Skyy’s Reflection after the DC program

Today was the official start of the second section of the TOMODACHI program (trip to Japan). The first part of this program in D.C. was composed of a variety of visits from historical figures such as Mary Beth Tinker or trips to educational locations such as our visit to the African American History Museum, and workshops from people of varying careers who spoke about how the importance of storytelling plays a role in the formation of a better future.

Mary Beth Tinker spoke to us about the importance of youth speaking up and fighting for our rights. This was a very impactful presentation because in the past I thought that it would just be better to wait until I’m an adult to actively advocate for rights. But after the presentation I realized that even at my age every voice matters and can make a difference.

Visiting the Righting a Wrong exhibit at the American History Museum was very memorable to me because in school we don’t really learn about it so I was very surprised to learn so much about something that is virtually hidden in our school’s curriculum. Discussing what we saw at the museum and understanding how the other students felt from the Japanese perspective was very enlightening.

Now, we are heading to Japan and I think these lessons and the overbearing idea that we must fully understand the past or history of something before trying to understand what we are seeing before our very own eyes will help us realize that we must record what we experience and seize the moment by asking questions and trying to obtain a deeper understanding so that we can tell an accurate story when we come back. The world can benefit from what we learned on the trip. I think the ideas we bring back especially regarding the determination and optimism of the people living on the coast of Japan after the 3.11 earthquake can teach an important lesson to the people in our society about the strength of thinking in affirmations.

Skyy Genies
Banneker Academic HS

Hide’s Reflection on his DC experience

One of the memorable parts of the trip was going to a Japanese camp exhibition from World War 2. There was many rare things. In particularI saw a letter which was written by a man from the camp. It was my first time seeing such an old letter. I learned how Americans thought about Japan and what happened to Japanese Americans in the US. Also I learned the hidden history which I haven’t learned in textbooks in Japan. I felt a little shocked. But now we can create new relationship. It is difficult to apologize for our mistakes but we must do that. I think we can make a better world by learning from history.

I enjoyed staying with a host family. We did many activities together. We went to skating with my host family. It was a little challenging because skating is almost first time for me. But I really enjoyed. It is one of my good memories in America. And I went to bowling too. The bowling is in a military base. Sometimes I got spares and strikes. Also, we went to the Chesapeake Beach. We swam in the beach and flew kites. It was a relaxing day. My host family were really kind to me. I was surprised that my host mother and host father split the housework. Even the children helped. In Japan, only my mother does the housework. When I go back home, I would like to help my mother.

In this trip, I learned in depth about American culture, diversity, and lifestyle. It had opened my mind to think about the world in a broader way.

Hideaki Tanji
Fukushima Prefectural High School

Ryotaro’s mid-point reflection

In the D.C. part of this program, I learned that there are diversities in America such as people, culture, and their thinking. All people, all cultures, and all of their ways of thinking were different but they were all valued. Through discussing the differences between Japan and America, we were able to look into the bottom part of the iceberg and I broadened my perspective. One more thing that I liked was the workshop on social entrepreneurship. The process of coming up with new ideas was very impressive, and it helped me create a new business idea. I learned a lot from this program: I broadened my perspective, created a new business idea, and understood about a new culture. In the Japan part of this program, I would like to understand more about Japan deeply by bringing back my experiences in D.C., and look into the bottom part of the iceberg of Japanese culture.

Ryotaro Morimoto
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

Chi’s reflection on the DC program

The DC part started off kind of awkward, so I appreciate the first few days being used to get to know each other in the dorms. I was sad when we moved out of the dorms because there was so much more we could learn about each other if we had stayed in the dorm for the DC half of the program.

Anyway, the experience was very powerful for me because we’d gone to many places that I haven’t been to before, like the Holocaust Museum and the African American History Museum. By going to the African American History and Culture Museum, I finally understood the real pain that the African Americans went through during times of segregation and slavery. I never really understood all the protests going on about white power thus I never really felt the need to defend them. After visiting the African American Museum, it inspired me to stand up for my rights as a strong, independent, black, woman. The thing that I liked about the Holocaust Museum was that it went into depth about the holocaust that I had never seen in a textbook before. It made me more sensitive to speak about Judaism with all my Jewish friends, especially about the topic of the Holocaust.

I also liked Mary Beth Tinker’s story, on how she expressed her right to protest as one of America’s youth but she was suspended for it. I mostly liked her parents’ involvement in her case because even though the school told her not to wear the armbands that got her suspended, they still stood up for her, saying that it’s her constitutional right to protest, even though she’s under 18. I love how it also impacted her life because now she strongly advocates for youth expressing their rights — especially to protest. I feel inspired to let my fellow peers know that they have rights and that they can stand up for them and protest things, like homework. Okay, maybe not homework, but part of learning is knowing what you will do and what you won’t do to get a desirable outcome. For me, I’m a really go-with-the-flow type person, so living in a wrongfully hard setting would make me think that that’s my life and that’s how I’m going to have to live it out, but others would uprise against the wrongs being done by the society or some would silently protest, like Gandhi. I don’t really know what I would do in times of oppression, I would have to see how it plays out because of my very laid back personality.

It’s really hard for me to think that the program is almost over because the people in this group have made strong bonds through this program and it’s sad to believe that it’s almost over, even though, we’re taking our next step and starting a new chapter in Japan.

Chi Onyeka
Banneker Academic HIS

Raven’s DC reflection

After the first part of the program spent in DC, I’ve learned a lot of things about my own country, culture, and the importance of maintaining good relations. The most impactful parts of the program for me were visiting the various museums and watching the film about the children in Hiroshima after the bomb. We visited the Holocaust Museum, African-American Museum, and the Japanese internment exhibition. This experience was memorable because in all three cases you can really see the similarities and it really allows you to see how important it is to not only see differences in people but to see them as just human beings. The film we watched about after the Hiroshima bomb was also really memorable because being able to show the kids even after their homes were destroyed and their family members were killed, they were still able to paint a happy future for themselves. Watching the film made me sad, but made me see the power of hope.

One thing I’ve learnt throughout the program is that although we look differently and have different viewpoints, what makes us Americans is that we care to express our opinions and we value our freedoms. Another thing I learn that I think was really reinforced throughout this program is that just because things are different, it doesn’t mean one is better than the other in regards to culture. I also learned a lot about how maintaining good relationships is really important because you don’t know what that person you meet in life will be to you. Now that we are starting the next part of our program, I hope to gain even more insight about my country and the world.

Raven Bluford
Banneker Academic HS

Japanese Favorites!

Ready for take off! Our Japanese TOMODACHI students reflect on their favorite things from the DC part of the exchange. Now on to Japan!

Favorite Food: Cheese. I had the chance to try out various kinds but above all, I truly recommend Brie.
Favorite Place: Busboys and Poets.
Favorite Memory: At the dorm, playing hand games and card games or just talking about random stuff with my friends from DC.

Favorite Food: Lasagna (by host father) and banana bread (host mother).
Favorite Place: Farmer’s Market.
Favorite Memory: Time playing board games with my host family.

Favorite Food: Macaroni and cheese.
Favorite Place: Takoma Park.
Favorite Memory: I cooked Japanese food but my host family couldn’t eat it.

Favorite Food: Fried chicken.
Favorite Place: Busboy and Poets. I want to have it in Japan.
Favorite Memory: The day I went to see the stadium with my host family. The stadium was so large.

Favorite Food: American soul food, in particular, macaroni and cheese.
Favorite Place: My host family’s home and bowling place and the river.
Favorite Memory: I like Marco Polo and skating!

Favorite Food: Steak! I went to the LongHorn Steakhouse with my host family,and it was delicious!
Favorite Place: Military base! I went with my host family!
Favorite Memory: TOMODACHI!

Excellent Environment + Excellent Idea + Excellent Action = Excellent Success

We had less activities today, but we still learned a lot. In the morning, we took a bus to Georgetown. It was my first time to get on the public bus in D.C. In the front of the bus, there were bike lifts for people who had ridden their bicycles to the bus stop. We don’t have that kind of service in Japan, so it was surprising for me.

In Georgetown, we visited the Halcyon House, a social innovation incubator, to meet Mark Malloy. I was especially excited because I dream of starting my own business in the future. Mr. Malloy, who founded a sunglasses company, guided us through Halcyon, and we met other social entrepreneurs who were working in the house. The entrepreneurs live at the house for several months in an excellent environment for a businessman. There are many apartments with: bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and bedroom. There is also a large conference room, and even a pool on the balcony. When I start my business, I would like to live in that kind of excellent environment so that I can have a successful beginning.

In the conference room, we asked Mr. Malloy some questions. I asked about the challenges of starting a business and if an entrepreneur ask themselves “What makes you mad?” as a way to create ideas for new businesses. He answered me that money is the biggest challenge at every point in business management. I thought about the other entrepreneurs who we had met during the D.C. program, and they said the same thing. Each businessperson told us that they faced financial problems in the beginning of their business. Mr. Malloy also confirmed that asking ourselves “What makes you mad?” is a good method for creating new ideas. I came up with a new business idea by asking a similar question to myself, and I shared it at the D.C. final presentation.

We returned to the American Councils and prepared for the final presentation which we would give the next day. For an hour, we all shared personal stories about what we learned through this part of the exchange. We also assigned the sections that we would cover for the final presentation. I was given: meeting with immigrants at CHEC, social entrepreneurship, the TOYOTA career panel TOYOTA, sharing Japanese culture with young students at CHEC, and quilting as a method of storytelling. Overall, I felt a bit nervous about the presentation but also exciting.

During the final presentation, I unveiled my new business plan. My plan is that senior citizens will accept children who are wait-listed for kindergarten through a website of my own design. It is the first time that I have thought of a business plan so earnestly, and I feel it is a good plan for my first business.

I learned a lot in this D.C. part of the program. The biggest thing that I learned in America is that, there is much diversity. People, their cultures, and their ways of thinking were different but they were all still valued. I hope to learn more about Japan by sharing stories about my experience in D.C., which will give me the means to look into the part of the Japanese culture iceberg which is normally hidden underwater.

Ryotaro Morimoto
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

If you’re prepared to win, you’ll win

Today, we traveled to the Halcyon Incubator House in Georgetown. The Halcyon House is a place where six social entrepreneurs live for five months to “incubate” and get their businesses off the ground.

Mike Malloy, the Program Coordinator of Halcyon House, gave us a tour and amazing tips to approaching our futures. Mike Malloy put his experiences in the business realm into a wider context that can be applied to any part of your life. He spoke about the important lessons he learned from his sunglasses company called Waveborn. Two things that he said that stuck with me were “If you’re prepared to win, you’ll win,” and “think affirmations.”

The first quote to me was very powerful because through his own experiences, Mike was able to realize that having self confidence in your abilities and your ideas can be one of the major factors that allow you to succeed at something. I need to apply this to my life because I often think of a lot of ideas but I do not think they’re worth anything. Mike’s advice helped me realize that if I’m prepared to win or express my idea and have it implemented, then it will happen.

The second quote, “think affirmations,” was also very interesting to me because Mike spoke about how simply speaking positive things into existence can motivate you despite obstacles you may come across when trying to make your dreams a reality. Even through hardships and failures, we must think optimistically because “your life is like a jungle gym not a ladder; you may fall down the slide and roll around in the dirt for a while, but you must get back up and keep climbing.” This experience was very insightful because although I do not exactly plan to go into business or be an entrepreneur, the advice that Mike gave was very flexible and could be applied to any field of life.

Lastly, Mike said that “[he] believes that diversity in everything is great, except one thing: values”. He explained that he wishes that everyone in the world valued the idea of helping each other and improving society in our own way. I truly thank Mike Malloy for his wisdom, what I learned today will stick with me forever.

Skyy Genies
Banneker Academic HS

A day full of highs and lows

In the morning, we met at the U Street Metro Stop and then we walked to the Thurgood Marshall Center. The first activity of the day was a workshop given by Operation Understanding DC, which is an organization that thrives to bring together youth from the African-American community and youth from the Jewish community. By bringing together these two communities, they hope to create leaders that will stand up against inequality and injustice. For the workshop, we were put into a group with another individual and we had to tell that individual a time where we felt different or left out. For me, this was pretty hard because usually if something bad happens I try my best to just erase that memory, but eventually I found something to talk about even if I think that the situation I talked about was relatively small. Afterwards, we were then asked to tell our partner about a time where we made someone else feel different. This one was much easier for me to think about, but much harder for me to talk about because I’m not proud of what I did and I don’t want someone else to think of me differently because I did those things. From this workshop I learned that doing something bad doesn’t make you a bad person as long as you learned from your mistakes.

The second activity of the day was given from a lady named Mary Beth Tinker, who later we learned was a part of the famous Tinker case. The Tinker case was about a group of three children that decided to wear arm bands to school to protest the Vietnam War and those three were then suspended from school because the principal thought that they didn’t have the right to wear those arm bands. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court and this case basically led to children in public schools being allowed to exercise their constitutional rights in the school, as long as it didn’t interrupt learning going on. I found Mary’s story to be really inspirational and brave because as children we are told to never talk back to an adult, so it was really nice to see a child actually speak out against something she found wrong, even if there was a possiblity that she might get penalized for it. We ate soul food for lunch, for a lot of the Japanese students it was a new experience, but it was nice to hear how they thought it was really good.

After eating, we got on a rented bus to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, where we did community service by passing out free healthy food to the community. This was the most stressful part of the day because we had to lift a lot of things, which I’m not used to. We were given different job assignments. At first, I was supposed to be the person that restocks the food that we put on the tables, but my job got switched because I wasn’t strong enough to carry the food. So for the whole day, I passed out food cans like tuna and black beans. Passing out food had good things and bad things about it. The good thing was that the people were really nice when I handed them the food, but the bad thing is that because the line was so long and going slow, people were getting aggravated and they took their frustrations out on the workers, which is us.

After passing out food for about 3 to 4 hours, we ended the day off by going to see the Youth Baseball Team play and our job was to cheer them on. This was my favorite part of the day because it was more relaxing and cheering people on and seeing them smile because of the cheering is a really rewarding experience.

Raven Bluford
Banneker Academic HS

The unforgettable days

Today in the morning I went to the Thurgood Marshall Center. It is a place which trains young children to go outside and make a change. There, we made pairs and talked about “when you were treated differently” and “when we treated someone differently.” I found out that it is hard to say the bad things that I did.

After that, we talked with Ms. Tinker. She fought for the rights to talk politics in school. I learned that it’s important to have an opinion and take action to spread your opinion. (It reminds me of my host family’s dog Molly. If she wants to play, she plays. If she wants to sleep, she sleeps.)

For lunch, I ate many fried chicken with mambo sauce. It was delicious.

In the afternoon we went to the baseball stadium and gave people many fruits and vegetables. It was difficult to maintain the speed of the line. It was tiring but I am very satisfied.

After that we practiced baseball with children. I was very happy to see the children treating the gloves and bats carefully as if they were partners.

Today I experienced many things. I can’t wait to tell it to my friends in Japan.

Ko Sato
Furukawa Gakuen HS