DC Next!

As the Japanese students have begun to look forward to traveling to Washington, DC for the first time, they each wanted to share what they were looking forward to during the DC program side.


I look forward to trying some local food and meeting with new people to hear their ideas about the world.


I think I can learn about citizenship. I look forward to meeting organizations about social entrepreneurship and what social entrepreneurship looks like in Washington, DC and how it is different from Tohoku. Also, I look forward to experiencing culture on America’s East coast.


I want to learn about the gap between poverty and those with money. Last year, I wrote a report about the income gap and I hope to learn how this problem is addressed in Washington, America and the world.


I look forward to being in a city and environment of all English speakers. I want to improve my English so my visit to Washington will help a lot. By being in the America’s capitol, I hope to experience various perspectives about global problems.


I know the culture is different in America and I would like to learn and observe the differences from Japan. Different people from different nationalities gather in America, especially DC, and I look forward to seeing this with my own eyes.


In Washington I hope to become a better learner. I never got used to the Japanese educational system because Japanese are restrictive and don’t reflect the students’ voices. Classes just provide information to be used on exams, which is frustrating because I’m not a good test taker. I think this experience in D.C. will allow me to gain more useful information to connect to the larger world. I will also be able to play on my strength of storytelling and learning through experience.


While in Washington I look forward to experiencing the diversity of city. I’ve heard a lot about it but I want to experience it for myself. I also hope to get to speak with local Washingtonians to hear their opinions on various issues.


I don’t know a lot about America. I used to live there but I was really young. I want to feel what America is. I hope to learn from the local people and observe the difference between Americans and Japanese. I’m excited about the host family experience and getting to learn about American culture.

Favorite Foods!

As the DC team’s time in Japan comes to a close, they each wanted to share their favorite Japanese dishes that they enjoyed and will miss.


My favorite food was the Japanese pancake. It was different from American pancakes because they were fluffier and had a different taste.   What surprised me most was it came from the convenience store 7-11! If only I could get good food from American 7-11’s …


My favorite Japanese food, which was very difficult to pick because all of it is pretty delicious, is also very simple. It’s called Inari, or Inarizushi, and it’s basically a “casual sushi” that is sweet tofu around rice and sesame seeds. It’s often enjoyed by children, which explains why I like it so much. The picture quality also isn’t my best work because I was devouring it at the time.


There were several delicious foods in Japan, but my favorite came on the 2nd to last day stay. Omuhayashi with rice and beef and curry was the victor in the competition of foods, with Yakitori & Sukiyaki tied for second. I’ll be remaking it in America for sure.

Dusan- foodJarid

My favorite food while in Japan was curry! No matter where we ate it or when we ate it, it was always good! It was full of spice and heartiness.


My favorite food in Japan was Karage. Karage is basically the Japanese version of fried chicken in America. The thing about karage is that you can use any sauce with it – whether it’d be soy sauce, mayonnaise or something else … The great thing about Karage that I’ve heard is that it’s really easy to make, so even I can make it back home! I definitely plan to try.


My favorite food in Japan by far was ramen. It was nice and spicy which made it delicious.  It is way better than any ramen I have back home.


Our Final Presentation in Japan

On Wednesday July 29, the TOMODACHI participants presented all they learned throughout the Japan side of the program to donors, sponsors, families and friends.  They were split into two groups of seven and given the task to communicate their big takeaways in 20 minutes per group.  The participants decided the overarching themes of the two weeks were: Community United and New Generation.  Each student exhibited a photo they took to showcase their own big idea and big takeaway from the visit to Tohoku.

Well, we’re here. In our final day together as a group of 14 students in Japan together, we culminated all that we learned, all of the experiences we shared together, and all that we felt in this Iliad in an hour of presentations we gave before the sponsors of TOMODACHI, our (host) families, and ourselves. I don’t believe I do enough justice in saying that we did great. Each group’s presentations were some of the best presentations I’ve seen in my life, and I think I know why: Passion in friendship. Naming this program TOMODACHI was a smart move, because that is exactly what everyone in our group has become: friends, true friends, almost as if we grew up together (which we did). Call us the musketeers, if you may. What TOMODACHI did for us is open up our minds and hearts more than ever, and taught us the importance of storytelling, and we all wanted to convey that as best as we could to the people we presented to and anyone else who would see our presentations. Our presentations flourished because our bonds in wanting and achieving the same things together translated across boundaries.

I sometimes feel as if I am becoming long-winded in my explanations, so I’ll end it with this: Enrolling in this program is hands-down one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and not just for the food. Even though we are not finished, as the D.C. portion is just beginning, the feeling of leaving behind all that we have done in Japan (what I can now call a second home for various reasons) is heavy. Our presentations here in Japan were only a culmination of everything we’ve gained from here though, and so I wonder now what our presentations in D.C. will hold. Chances are, something even greater. So, until next time, stay tuned.

Dusan Murray-Rawlings
Washington Latin Public Charter School

Making of the presentation

Today was our big day in Tokyo. We were at the beautiful and sophisticated American Center, and were able to showcase what we have done in our journey so far. Through these 2 weeks, our team, students and chaperones all together, have developed a very special bond. We not only care about each other, but we would facilitate one’s success, or even critique one another. We were each others’ catalyst of growth. Through these past three days where we had to work as a team and put together an important presentation, this bond became apparent, and stronger.

These three days of preparation, to be honest, have been a nightmare at times. On day one, we were told from the chaperones that the presentation has to be top notch and be different from any of the things they have seen in the past. Every single one of us in the group are hard workers, and have a strong desire to succeed, so obviously, we really wanted to pull this off. None of us would dare take it easy.

A bunch of enthusiastic people having to produce quality work in a short period of time; You know what that means. It is a series of talking, or yelling over each other, having conflicting ideas, and stress. That basically describes our battle. I loved the energy level and enthusiasm, however we definitively had some bickering, which sometimes created tension within the group. It’s never really fun, but I guess it’s inevitable when you’re working with such powerful and amazing people. Plus, the bickering was not fighting, but it was more like constructive criticism. I think pointing out someone’s flaws requires courage, however this team is not afraid to voice their opinions, and the entire group was very open to constructive criticism.

So, yes. Three days, seven amazing teenagers working on one presentation. The stakes were pretty high, but we knew we pulled it off after the presentations, when all 14 of us and the three chaperones congratulated one another. There were numerous hugs, high fives and “great jobs!” in the house. That is when I felt like I could really say from the bottom of my heart, that we have become a family. It’s rather impossible to imagine that we were complete strangers just 2 weeks ago!

Overall, I am very proud of this team, and I cannot wait for what’s in store for us in DC. It is evident that creative collaborations really work with us, because we are all so passionate and ambitious. Now, it’s time for me to pack! The fact that I’m leaving and traveling overseas still hasn’t kicked in! I know that the next two days will be hectic, but yes, America, here I come!

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Women’s Eye

PROGRAM NOTE: Students visited a local temporary shelter to work with NPO Women’s Eye, which was founded by a TOMODACHI alumnus. Women’s Eye works with area women to empower them to become entrepreneurs and to create small businesses. During their visit, students listened and translated the women’s tsunami disaster stories into English and Japanese. This way whenever the women receive visitors there will be fewer barriers to them sharing their stories of survival.

Womens Eye GroupNina Reyes

Pulling up to the temporary houses I thought I would meet a bunch of women that were still extremely mournful about the tsunami disaster. But as soon as we walked in we were greeted by a group of elderly women smiling from ear to ear. I wasn’t expecting this at all. We broke up into groups and began to ask questions about these women’s stories, so we could translate and transcribe them into English and Japanese booklets. Although I couldn’t understand a single word that was said; I managed to still feel the emotion through the words that were spoken. As I asked questions, thinking they would trigger traumatizing memories, I was given responses back that contained no sad emotions. This was weird. Why were they so happy? But as the stories and translation continued I realized that these women were happy to tell their stories, almost as if it was a step towards their closure with this tragedy.

Womens Eye Nina BookI believe sharing their stories was a part of their healing. They were also teaching a lesson.   Surprisingly, all of them had the same message: In times of natural disasters, “You can buy your house back. You can buy your car back. But you can’t buy your life back.” During the tsunami and earthquake, many people lost their lives to go back for things of sentimental value. But I learned that the only thing that was important was preserving your own life.  The women’s strength gave brightness to a tragedy, lessons to others and a sense of peace to their own hearts.



Womens Eye KY_bookToday, we visited Nakasemachi, a neighborhood of temporary houses. Our objective was to meet with an NPO called Women’s Eye and local residents of Nakasemachi and to hear the stories of the female survivors. During our visit we listened to their survivor stories with the intent of translating the stories into English and Japanese. After the translation we designed pamphlets with pictures and their stories. I was surprised at the residents’ strong mentality and will to share their personal experience of such a devastating tsunami. Despite their outward looks appearing fragile and delicate, they have an inner concrete devotion and strong sense of renewal. I felt the need to spread their story and inform others and recognize the power of their words.

Womens Eye Meeting

Y.A. Photo Journal

PROGRAM NOTE: Saturday’s blog was a 3-part photo blog.  Students had to tell the story of the day only using three photos and no more than two captions per photo. On Saturday, students had a fishery experience with local fishermen and learned how the tsunami impacted the ocean and environment.  In the evening students attended Minamisanriku’s revitalization festival: Fukkou-ichi.

YA Blog Fisherman 7.25.15This is a picture of fisherman Mr. Muraoka cutting sea cucumber during the fishery experience we got to be a part of. I learned actually a positive effect of tsunami, that the fish taste better and are plentiful, which was so new and surprising.

YA Blog Booths 7.25.15These are the food stands in Minamisanriku Fukkou festival. I clearly remember a woman on a stage of the festival saying that this festival would really represent the reconstruction and the improvements of Minamisanriku and that the festival is getting bigger and bigger by a year.

YA Blog Fireworks 7.25.15Fireworks went on for very long time – at least 40 minutes. The number of fireworks indicated to us how well Minamisanriku’s reconstruction is going, since each of the fireworks cost a lot.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

N.M. Photo Journal

NM Blog Eels 7.25.15Today we had a fishery experience; I was on the sea eel team with six others. One of the fishermen, Mr. Matsuoka, told us that we would be lucky if we caught one sea eel, but we ended up catching five!

NM Blog Group 7.25.15Most of the people we met at Minamisanriku earlier in the week were at the festival. I noticed how people in the community were so close together. It felt as if we were in that community already.

NM Blog Fireworks 7.25.15There were also fireworks at the festival. Watching them made me realize that our trip to Tohoku was about to end, which made me feel so nostalgic. I enjoyed and absorbed so much from every single thing we did in the past week, I really wanted to stay longer.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Korey Photo Journal

Korey Blog Boat 7.25.15We’re venturing off into the bay to experience new things that most of us have never seen before.

Korey Blog Scallops 7.25.15. Our fisherman got us some fresh scallops as a snack. They were fresh out of the ocean!

Korey Blog Apron 7.25.15I decided to try and be a fisherman today.  It was kind of weird to pull up a net to get lunch but it’s something I would never forget.  Fresh fish for the grill.

Korey Carter
Friendship Collegiate Academy

Fumiya Photo Journal

Fumiya Blog Fishing 7.25.15We became “fisher persons”. It was a once in a life time experience! Fresh sea-foods, good wind, and clear sky! (the sky in the pic is not so clear tho) After we did actual fisherman’s work, we enjoyed BBQ! Then, we listened to one of the fisher persons, the discussion was so deep.

Fumiya Blog Stories 7.25.15Finally, Jarid and I handed the booklet of tsunami story translations to the two elderly women who shared their 3/11 stories. I’m glad to have met them all!

Fumiya Blog Fireworks 7.25.15In the evening we celebrated our last night in Tohoku at Minamisanriku’s festival.  The fireworks were amazing.

Fumiya Otani
Fukuoka Senior High School

Caitie Photo Journal

Caitie Blog Fisherman 7.25.15After a delicious barbecue of the fish we caught (and learned about how much manual labor is involved in the fishery business), we sat down and listened to the fisherman share a story about difficulty and triumph, and about how to continue a legacy.

Caitie Blog Ladies 7.25.15We went back to the temporary shelter to present the English and Japanese translation of their tsunami stories.

Catie Blog Festival 7.25.15After the day was done, we went to a local festival and saw our friends from the week, a concert, and fireworks. A perfect ending to our time in Tohoku.

Caitie McDermott
School Without Walls