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.