Future Sessions

Today was our second official day in Tokyo! Even though we are still jet-lagged and tired, we all are filled with energy, excited to be here, and burning to try all new things! This morning we were lucky enough to meet with Mr. Takahiko Nomura. He created and works for the Future Sessions Inc. Future Sessions focused on Social Innovation by way of sharing ideas with those of different backgrounds and working together to bring them to life, in order to better the community. Future Sessions encourages the ideas of people with different resources and mindsets to inspire each other and create something new. Often times, regular people don’t have the power or resources to bring their own ideas to life, so Future Sessions was created.

Mr. Nomura inspired us, he told us that we could change society by ourselves. After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident, non-profit organizations, companies, and governments worked together to rebuild the community and it was very successful. Mr. Nomura invited us to participate in one of his sessions, where we walked around Shibuya for a couple hours and visited a beautiful, and ultimately peaceful park. The problem is…not many tourists are attracted to it. We split up into groups and evaluated the area and thought of ways we could make it more interesting and fun, without completely transforming the neighborhood.

After our walk, we gathered our thoughts, and each group prepared a presentation on how to improve this lovely park. From murals to greenhouses to shopping kiosks, we all expressed unique, yet great ideas! We learned that we can all be inspiring human beings and that asking questions on how to improve something will take you very far in the process of change-making. Most importantly we learned that looking at things from different perspectives will expand your horizons and take you a very long way in life.

Racquel Jones
Wilson SHS

Do you know of a Place?

The spirit of the people flowed from the Buddhist temple/
Spirituality, peace, grace, love, and activity coexisted in a path less than a mile/
A great author, Paulo Coehlo, told me about the language of the World/
And I hadn’t been able to experience it until I reached Asakusa/

Worldwide, people love/
Worldwide, people are grateful/
Worldwide, humans are on the constant search for personal betterment as it ties to that of their future lineage/

Fujin and Rajin granted my entrance/
Internal thunder enlightening me and lighting my way/
The wind pushed me along the path, whistling the energy of life past my ears/

History embraced this place like no other/
Distinctive and beautiful/
Open to all no matter race or lifestyle/
Because all humans experience spirituality, peace, grace, love, and activity in their lives/

Miles Peterson
Banneker Academic HS

Without haste, but without rest

As today was the second day of arrival in Japan, the jet lag remained in the body. Although jet lag remained in my body, a firm intention of spending my time to my advantage pushed me to have a will to sleep as quick as possible. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to sleep till 3:00 am, and I woke up at 6:00 am. I arrived at Nogata station before 12:00 pm. Nogata is located in Nakano-Ku, in the metropolis Tokyo, and it was far from my house, because my house is located in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was uncomfortable riding on the metro in Tokyo for me because the time was the commuter rush hour. However, this view changed after perceiving that it will be a great opportunity to teach one of the Japanese typical livelihood cultures to the students who will homestay at my house, Carlos and Miles, from Washington D.C.

I had a rendezvous with other students at Nogata station and I was able to arrive on time. After meeting with everyone, we headed to share house which was a 10 minute walk from the station. I’ve never walked around the residential area in Nakano. Therefore, I was interested in what kind of the place which isn’t generally known in Tokyo by looking at it objectively. There weren’t the major differences between my neighborhood and Nogata. If anything, I found that the area of Nogata was the place where it is more densely built-up than my neighborhood. The share house was called the smart house in Japan and it was the place it aggregated the latest technology for the house.

We first started with the Japan Program Orientation by discussing the cultural difference between Japan and Washington D.C. It was very interesting to learn about the different cultural observation from the same generation with a different background. A student from Washington D.C had given a list of new findings in Japan and it increased my curiosity toward their views. There were many things in their discoveries which I was so familiar with, so it was refreshing to learn how they felt. There is a word, “caution is the eldest son of wisdom” (Victor Marie Hugo) and it was the word which suited me. It means, there isn’t anything more frightening than something you are used to. Through my own experience, I was able to realize the importance to take precautions to the thing all around me.

After having fulfilled discussion, we went to the Edo Tokyo Museum near Ryogoku station. Around this area, there is Ryogoku Kokugikan, which Japanese sumo wrestler takes the match at it. We weren’t able to get inside but it was a great experience to get near to the Holy Land of sumo. Passing the building of sumo, we saw an unusual structure which it was Edo Tokyo museum. We used escalator which it was rarely seen from my life experience. 150 years passed since the end of the Edo period and it seemed fresh for me to look inside the museum. There were many things which I couldn’t learn at the school textbook and it was the valuable experience for me to see the history of Edo.

Riding on the Toei Asakusa line, we arrived at Asakusa which it is one of the famous sightseeing spots in Japan. We walked under Kaminari gate and went to Asakusa Shinto shrine. We enjoyed browsing around the shop and eating Japanese confectionery.

For dinner, we ate Okonomiyaki which it is a Japanese savory pancake and astonishment of students from Washington D.C made me enjoy watching it. I believe that they would be able to find many new discoveries through the rest of the journey in Japan and I would like to carefully support them with the heart of Omotenasi.

Shunsuke Watando
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

Goodbye and Welcome

At 7 am, all of us gathered in the lobby of the airport hotel to take our breakfast. Despite the excitement of going to Tokyo, all of us were exhausted from forcing ourselves to stay awake to be able to sleep on the plane.

At 7:30, we arrived at BWI airport and checked in our luggage but there was a little trouble which happened to us Japanese students. Because we bought lots of souvenirs in Washington, D.C. and brought lots of things we’ll need from Japan, our luggages were overweight and we had to lessen the weight of the luggage. After that, we took the flight to Chicago for about 2 hours to take another flight that goes to Narita. However, it looked like there was an engine problem, and the plane delayed for about 3 hours. Finally, when we were able to take the flight, it was already 15:30.

At last at 19:00 the next day we arrived at Narita airport. To us Japanese students, it was a familiar airport, although to D.C. students it seemed that the entire thing was a whole new place and they were very excited. One thing I was very surprised was that when we got to immigration we Japanese only had to show our passports and our faces to the machine, and that was only for a second. However, for foreigners like the D.C. students, it took a really long time and I felt a bit sad about how people aren’t able to enter other countries easily. I thought that in the future, I hope that I’ll be able to see people traveling to foreign countries happily.

Anika Shimizu
Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

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