What we did on our free day in Tokyo

Jeffrey: Today, I met my cousin who was stationed here from the navy and she spent a few hours with us, and then I went to a store called Vanguard to buy this really awesome Baoh shirt from an anime I watched a few months ago.

Jeff blog Aug 14E.N.: On the free day in Tokyo, I went to the ocean in Minatomirai. It made me remember about Tohoku and how people who went through the disaster were not afraid of the ocean. Also, I loved feeling nature in a city. It made me realize that wherever I am, I connected to the nature and Tohoku.

Ena blog Aug 14Temple: Today I went to out with Kiara and Kamashae to the visitor center to exchange more money. We walked around the Temple and noticed that in Japan men pull carriages around with people on them, but at home in America we have horses that pull the carriages.

Kiara: Today, I hung out with Tempestt and Kamashae. We went to Burger King and a beautiful shopping center and I got the cutest coin purse and snacks. When we were climbing the steps to go back to our hostel, I had to take this picture.

Kiara blog Aug 14Kamashae: Today me, Kiara, and Tempestt went out looking for things to get into. The most interesting thing we did was tried Japanese Burger King, which actually tasted like American Burger King! I ordered a cheeseburger with fries and I felt as if I were back in America.

Ayane: I went to a Chinatown in Yokohama today. I had a seamed meat bun and bubble tea. It was so delicious and the town was beautiful. I really enjoyed today.

R.H.: Today I went to an amusement park called Cosmo World!! I love riding roller coaster, but I haven’t rode it for a while so I really enjoyed it!

Kan: We went to many places, and the most interesting thing for me was pikachu!!! I have been a fan of Pokemon since I was second grade student in elementary school. I love pikachu very much. I was so happy to see pikachu in real world.

Kan blog Aug 14A.O.: Today I went to Owakudani with my family and Yeysi. There I ate black ice cream which was a completely new experience for me. The taste was vanilla but it contained bamboo carbon, which made the ice-cream black.

Ayaka blog Aug 14Yeysi: Today was a day full of new experiences. I was with Ayaka’s family and we visit a lot places. One thing that I tried was the “Black egg,” a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. At first I was scared to try the black egg, however when I tried it I ate two. It tasted same as a regular egg but the color makes it special. I enjoy to be with Ayaka’s family and I feel glad to be with them.

Yeysi blog Aug 14Rio: Today I went to a shop which sells a lot of Snoopy goods in Minatomirai. I love Peanuts so I was really happy to be in the place filled with Snoopy!

H.K.: I went to this place called “Akarenga souko” which is a famous old-fashioned shopping mall in Yokohama with a lot of the other participants. It was the first time I came here in the summer, so it was interesting to see how the design and the ice skating rink changed into a winery cafe.

Hayato blog Aug 14R.M.: Today, I went to World Porters in Minatomirai and drank Yokosuka Kaigun Ramune (Lemon Soda of U.S. Navy). It was different from any kinds of soda, and I really liked it.

Amanda: Sosha and I ate sukiyaki at a restaurant that has been around for 121 years. Sukiyaki is thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked in a sweet and salty sauce on the table. Once cooked, we dipped the meat and vegetables in a raw egg before eating. This wasn’t my first time having sukiyaki but it was definitely the best time!

Amanda blog Aug 14

Tokyo & Tohoku

Hiroto blog festivalI would like to write about the people in Tokyo and Tohoku that I met through the program.

First, l felt ”individual” toward people in Tokyo. We didn’t have many chances to relate with people in Tokyo; however people seem more strict and have their own, more individual and private area. 10% of population in Japan lives in Tokyo, but most of them weren’t born in Tokyo. They usually come to Tokyo to attend university or work there.

Tokyo is a place that many different people are put together so that’s why l think people keep to themselves more.

Next, my image toward people in Tohoku is ”connection.” People in Tohoku, especially in the countryside, welcomed us and were really friendly.

From my experience, when the disaster happened, people who lived around me helped us. We didn’t have any energy except gas. Our neighbors brought some vegetables and rice. That’s why l felt ”connection” toward people in Tohoku.

It is said that a big earthquake will occur in Tokyo in the next few years. I heard that some of the people in Tokyo don’t know who lives in the next apartment to them. l wonder how they will be able to help each other in such a situation. Maybe l will attend university in Tokyo, so l’m really afraid about it.

That’s my impression about difference of people between Tokyo and Tohoku.

Hiroto Konno
Miyagi Furukawa Reimei High School

Grandma Goes to Heaven while I’m in Japan

Today August 11, 2016 (11:52PM Japan time) (10:52AM American time) someone posted on my Facebook page, “My condolences goes out to you and your family.” I immediately contacted my sister, only for her to tell me that Grandma passed. My heart dropped, and I felt this feeling I never felt before. Tears came to my eyes, realizing that my grandmother passed away. Meanwhile, I’m in Japan, thousands of miles away from home. What do I do? This is a time when I should be with my family, but NO! This is my education. The crazy thing about it is my grandmother just told me yesterday August 10, 2016 how proud she was of me and she even asked me if I wanted her car. I replied to her with a smile on FaceTime and said “yes.” She then replied and said, “You have to give me rides when I want them.” I’m hurt, but I know she’s in a better place. One thing is for a fact Grandma Jo always told facts to me. Rest In Paradise My GlamAngel! ❤️

TOMODACHI is the first study abroad program I attended. I know my grandmother would be so proud of me to finish through on learning a different culture and seeing the world and being able to expand my knowledge on different ways of living. Life is precious, and I hate the fact that she’s gone. I do know that she is now resting peacefully, so I’m going to stay strong and suck it up. My selflessness would not allow me to leave early. My dad actually offered to get me a ticket for me to go back home. I refuse because I am a true believer in finishing what I started.

Tempestt Martin
Friendship Tech Prep

Kamashae’s reflection

When meeting the mayor of Minamisanriku, Jin Sato, I thought about a lot. I thought about my life, I thought about my father, I thought about how brave he was, and I thought about my mother.

I feel as though it was our destiny for the mayor to survive and for me to be selected in this program and for Mr. Sosha to have us meet with the mayor.

At that meeting I discovered a lot. I discovered that I needed to start listening to my father’s wisdom a little more than I have in the past. My father had always told me: give to others who are without and God will bless you far more than imaginable. His story just was an open example to the saying.

If the mayor wasn’t looking out for others, he might’ve been somewhere just a little over 6 meters and since that’s what they predicted the tsunami to be, the mayor could’ve been washed away, thinking he was on high enough ground. And since he was willing to risk his life for the people of his town by staying in the disaster prevention center to give people more information during the disaster, God let him fight through the tsunami. He said that night miracle after miracle kept coming to him. For example, another survivor had a lighter so they could make a fire to keep warm through the rest of the night.

I told my father this story, and I told him that now that I’m getting older, I see that he is full of wisdom and that I should truly cherish what he’s telling me. This meeting that I went to with Tomodachi will forever be an event of my life that will continue to be a huge lesson to me.

Kamashae Tolliver
Bell High School

The awesomeness of Japan

We asked each of the nine DC students to tell us one thing that is surprising/interesting/unexpected/awesome about Japanese culture.

Kamashae: The one thing that definitely caught my eye was the amazing hospitality. No matter your age, or their age. Respect plays a huge part in everyday life here in Japan. From when our group goes to restaurants, the plate setting. To when we go to gift shops, how they wrap and bag the gifts. To in hotels how they leave damp wash towels so customers could have access to a cool rag after a hot summer day in Japan. Japanese culture also even stands outside as guests are leaving their businesses or homes and wave us goodbye until the vehicle has left their view, which I think is very polite.

Jeffrey: The community in Minamisanriku was really surprising to me, because it allows everyone in the community to have a chance to be famous kind of like a small town celebrity, which was really cool to me. And I loved their mascot octopus-kun, who was a great addition to community because he isn’t owned by anyone but the community, so everyone can love him without any higher up being involved. Also I really liked how everyone in town was accepting and willing to help each other in times of needs while putting their own needs before themselves, which to me is what a community is meant to be.

Maxx: Something that really I like about Japan is its connection with nature. The people of Minamisanriku depend on the water and its life in order to survive using its water for drinking, cleaning, and other uses, and the fish to of course eat. The main reason this impresses me is because the waves of the ocean are beautiful and just to breath the air of wild life is extraordinary. But the people of the town have seen nature at its most horrifying and even though being scared, they forgave and loved the sea wholeheartedly and that I feel is amazing.

Yeysi: “Food” was a word that at first scared me because I learned that Japanese people have different food than the ones that I am used to eating. There are some types of food that I still don’t like although I try everything I can. So far my favorite food is Tempura. Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. This dish makes me feel in home.

Tempestt: Japan’s hospitality is the best by far. Getting greeted every time you walk in to a place; they show much respect. It feels good to be welcomed in a place where there aren’t many people of your color or looks. There have been some times where I walk around and I see Japanese people staring at me. I stare back and greet them with a smile. I keep in my mind and remember that Japan isn’t really a diverse country and that’s why many look at me as if I am someone different. It actually makes me feel special because I feel like all eyes are on me.

Chris: My best moments in Japan were going outside experiencing the nature. I’m an addict when it comes to scenery. I love embracing myself into the wilderness or looking at the architecture of the buildings. I feel inspired to bring out my drawing pad and taking a quick drawing.

Elijah: The Japanese style futon was interesting. The Japanese futon is a 3 folded bed!!! It is very comfortable and for the first time in a long time I actually slept like a baby. The bed was the best because I didn’t want to get up. The bed was the best thing so far.

Kiara: What’s so interesting about Japanese culture, mainly in Minamisanriku, is the friendliness and “at home” feeling I have whenever we go anywhere. Seeing so many smiling faces in a place highly affected by the tsunami lifts my spirits up and lets me see the strength that this town has. With every person that I meet, whether they be one of our speakers or passersby taking a picture of people enjoying the summer festival, my heart warms up.

Clinard: The thing that I enjoy the most while being here is the calm and quiet atmosphere that exists here. It’s so much different from what I’m used to. Where I am from, the streets are loud and the places are busy. There is a lot of commotion when people are travelling in groups. But here, it’s considered to be “controlled chaos”. For a place with many people, it seems to be regulated pretty well.

Rio – August 11

Rio blog SunriseToday I woke up at 4:40 and went to the ocean, which was a few minutes far from the hotel and saw the sun rise. It was very impressive view and I stayed there for about 20 minutes. The scene was so beautiful that I cannot say a word. In the morning, we left our hotel, New Tomarizaki, and headed down by charter bus to Matsushima, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and delicious sea food. We had lunch there and I ate a seafood bowl. It was great and I enjoyed it a lot.

After that, we went to Entsuin, which is a temple that was designated as a national significant cultural heritage. There was a beautiful garden with many kinds of plants. Mr. Roger explained about the temple and Date Masamune, who was a samurai who lived in the civil war period. While we were there, I bought goshuincho, which is a notebook for stamps or signs of temples. I got the temple’s sign. I’m planning to collect many stamps/signs.

Rio blog notebookAnd then we headed for Fukushima, which is the prefecture where I live. Everyone seemed to be very tired and sleepy in the bus, but they enjoyed today. I want to say thank you to the bus driver for driving for a long, long time.

Rio Asami
Aizu-Gakuho High School

Clinard – August 11

Today was pretty much a day of traveling and sightseeing. This morning, we checked out of our hotel in Minamisanriku. After that, we were on a bus for 2 hours. It was a pretty comfortable ride. We were given a tour Matsushima Town, one of the “three most beautiful sceneries in Japan”.

Here’s my point of view standing from the watchtower overseeing Matsushima Town. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Clinard blog MatsushimaToday wasn’t really a day of learning morals or big lessons. Today was a day of learning more about Tohoku.  I enjoyed shopping today and I enjoyed hanging out with my Tomodachi friends.

The new hotel is pretty cool too. The dinner was great and it really filled me because it was a buffet. As I look back on what I have done since the program started, I feel as though I have grown much. In addition, I know that the program is getting closer to the end so I plan to be a part of the Tomodachi group as much as possible.  I want to truly cherish the last moments we have left together in this program.

Clinard Smith
Eastern SHS

Look at what we’ve been doing! – pt I

Attending a Minamisanriku Tourism Association presentation and group discussion with a survivor of the tsunami, a woman who moved to Minamisanriku immediately after the disaster, and two Taiwanese interns.

Minamisanriku Tourism AssocTaking in the scenery. Rio, E.N., Yeysi, and Tempestt could see huge waves because the typhoon is coming in!

Country walkVisiting Shinto shrines.

ShrineShrine visitVIsiting NPO Women’s Eye, where we interviewed survivors of the tsunami and then shared the stories with the whole group. Here A.O., Ayane, and Yeysi present Ms. Abe’s story.

Women's EyeMaking kiriko (paper cuts).

KirikoSkyping with Fareed and Evey at the Pulitzer Center to receive feedback on our Everyday DC and Everyday Tohoku projects.

Pulitzer discussionReflecting on our experiences.

ReflectionPreparing for a BBQ at Sosha’s.

Making dinner at Sosha's

The 8th wonder

I really have to reflect on how this day has affected the contemplation of my mind. In the early morning, we did traditional kiriko (paper cut) making. This is an art that the Japanese used to give to the gods when they had nothing left. They use it to show appreciation for what they have and to keep the tradition going. Also we learned about how the top of the shrine means heaven and earth, the two sides mean man and woman. So the earlier morning was basically an art class.

In the afternoon, we actually went to Mr. Sosha’s house!!! His house was fun and he has a dog. His dog’s name is Chuck and his house is like a traditional Japanese house. We had a workshop with a non-profit organization called Sokoage. They help youth with ideas on how to improve their communities and start NPOs (non-profit organizations). Then after the innovation session we had a Barbecue!!! The whole day was the best, because I bonded with my Japanese friends and I took a great picture of the pattern on Mr. Sosha’s carpet. I really enjoyed today with all my friends. I think the number one thing I need to remember is time is so precious in Japan. Also Japan is so beautiful in all aspects. So I’m going to end it like this….

Who ever said that it was only 7 wonders in the world….didn’t see Japan.

Elijah blog carpetElijah Davis
Eastern SHS

Hayato – August 10

The morning of this Wednesday started by visiting a shrine in Minamisanriku. The shrine was something that had gone through two huge tsunamis and survived. There was a lot of facts that I never knew about shrines even though I am Japanese, including how visiting the shrines carries a meaning of going back to your birth because inside the shrine represents a mother’s womb. This was nothing that I expected nor had I paid close attention to before today. After looking around the shrine we moved on to working on “kiriko,” a paper craft originally created to offer to the gods when they could not offer real food due to poor harvest, etc.

The afternoon was the most inspiring workshop I had through the Japanese part of this program. First of all, I was fortunate that our chaperone allowed me to try being the translator for this long session that we had. Translation was always something that I was somewhat interested in since I speak both Japanese and English, and also because of how you have to convert these two languages instantly. To fulfill this job was a very significant thing relating to my confidence as well as my ability in being able to immediately output the information and correctly wording some factors.

To talk about what I was inspired by with the organization itself, their whole idea was something around within my range. What I mean by this is that what their organization associates with students, especially high schoolers, originally volunteering by teaching and connecting them to the community. They also make adults get involved with this as well. This was all something that I have thought about before as what we can do and what I want to do. Therefore hearing about them and interacting with these fabulous people was a very valuable time for me.

Here are Atsu-san and Kazu-san smiling at the camera at Sosha’s house in Minamisanriku on a Wednesday night, since they knew they were going to get photographed with their best smiles before Kazu-san leaves to his house.

Hayato blog Atsu KazuH.K.
Keio SFC High School