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.