictures, which was actually really fun.

After going to Inuyama Castle with my host family and another host family with Bryson and Asa, we all went to a ramen restaurant where I enjoyed some delicious simple ramen. Then we were able to meet again with Bryson and Asa to go to a huge mall for about an 1 hour, which I really enjoyed, since I love to shop. However, it was not as enjoyable, since I forgot my wallet, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed my time there and would love to go again. Then we went home and tried on traditional kimonos and played “Pick-up priest.” Although we were only there for two days, I was developing a great relationship with my host family, and it caused me to feel such sadness to say farewell. But, going to Harajuku made up for that sad event. Harajuku is a famous shopping area in Japan and I was excited to go and spend my money. I was so happy with the purchases that I made and I will definitely be returning sometime in the near future.

Overall, my experience in Japan was something that I will cherish for the rest of my life as it is only the beginning of a journey to getting to know Japan more deeply. Throughout my college experience, I will be studying abroad in both Japan and South Korea, as well as taking courses to study the language. I am so excited to see what other opportunities will be opened to me that will allow me to love Japanese culture even more.