Malaika’s Post: July 30

We began the day with work on our final presentation, which is sure to be a treat. Then, we had a very informative workshop on social entrepreneurship by LearnServe International. During that workshop, we discussed problems that society has and solutions to some of those pressing issues. We revealed that you are never too young to make a difference and that if you see a problem, like a restaurant throwing away crayons, don’t just complain about it. Be proactive. We also had a brief conversation with a representative from the GWU Office of Civic Engagement. During this conversation we discussed a day of service that incoming GWU students participate in for the betterment of the community.

Later on in that day, we made our patches for our quilt with Mrs. Armstrong. In our patches we were tasked with representing our experience and what we took away from the program. This was a great activity because it acted as an artistic outlet, despite the fact that I am not a very good drawer. A common theme among our panels was friendship, and unity, which was evident because of the use of both the American and Japanese flags and the TOMODACHI symbol.

Finally, we went to Words, Beats, and Life, where we took part in 3 different engaging activities. The first was a breakdancing lesson, in which we saw first hand how difficult it can be to dance hip hop. Here we were taught the basic steps in breakdancing that can be used to create more elaborate dances. Then, we had a professional lesson in the art of being a dj. It was amazing to see how technology has drastically changed the business and how much you must learn and master in order to be a good dj. Finally, we went to a graffiti station. There are many steps one needs to take in order to create something as simple as a letter when creating graffiti. It takes dedication, creativity and patience. It made me appreciate more the beauty in graffiti because it is generally viewed in a more negative light.

Malaika Coleman
McKinley Technology High School

Favorite American food so far!


My favorite food I ate during the stay in Washington, DC was crab cakes. I ate it at Alexandria beside the river and I was looking forward to eat it ever since I came here because my host family was recommending me it day after day. We sometimes eat crab in Japan but we don’t often, so it was good filling my mouth with crab.


The highlight of my dinner was the delicious pizza with onion and mushroom. I still remember the crisp crust and the melted cheese filling my mouth.


My favorite food I had over the stay here was a chili dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl, a combination of chili and hot dog that we never get to see in Japan.


My favorite food has been Philadelphia Cheesesteak so far. Compared to other kinds of sandwiches, they have higher but better taste. I would love to bring them to Japan for my friends if it were possible.


I liked the African American soul food. I especially liked the BBQ ribs because it was big and had a lot of sauce on it. I also liked it because it was strongly flavoured.


On my first day of this stay, I got to eat Azerbaijani food which my host mom made for me. My host mom, she experienced Peace Corps at Azerbaijan, so she made exactly how her host family in Azerbaijan taught her how to cook. Lentil soup, soup made out of green vegetable, and some Azerbaijani tea. These were a completely new eating experiences for me.

What we want to experience for ourselves in Japan!


Something I learned about Japan is the custom of greeting someone and asking where is the bathroom. When you greet someone you have to introduce yourself by giving your name, age, and ask where is the bathroom. I have been practicing really hard to be able to greet someone in Japanese and cannot wait to try it.


Something shared with me by the Japanese students that I can’t wait to see for myself is the crowded trains, because they say that even when our trains are crowded, it doesn’t compare. I also found it interesting that on escalators they walk on the right and stand on the left, which is completely opposite of us.


Something I learned from the Japanese students that I can’t wait to see are the schools. This is because they describe the things that happen at their school and they seem so different from what happens at ours. I really want to see the similarities and differences between our schools.


Japanese teenagers don’t hug! Seriously, unless they’re dating or siblings then hugging is not an acceptable greeting!!


During the past two weeks the American group has learned a lot about Japanese culture that has made the group even more excited to travel there in the fall. One of the things that has particularly fascinated me is the Japanese bullet train. The train has particularly fascinated me because of how fast it goes and how different it is from DC metro.


I’d really like to see the traffic in Japan. The Japanese students never really cross the street unless the light is on green, so I want to see what makes traffic so quick and dangerous in Japan.

Social Entrepreneurship, Quilting and Hip Hop Classes

On Wednesday of the second week, we started the day by doing discussions about the things we learned from teaching Japanese Culture at a school called Malcolm X Elementary School, a freedom school named after Malcolm X who fought for the rights of African-Americans. The big idea we got by teaching was good values should be instilled when you are young and children are our future. We also had a discussion about the things we learned from an organization called Operation Understanding DC (OUDC), an organization only for Jews and African-Americans to promote respect, understanding, and cooperation. The big ideas we had from this were through conscious thinking, we can be aware of stereotypes and if we are not stuck in our beliefs, we are able to change our beliefs about other people.

After the discussions, we had a workshop on social entrepreneurship by LearnServe International. LearnServe International is an organization which promotes young people to stand up and make action. In the workshop we made an imaginary organization to solve problems we have worldwide. In our group, we thought that the social problem which we have in common in Japan and USA is the misuse of taxes. We came up with an idea of making an outside observation organization to watch without any bias.

After we had some lunch, we did quilting. We all made pieces of art connected to this 2014 TOMODACHI US-JAPAN EXCHANGE PROGRAM. After this we got on the metro to visit Words Beats and Life which is an organization that produces a global journal of Hip-Hop culture. We were able to experience three parts of Hip-Hop: DJ, dancing, and graffiti.

By having the workshop by LearnServe International, I was able to notice that we have many social problems which are similar. In our group, we had thought that the misuse of taxes is a social problem in both Japan and the USA but other groups had different thoughts. One group said that smoking and second hand smoke is a social problem and another group talked about laziness. I was able to sympathize with all of these thoughts because I think that laziness and NEET’s are a social problem in both Japan and the US. I was able to learn that although we have a completely different culture, the social problems we have are the same. I was also able to learn that it is never too young to make an action to make a difference. I heard about a high-school student making an organization to help children to go to college by giving money. However, I also learned that most of these organizations are run with the support of many people.

At the quilting workshop, we all made pieces of art connected to this program. I made one with two tennis rackets and a tennis ball which is based on a Japanese saying “To make good relations, it is important to do a catch ball of words.” I arranged it a little to a tennis racket because I belong in the tennis club.

At the Hip-Hop classes, we had a great time learning DJ, dances, and graffiti. At the DJ class, we were able to do some of the things they do. It was harder than I thought because I had to make the timings correct. At the dance class, we learned the basic steps, which is used in Hip-Hop. I am not a good dancer so I had lots of things to learn but it was fun learning the dances. At the graffiti class, we were able to draw things on the practice walls they had; it was hard because by changing the distance and speed, the look of the paint changes.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

Civil Rights and Stereotypes

In the last two weeks both parts of the exchange, Japanese and American, have learned so much more about Washington D.C. and the people inside the city. Through the program not only have the Japanese been able to learn a lot about the city, but also the Americans who call the city home. I have been amazed by things that take place in the city that I have never heard about before or seen and I’m thankful that as a group we have had the great fortune to experience these things together. Today we had a particularly interesting visit from two groups, D.C. Vote and Operation Understanding D.C.

The first group D.C. Vote started off the morning and taught the group about the limited voting rights that D.C. has. As a group we were all shocked by the fact that 700,000 people in this nation were essentially not able to have any kind of voice in Congress and had little to no control over what kinds of laws were passed even in their own city and neighborhoods. Before today I did know that we did not have the right to vote in Congress, but I didn’t know how this restriction affected so many people and things in D.C. Learning about the different laws that D.C. has proposed and gotten passed only to have them struck down in one sharp blow by Congress was interesting and also made me want to do something about what was happening in the city. This discussion has both educated me about DC and our right to vote and inspired me to both learn more and speak out against it.

The second workshop that the group participated in today was one called Operation Understanding DC. This group was one that unites both African American youth and Jewish youth to fight discrimination and end racism in DC. During this presentation we were asked by two Jewish youth Ezra and Jake to play a game called the human knot. The game involved making a circle and basically making a “human knot” with each other’s arms. The game was a great way to practice both clear verbal and nonverbal communication which was helpful in the following exercises. The next exercise we participated in was one dealing with stereotypes and how they develop. During the exercise we were given a group or race on a card and told to list all stereotypes that we knew about this group. This forced us to think about all the labels we use for many different people and groups and how easy it was for us to think of them. After the stereotype activity we all sat down and discussed each stereotype and what they said about us and the group we were labeling. The exercise changed a lot of our perspectives on how we interact with others and what that says about us as people. I really enjoyed all of the exercises we participated in today because they were really interesting and made you think deeper about a lot of topics.

Gabrielle Towson
School Without Walls

Malcolm X

We were teachers today! Not only that, but it was one of the most frustrating learning experiences (AKA a failure) that I have ever done. We went to Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast DC where a summer camp called the Omega Freedom School was awaiting us. We were to teach Origami and Japanese games along with phrases from the Japanese language. We were expecting a group of enthusiastic kids ready to learn. What we got were kids, ready to learn but with the collective attention span of a school of goldfish. It really was what we should of expected from little kids during the summer. We made Origami, a heart and a swan. All of my horribly-folded abominations looked down in shame at Malaika’s and M.I’s masterpieces. The kids’ actually were pretty good at it. Me, M.I, and Malaika’s group finished theirs, but then came the real challenge. We were now supposed to teach them Japanese. Although they got some words down, but I still doubt they remember them, we were not able to keep them focused on the lesson. Learning to count to ten in Japanese turned into counting to five, which then turned to a Japanese kids song about frogs which we used as our cry of defeat. The white flag had been waved just in time, because it was time for the kids to go to circle time. We basically all got in a big circle and danced to a bunch of motivational chants. It was actually a lot of fun and Noah really got into it, albeit he was making up most of his own dance moves.

After the dancing and chanting, we met Rock Newman. Rock Newman had blue eyes and sunburnt white skin. He looked like your everyday white man, which is why it was even more shocking when I found out he was black, well, technically black. Back in the days of segregation anyone with even the slightest trace of black lineage was considered black. Because of this, Rock Newman went to a segregated school with all black students. He’s had experience with being a living example of societies flawed systems. He’s an advocate and an example of the American Way. He started living in a country ramshackle house with an outhouse and moved to promoting a world heavy weight champion boxer. We talked about stereotypes all across the world, and what I got from it is that we are in the position to change it.

Luke Nogueira
Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Learning US, Learning Japan

Today was the first day we started our activity in the School Without Walls. After we prepared ourselves by moving our desks in a circle, we first discussed the program for Japanese lessons for elementary students scheduled in the afternoon. I think it was a great opportunity also for the students from DC because after the Japanese students came up with some activities, Japanese students lectured about some Japanese expressions and games to the DC kids. Soon after that, we got to hear from our first guest, James Jones, the Communications Director of DC Vote. DC Vote is an organization that fights for full voting representation in Congress for the more than 600,000 residents of the District of Colombia. As he explained the history of DC, we learned that since Washington D.C. was made as a federal district, residents in DC literally have no right in US House of representatives. They get to vote for their own representative in house, only she actually has no right to say the opinion in house. I found it very interesting because it was a great example of factors what makes DC very special and different from any other cities. These facts were things that I wouldn’t know about if I hadn’t come here. I was really surprised that residents in DC struggle with this problem because voting rights are what Japanese obviously have when they get to the certain age.

Our next guest was Operation Understanding DC. They are an organization that prepares leadership development programs to promote more respect for black and Jewish people in DC community. Their workshop included two very interesting activities; first, we hold someone else’s hand, each hand with different person, then we had to untangle our hands. Second, we split up into three groups, and each groups got two cards with the name of different groups of people written on them, like Christians, Black people, or teenagers. Then we came up with stereotypes toward those group of people. We realized that we done our second activity very quickly, which meant that we already knew many stereotypes toward those groups of people, and we are unconsciously using these knowledge when we judge someone. Living in one of homogeneous nations, Japan, it is more difficult to notice such diversity of people and stereotypes we have toward them so these activity opened my eyes to those facts.

After lunch, we all took metro and went to Malcolm X Elementary School, where the next activity took place in. If I would name the morning we just had as ‘knowing US activities’, the afternoon activities more focused on Japanese culture. Malcolm X Elementary is one of these Freedom Schools, that students are from not very wealthy families. It was interesting though to hear that one of the aim they are trying to achieve is to help kids to gain knowledge just like the black people whom participated in lunch counter sitting-in on 1963 had. In other words, black people at that time could take action to fight against discrimination because they were educated to do so. And one of the important things they have learned earlier should be ‘non violence’. Since we already learned about this event when we visited the Museum of American History a few days ago, this example was understandable for us; it was one of these great moments that we could connect something new with what we have learned earlier in this program. Anyways, after we were taught about the Freedom School policy, we split up into two groups and gave 30 minute lessons of Japanese culture to each of two different groups of 1st grade students. Our group taught Origami and some games. Afterwards, we all went to the cafeteria, and we sang some songs together and moved our bodies along with rhythms and lyrics.

Overall, we had fun teaching small children, and at the same time, we learned a lot from children. We could see that kids enjoyed learning new things, and we were surprised by how quickly they learned them. To be honest, it was very difficult to teach something to kids, or even just to get their attention. However, we also realized that once they were interested in something, they can really concentrate on that topic, and they can absorb many things. By seeing their smiles with origami hearts and cranes they have made, and by hearing them saying some Japanese words like ‘konnichiwa’ or ‘arigato’ that they have learned, we could be proud of ourselves that we could help those kids to take a very first step into learning different cultures and international mind set.

Our last guest today was Rock Newman, a boxing promoter. We noticed his enthusiasm and passion by the way he talked, and he explained his own background about stereotypes, using some good examples. The most outstanding example was about a black man who married with Chinese woman, lived in China, and was discriminated by Chinese people, just because they were ‘afraid’ of black people by the image they had in their mind about black people. As I summarize today’s activity, I came up with one of these absolute key words of the day: stereotypes. From the workshop by OUDC and Rock Newman’s story, we have learnt that we can not get rid of stereotypes and return to pure minds like kids in Malcolm X Elementary had, but at least we need to be aware of them.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

Hubs, Government, and DC Central Kitchen

Today we arrived at the American Councils and debriefed on the American museum exhibit we went to the last day and on the presentation on the Japanese American experience.

IMG_1711After that, for the first panel, we visited a business innovation hub called “1776” made in April 2013. A business innovation hub is a place where many companies that can’t afford to have their own office get together and share one floor of a building. We had a guided tour there and learnt about how 1776 functions and were able to hear from a company called “Vibeffect” about their work.

Next we headed for the DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and listened to a presentation on the DC Government and the goals of the international business in the Business Development and Strategy field. IMG_1713

For the third presentation, we visited the DC Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that makes 5000 meals everyday with food that was going to be wasted but has nothing wrong with the flavor and the safety. Then we went to the National Building Museum exhibit, “Designing for Disaster” and looked at the ruins of buildings from a natural disaster and the possibility for it to happen in America. For the last part of the day, we walked to the Memorial to Japanese American Patriotism in World War 2. This was a place made to show the apology by the president of America to the Japanese Americans who fought in World War 2.

I will like to explain about what I learnt from the first program. At 1776, I thought that this was a very efficient working place. Not only you can cut down the costs but also you can have a talk with the different companies and attend the classes at the General Assemblies. We heard about a job from a person who works for “Ubelong”, which offers a volunteer tour to college students. When we were listening to his explanations about the company, he seemed to be so excited and was full of passion in recommending the tour to us. It seemed that he loves the place where he works and I thought that was such an admirable thing, since it is hard to find and get a job which you are interested in. I thought that most companies in 1776 were able to be made because it is in America. I learnt how this country accepts people to form a company if they have the passion and help them out. There are hubs in Japan as well but most of them are not as big as 1776. To make a more efficient and energetic workplace, I thought we should take it back to Japan and make it more common there.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

Success is the Product of Hard Work

On Monday the 28th of the second week, we met at American Councils to debrief the last couple of days in the program. During the debrief we came up with big ideas for the Panel: Stories of US-Japan. We also came up with a big idea for our tour and program at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and our visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. After, the debrief we walked to 1776 and had a tour of the business innovation hub. The tour of 1776 included seeing and learning how it was founded and the principles in which it was founded on. We had the chance to talk to a group of entrepreneurs whose company was almost ready to launch. Then, we walked to the Wilson Building and ate lunch while being briefed on local business innovation. Shortly after, we had a tour of the Wilson Building by staff of the DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. In the afternoon, we visited DC Central Kitchen and learned how it started, how it has grown, and how they obtain the funds to use food as a tool to strengthen a community. Afterwards, we visited the National Building Museum’s exhibit, “Designing for Disaster” to learn the innovative ideas that are being used to build buildings that are prepared for a natural disaster. Lastly, we visited to the Memorial to Japanese American Patriotism in World War II and experienced it in a different perspective through the detailed instruction given to us by Terry Shima, a Japanese American WW2 veteran.

I am so jovial that I had the chance to tour the business innovation hub called 1776, which opened my eyes to a way you can become successful if you are willing to work hard. One of those ways is that when you start your own business you do not always have the knowledge, skill sets, and resources for your business to be successful in the long run. The main thing that 1776 focuses on are those three things. And having the knowledge that there is a company like 1776 eases the mind of all inventors or anyone who has an idea to make the world a better place. From this experience I have learned that as a single person you do not know everything and there is going to come a time when you need help. And that it is OK because at the end of the day 4 hands are better than 2. Also, the briefing on local business innovations informed me about a part of my local government that I had no clue about. I learned that the staff of the DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development have come up with a very strategic and well-planned strategy to make the District of Columbia the top North American destination for foreign investors, business, and tourists. I know reading the previous statement you are asking yourself how a city only 10 miles can be this. It is a goal, which is something higher than yourself. Through being informed about this goal I have learned that the way to become successful is to first have a goal, secondly to have a plan to reach this goal, and thirdly to act on the plan. And if you are working on something that you believe in wholeheartedly, then never give up.

Noah Dyson
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

Micah’s Day 6: July 28

We had lunch with John McKiel, the International Business Analyst for D.C.’s mayor Vincent Gray. We started off by introducing ourselves with our names, schools, and possible career interests. With Mr. McKiel was a college student interning from China. He spoke Japanese to the Keio students, then told everyone how he had come from China to work along with Mr. McKiel. Then we discussed our interests in D.C. government. Luke, Noah, and I all had an interest in D.C.’s growth in the arts and humanities. We were glad to hear that Mayor Gray’s office has a strong relationship with the Arts and Humanities Commission in D.C. because I know their poetry slam competitions are a great community for many high school students. Next, Mr. McKiel went over the difference between the power of a mayor and a president, how the mayor governs a state (or city in D.C.’s case, Taxation Without Representation!) and the president governs the nation. We learned about the four sections of a mayoral office. There is Planning and Economic Development, dealing with real estate for the public and companies; Education, working on the schools in the district; Health and Human Services, tackling health and social welfare issues; then Public Safety and Justice, pursuing the improvement of police services and criminal justice system. Once Mr. McKiel finished his presentation we were led on a tour throughout the building.

Next we took the metro to visit Judiciary Square’s D.C. Central Kitchen. We were educated on the history of D.C. Central Kitchen by Katherine Eklund, the partnerships and planning coordinator. Ms. Eklund was very excited to learn about each of us and tell D.C. Central Kitchen’s story.

It all began with a nightclub owner. This nightclub owner was getting married. On his wedding day his family had a ritual, to serve the less fortunate. As he and his family served meals to the ill and homeless, the nightclub owner wondered, “Gee we always throw food like this away! Tons of perfectly fine food goes to waste just from a drop of customers at my night club! I could be saving this food. So what if I took this food and served it? What if I not only did this, but hire people who are like the ones we are serving? Give them a good community and most importantly, a second chance.” And so the nightclub owner had the idea that he would pursue to create D.C. Central Kitchen.

We also took a tour that held the strong aroma of fresh meats and produce! It was wonderful!

After this we visited the National Building Museum. Here we visited an exhibit about earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes affecting a building. Here we discovered what should be held in a safe room. Safe rooms are very strongly built bunkers underground to defend against earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and other natural disasters. We also tried to build a wind resistant building with small toy parts to fight against a wind simulator made of small powerful fans. Although we all failed, it was still a lot of fun to try our best to improve and bet on whose structures would win!

Then we walked past the Capitol building to visit the Japanese-American Memorial. In the middle are two cranes, Japan’s national bird. The cranes each have one wing on the others in the air, as if in triumph. The other wings are to their sides. In the mouths of the cranes are barbed wire being torn apart, representing the freeing of Japanese-Americans from Internment camps.

Micah BW Crane
To the left is a small pool with 5 large stones. The stones represent the 5 generations of Japanese-Americans who were forced into the life of an Internment Camp. It was a great day, adventuring in formal clothes and dress shoes. It truly is awesome, living in the city for so long, yet still discovering new things with meaning.

Micah Guthrie
Washington Latin Public Charter School