Travel Days

You know the saying “scratch it off your bucket list,” that people say after someone experiences a once-in-a-lifetime event. . . That’s what everyone has been telling me since I first began applying for this program. Every time someone mentioned me and my bucket list I told them, “Oh, I don’t have one.” I don’t have a bucket list because I never believed in being able to do these extravagant things, such as going to Tokyo, better yet Japan.

July 28, 2018 was my first time on a train that isnt’t the subway. I had the excitement of a toddler riding a bike for the first time. On the outside I was playing it cool. “It’s just a train to Baltimore,” I told myself. On the inside I was riding the Tea Cup ride like they have at Disney World, and jumping in circles.

We spent the night in a hotel, my roommates and I basically counting down the hours until we set foot on a plane. But first we had to get to BWI Airport and those moments alone were very theatrical. I worried that my suitcase was over 50 pounds. I was in the back of the line once again, playing it cool while I panicked at how many of us had to take out clothes and gadgets and put them in other people’s suitcases and bags. I was really scared when someone’s suitcase weighted 49 pounds! In the end, I came up way less than I thought, and before I knew it we were stepping off the plane to Chicago.

I had my snack bag ready to eat as soon as I got on the plane to Narita Airport. Unfortunately, our adventure came to a quick stop when were were told that our flight was being delayed until 2:00 pm. When two o’clock came, there was another delay and at least 3 more after. We felt like the flight attendants were playing tricks on us. We slept on uncomfortable seats, talked about what we’d want to see when we got to Tokyo. When we saw the pilot and flight attendants walking towards our gate, we were relieved. Our next activity would’ve been playing I Spy just so we wouldn’t be bored.

When I first stepped on the plane I was astonished. The inside was very big and spacious. There were also TVs on the back of the seats and many of my friends know how much I love movies. Much to my dismay, my earbuds didn’t really work. I felt like I was in a movie theater where the movie is in black and white, except I had subtitles. Even with not being able to hear the actors, I was still able to enjoy the movies I watched and found myself laughing way too loud for comfort. I got a few discerned and concerned looks from other passengers. Which I also laughed at. I had 12 hours of sleeping, counting down and laughing (lol), and when we landed I was too tired to wake up and finish my video, while the pilot looked for parking. That was my first real plane ride and I enjoyed every minute I had.

Earlier I said I don’t have a bucket list and sticking to that seems like the best thing when I am confidently accepting all the things thrown my way. Buckets come with a bottom, an end. Experience is not something to end.

Arjernae Miller
Phelps ACE High School

Final Presentation – Telling our Story

Today, we made a final presentation to tell the audience what we learned in Washington DC for two weeks. I realized that the DC program is almost over and I was caught by sadness.

In the morning, we prepared the presentation. We divided into 2 groups, one group made a prezi and the other group considered about cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. I was in the latter group, and after collecting as many opinions as possible from Japanese students, we cut down the number to one or two important ones.

After eating Mexican food from Chipotle, we had a dry run and checked our presentation. It took more time than I expected to shape a manuscript, so It was a very frantic time for me.

Around 6 pm, the presentation started. Not only family and host family, but also Ms. Mary Murakami and Mr. Al Goshi came to the presentation, so some students were feeling nervous. After we introduced ourselves, Carlos and Shunsuke talked about diversity, Miles and I talked about racism, and Jerusalen and Arjernae talked about social innovation as wrapping up the DC program. Nextly, Japanese students described the cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. which each of us found during the program.

However, that is not all. The presentation was including entertainment and we did a lot of exciting performance on the stage in the middle. Carlos, Fuka and Noa danced Salsa and brightened up the atmosphere. Also, all boys sang a rap in English. I don’t know why, but the rap is still on replay in my head.

Finally, each DC student spoke their enthusiasm for the Japan program and after that, I read a poem aloud and told all audience that we are not TOMODACHI anymore, we are FAMILY now.

In this program, we listened to many kinds of people’s story. This time, however, we were the storytellers. I found that storytelling was difficult, but at the same time, it was a lot of fun to tell my own thoughts honestly. The power of words is strong and words can move people’s heart. I want to appreciate that I have a right to say a word freely as a person.

Minori Kon
Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Expressing Myself

Firstly, we participated in a quilting workshop led by Mrs. Jackie Corbin-Armstrong, the mother of a former TOMODACHI student. We painted the image of TOMODACHI. I think TOMODACHI represents to connect with people across the border like this program. That is why I tried to combine American hamburger and Japanese national flags and expressed with big heart that there are people supporting us. And the big heart expressed the people who always support us. Also I was impressed by the picture that Shun painted. This was from an hourglass. Blue stars expressed the United States and red circles expressed Japan.  These were drawn separately in this. This means that we must understand each other and make the relationship get better as time goes on.

Secondly, in the afternoon, we went to a popular DC restaurant and event space, Busboys and Poets, to meet with the owner, Andy Shallal, and to recite the poetry we had written earlier with Regie Cabico at the poetry workshop. Five people read their poems in front of others. I felt everyone was shining. I had a difficult image to create poems at first. But actually it was fun to think about myself, about my family, my friends, and what I like from my mind.

There are many ways to express myself through poems, pictures, clothes, dances, and songs. We can express ourselves with everything. At the same time, I thought that expressing myself was a chance to review what I am.

There are many ways but all of the ways may be difficult to express myself. But to keep my mind down is more painful than that. I think that we follow our mind individually is the most important thing.

Fuka Matsumoto
Iwaki Koyo High School

Innovation to expand the connection

Today was a day saying goodbye to host family’s daughter and mother because they have to meet their friends in Florida. I’ve enjoyed my week here with them and they supported two Japanese exchange students with having hospitality. In addition, I have to say bye to my roommate, Keiichiro, because he is also getting out of the house to meet with his new host family, located on the other side of my host family’s house in Washington D.C. I had a great time with them but now I’ll have a different time, only two men in the house and I’m looking forward to seeing the differences in it.

I’ve got out of the house at 7:15 am and we used the car to the nearby train station: Takoma. We used red line till the Fort Totten station and changed to the green line to head to the Columbia Heights station. We arrived early because we got late yesterday due to the transportation by the construction of a few stations on the red line. We forgot about it because the construction began just this week. Meeting with the other students in the station, we rushed to CHEC: Columbia Heights Education Campus.

Firstly, we consulted with D.C students about the yesterday’s community service, teaching to elementary and middle school students at Walker-Jones Education Campus. Then we came up with a slogan: teaching from what we learn.

Big ideas from our debrief on our Walker-Jones EC teaching experience.

After that, we briefly brainstormed about the things which Japanese students viewed or thought in Washington D.C. till today and we presented to the students from Washington D.C. We had a few questions which we didn’t understand but after having discussions, the possible solutions came out and it made me have none of the doubt about detailed information. Then we talked about the things to do in the final presentation.

After the discussion, we started the workshop on Free Minds Book Club and Writing. Free Minds uses the book and creative writing to empower young inmates to transform their lives. After meeting with the people, I was able to realize the existence of such an important organization. We were able to learn from the backgrounds of people who used to be in the prison or is in the prison now. I was astonished by their poetry skills and it stimulated my interest in learning more about the poems.

Afterward, we headed to Farragut North to get to the office of the CSIS: Center for Strategic and International Studies. The office was an attractive interior decorating which was seldom in Japan. All of the exchange students were fascinated by the designs as I was one of them. CSIS was a major think tank in the US and we met with Matthew P. Goodman and his business colleagues. Think tank is the corporation organized to study particular issues and provide information, ideas, and advice. Through the program, I was able to learn the importance of the language as they mentioned, ”Language is the best way to have a connection.”

Lastly, we discussed the career panel with the women who worked in The United States or have a connection with Japan. Those people were looking forward to seeing more female leadership in Japan. It was a great opportunity to hear their real intention. Moreover, I was able to learn the importance of a good connection with friends from their life experience and I aspire to keep relation with the TOMODACHI exchange students.

Shunsuke Watando
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

A Visit to Walker-Jones

Today we visited Walker-Jones Education Campus, a DCPS K-8 school nearby Union Station and NoMa-Gallaudet station, where we introduced young American children to some aspects of Japanese culture. I for one had a great experience. All of the elementary students were very enthusiastic and excited to learn about a foreign culture. So being able to teach them about this topic really touched my heart, as well as all of my group members. When asked if they had ever met a Japanese person, almost all of the students replied “No!” But when we began explaining some of the activities, many of the kids found them very familiar.

We had three major hands-on stations set up: Origami, Kimono, and Language. The kids quickly immersed themselves in all three activities with a sense of curiosity and excitement! As we folded origami paper, tried on traditional kimonos, and learned our 1,2,3’s in Japanese, we realized that this visit was especially moving for the Japanese members of our group, because they were able to introduce their culture to people who had never heard of it before. I was so happy to see the joy brought to all of their faces as they explored all the new concepts we taught them. Each and every one of their smiles lit up the room. Instead of being the ones being taught, they were the ones doing the teaching, and they were all very, very enthusiastic in doing so.

Surprisingly we found that oftentimes as we taught the children, they also taught us many lessons, like the importance of asking questions, trying new things, diving into different activities, and being open-minded.

Racquel Jones
Wilson SHS

Halcyon House

Halcyon House is a social innovation incubator in historic Georgetown which provides a residency program for a cohort of innovative entrepreneurs with a drive to reshape problems in society. We were given a tour of this wonderland by Erin Knisley and Danielle Reed, and were also able to learn from Halcyon’s Chief Innovation Officer, Ryan Ross.

In a capitalistic society where the entrepreneur’s common goal is to create Bezos-like profit, Halcyon House is a trailblazer in one of DC’s wealthiest neighborhoods. The incubator adds an extra texture to the meaning of an entrepreneur, a layer that feels like a better world for future generations. By allowing creatives to live in a collaborative space for 5 months while they individually work on their businesses designed to positively impact society – Halcyon gives us new lenses to view entrepreneurship. One of the most beautiful things about the incubator is their effort to drive collective innovation within the Georgetown mansion. There are libraries, a pool and various other collaborative spaces for business creators to use each others’ ideas, experience, wisdom, and knowledge as a thread to improve their models.

I would love to see this trend of social innovation become contagious, not only in my hometown, but also throughout the U.S. I believe it is extremely important for an entrepreneur to assess how they are positively affecting the ecosystem they are profiting from. If you’re going to gain from the people, why not give back to them? This is exactly what Halcyon House does but instead of influencing businesses to produce philanthropic efforts, social awareness and improvement is the basis each business helps to cultivate. I found Halcyon House to be breath-inspiring and revolutionary, adding new pieces to the never quite finished puzzle of the entrepreneur.

Miles Peterson
Banneker Academic HS

Keiichiro’s July 23

First of all, we talked about the differences between Japan and the United States in preparation for the final presentation.

We wrote the differences on individual stickies, then collected these on big papers to visualize our observations. Although it was an only about a 30 minute discussion, we put out a lot of opinions, so it was very difficult to categorize.

Some things which I thought were interesting are about community in the neighborhood and how to listen to people’s stories.

It is natural for you to greet and talk to neighbors in America. However, today, we do not know even their face of the neighbors in Japan, especially in urban areas. Despite urbanization keeps going in the United States. I want to learn the spirit of how to get good relationship in the community.

Regarding how to listen to talks, I think that Japan and the United States have good points and bad points each. In Japan, basically we don’t eat anything (including gum) during listening to the story. Also, you must take off your hat and look into speaker’s eye with straight back. I don’t know this is good points or bad points, but in the US these are basically forgiven. And Japanese can basically question only question time. However, compared with Japanese, Americans can ask questions as soon as they are interested in. I think these differences are deeply related to language and culture.

Secondly, we visited Halcyon Incubator. Halcyon Incubator is an organization that organizes programs to grow up social entrepreneurs, provides co-working space, and supports business by consulting.

Nowadays, I think we need to shift from doing operations to creating innovations.

This is America to me.

Finally, we visited elementary schools and taught children about Japan. We divided us into three groups – taught how to dress Kimonos and use Furoshiki, try to speak some Japanese, and do Origami.

I taught students to speak some Japanese language, for example simple Japanese greetings and numbers from 1 to 10. It was difficult for me to teach children, but I felt comfortable because the children were very cute.

It was a very fulfilling day.

Keiichiro Tamara
Miyagiken Sendai Nika High School

Anika’s Home Stay

Today I went out with my host family to the bay. The forecast said it would rain all day but it turns out that there would be a few hours with no rain and the sun was out. We first went to the trail course near the bay, but it was raining when we arrived, so we had a quick lunch at “Kim’s Key Lime Pie” and it was delicious. After that we went back to the trail course near the bay and walked all the way to “Calvert Cliff.” I heard from my host family that it is famous for shark teeth that are easily found but I couldn’t find any of them.

While we were approaching the bay I felt a sense of nature and the beautiful feeling you get when walking outside; it was a funny experience because I was able to enjoy nature near the city that is in the capital of U.S. In Japan. Although there is plenty of nature in Japan, it’s usually far away from the neighborhoods and having places in the city where people can walk together with their dogs is something that you don’t see that often. Also, because they have such a convenient public transportation, there are fewer people who walk outside so I think this was an excellent opportunity to go outside and feel the natural side of D.C. On the way to our car walking on the trail, it started to rain a bit and just after we got on to the day it started to pour. I was glad that we had the perfect timing to go out for a walk. It was such an active day to spend this summer and I loved it so much.

Anika Shimizu
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

A walk for another culture

It is the end of the week and our heroes were in intense training in different dojos. Our heroes deserve a break, which was in the center of the town, more specific the center of Chinatown, but some of the native warriors from the town had to go early. They decide to rest from the visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a walk on the National Mall. Some of our heroes decide to celebrate the first week of training, but because they are underage, it was decided to go to a festival. Daniel our protagonist was excited to pass time with the allies from the other land that he decided to stay with them. When our heroes arrived by walking a long way, passing through Chinatown, they were able to see the festival in the middle of the street, where they met warriors from different part of the world who teach them the martial art: “Capoeira.” So Daniel-kun, Chi-chan and Noa-chan decided to try this foreign martial art, which in the opinion of everyone Chi-chan was the best one.

Then some of our heroes played this ancient game which requires patience, precision and geometry: JENGA. Later on Daniel-kun went to this millennial’s game, checkers, with Chi-chan in a rough battle of intelligence, which in both times Daniel-kun proclaimed himself as a the champion and Chi-chan, sensei. In the meantime the others were learning how to paint graffitis, a different game attracted their attention where they decided to play until the sun went down, It was a fun day full of happiness and memories that will not go away. The end of the first week finished when everyone decided to leave this place but with knowing that their bonds are stronger.

Carlos Daniel Ramirez
Roosevelt SHS

Never forget

On Friday, July 20, we went to the United States Holocaust Museum, Lincoln Memorial, and Chinatown.

Today’s dinner was hamburger in McDonald’s. I have never seen that kind of hamburger which has fried onions. It was good taste. But I think I don’t want to eat it every day because this hamburger is too greasy for me.

I learned a lot of things about The Holocaust. There were a lot of pictures in the museum and these made me very sad. For example, these pictures showed Jews were burned and constrained.

The most shocking one for me was about children’s shoes of Jews who lost their life, because I was able to imagine easily what happened for them.

I could not believe Nazis forced this deplorable thing.  The pictures showed too cruel things in which Nazis burned too much number of Jews.

My heart aches from these documentary photographs and real objects.

The Holocaust should never happen again.

I think people from all over the world should know The Holocaust. Because Japanese students don’t learn about The Holocaust well at school in Japan.

I have met a Jew last year. She asked me, “Do you know The Holocaust?” I answered, “I don’t know well.” She said that “I haven’t learned about an atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at school. We should learn history of the world more.”

My opinion is same as hers. I think Japanese school should teach about The Holocaust more.

DC students and Japanese students talked about The Holocaust Museum in a park. I drew a picture of children’s shoes of Jews and I gave all my impression. They also gave their comments and some of them remain to my heart. They had different perspectives. All of the opinions were shocking to me.

I have heard that some people are persecuted by Government of Russia.

I think we must stop it.

Noa Chibachi
Tohoku Gakuin Tsutsujigaoka High School