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.

Jazmin’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

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.

What Japan Means to Me

By Jasmine Alarcon (Japanese at CHEC)

There are not enough words to describe my time in Japan, but if I had to choose I would say that it was an incredible, wonderful, new experience that I will always cherish. From the food to the culture to staying with my host family to sightseeing and shopping, there was never one moment where I thought to myself that I would rather be in America.

The most meaningful part to me of this trip was the stay with the host family, because even though there was a big language barrier I really appreciated the fact how my host parents still tried to communicate and bond with me. I enjoyed how my host mom took my roommate and me to try on kimonos and have a small tea ceremony with sakura tea, because I know how this is a big part of Japanese culture. Also, the most informative part of the trip was when we were greeted with information about the history  of Japan and what Japan stands for. I love the whole idea behind peace that Japan has that I never have felt unsafe during my stay there. This trip made me realize how America isn’t the greatest place to live in as everyone says it is. There are other places in the world that go unrecognized and Japan is one of them. Many people should know about Japan and they will most likely want to live there too.

Overall, everyone in Japan was so kind and respectful, that not once did I feel unwelcomed. There’s so much to learn in Japan. I only wish that the trip could’ve been longer but from my short time there, I can truly say with no doubt in my heart that I will return to Japan.

Skyy’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Skyy Genies (Japanese Plus)

This past week, I learned so much about myself and Japan throughout my stay in Gifu and Tokyo; from culture and traditions to language. Going into the program, I didn’t really know what to expect, as it was my second time travelling to Japan. Would I feel any different? Would it be the same? These questions lingered in my head before the trip and were quickly answered the minute I landed in Japan. From the first activity to the very last, I was able to obtain valuable knowledge about not only Japanese society but about my own. Things were definitely as amazing, if not more than the first time I travelled to Japan. I had the opportunity to use my previous experiences of Japan to create a new perspective during the KAKEHASHI trip that would lead me to many revelations and reflections. A few of the events that were especially meaningful to me were the homestay program and the high school exchange.

The homestay program was one of the best experiences of my life. Throughout my 3 days and 2 nights living in a house with the Watanabe family, I was able to not only learn about the history of Gifu, such as Teru Teru Bozo, but I was able to create meaningful relationships with my family members and gain insight about the livelihood of the average Japanese family and exchange information about our countries with one another. From my host mother, Akemi Watanabe, to my younger sister Akemi, every member in my host family had wisdom and love to share with me which truly made the experience amazing. During our day together, our family travelled to Nagoya Castle, shopped in Nagoya, and even ate the famous local tempura shrimp together. That night we had an amazing feast of pizza, a plethora of sushi, and roe noodles.

Aside from touring, my host family and I discussed various topics such as the school system of Japan in comparison to the United States, protesting, politics, and hobbies. I learned about how the Japanese school system is structured, as my host mother was a Japanese teacher, how Japan perceives Trump, and even the little things like the Golden Dolphin of Nagoya Castle. Like any other family, we ate dinner together and cheered for the Olympics together. I felt like a true member of the family. By the end of the experience, I became an appointed mentor for my host sister Akemi. These amazing bonds are what truly made the homestay experience unforgettable. Not to mention the Nintendo Switch that my host brother was obsessed with. The cheering, shouting, and fun competition that Mario Kart offered us at any given time is truly a memory that I will continue to cherish for the rest of my life.

The high school exchange was an honestly breathtaking experience. From the minute we arrived at the high school, we were greeted warmly by cheering students, excited to show us their high school and presentations. I cannot put in words how amazing the performances of Taiko, Koto, Sado, and Kyudo were. The extreme contrast between the effort, dedication, and determination put into the students’ participation in the clubs was truly astonishing to me. The students seemed like true professionals at their club activities. Aside from the presentations, I felt so great after getting to know the students and realizing that despite our differences in language or culture, we had many things in common. I befriended people who loved K-pop, anime, fashion, photography, and art, just like I do! This experience is the perfect example that love and friendship has no boundary. Despite how far apart you may seem from someone physically or culturally, there is always common ground that you can meet on and build meaningful relationships on. I will never forget the day I spent at Gifu Sogo Gakuen High School and the meaningful relationships that I created.

Throughout the trip I realized the importance of the maintenance of tradition and culture, despite technology and infrastructural advancements, how far dedication and kindness can take you, and the significance that realizing that commonalities exist between people despite the seemingly apparent contrasts between people. From the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I learned that even in the midst of confusion, aggression, and threats, it is important for the people as a community to stand by what they believe and have believed for many years before, such as the anti-weapons stance that Japan stands by. From the high school students and my host family, I realized that if you put your heart into something, you are bound to see a positive outcome. Whether that be the construction of meaningful relationships or the mastery of your club, dedication can take you a long way. The thing that I took away from this trip the most was the fact that people from places on opposite sides of the world can still find common grounds and create sincere connections with one another that may have been unimaginable before. I would like to apply this knowledge to my future when I approach new concepts and people, because it is through understanding one another that people can avoid conflict and achieve world peace.

Additionally, I realized that I definitely want to minor in East Asian studies and study abroad in Japan during my time in University so that I can give back the same generosity and love to those who treated me so well and guided me during my time in Japan during the past week. I am so thankful for the experiences that I had in Japan through the KAKEHASHI program! Thank you!

A Full 180

By Chidera Obiwuma

During our KAKEHASHI trip in Japan, our group had the opportunity to do an exchange with high school students from Gifu Sogo Gakuen High School. During the time we spent with them, they showed us the many different clubs that they dedicated much of their time to. I was flabbergasted seeing all the astonishing performances they had for us, especially the Taiko drumming. Through this experience my views on Japanese schools changed immensely. Japan is known for having a strict education system; however, that wasn’t what I thought after spending almost a day with the high school students. I was amazed at the performance by the students and felt that they all had talents to showcase unlike many students in America. To me, in comparison to Japanese high schools, I think that American high schools are strict. The reason I say that is because of the big difference that I noticed in our curriculum. Japanese high schools are more well-rounded than American high school students. They not only learn the traditional subjects like math and science but also learn about the arts like calligraphy, similar to learning cursive in the West, which has become a dead practice. I feel that such a curriculum makes a person more versatile and allows them to not only have more opportunities in life but to show one more thing about themselves that makes them interesting and stand out as an individual.