Andres’s Final Reflection

The Tomodachi US-Japan Exchange program has been one of my best experiences in my life. So many new gates have opened up for me with my new developed interests and making distant friends, but who are always close to my heart. Getting to have this experience early on in my life made me realize that If I can go this far now, I can go even farther in the future.

Applying to the program was my first obstacle, then was the interview. I happily succeeded in both and my last obstacle was adjusting to Japan along with making friends. I met great people who dedicate themselves to their studies as well as taking these strange American students into their home. It must have been awkward and tough the first few days but as we got to know each other we weren’t so different from each other.

Including the immersing of Japanese Culture, we learned much more about the Disaster of 2011. It was on the news but I think the whole story wasn’t shown all the way and being there firsthand created a whole new perspective of the whole thing. I didn’t feel grief, sadness or disappointment when I saw it on Television. But when I got there those emotions poured out.

I strongly believe that more help is needed for the damaged cities. But I also commend the leaders and citizens of the cities for sticking with it and continuing to reconstruct and keep moving forward. It is a tough thing to be there after four years, and that is seen by their reflection. But they thrive to keep their community alive and happy.

Learning about the citizen’s stories made me think: What can outsiders do for these people in need? But I soon come to realize as young leaders of the future, the only available thing is to tell their stories to the world. To advocate for them in hard to reach places. And that is what we will do.

Reflecting on this trip made me want to go back, and soon, to better understand the people directly within their language. I want to immerse myself with Japanese Culture and understand the differences from my own, already mixed, culture. To give a helping hand to a wounded, but not destroyed, place that was and still is considered home to many people.

I want to appreciate the donors and sponsors for the program for giving me this opportunity to travel and learn a new culture and understand a current ongoing issue that needs attention from everyone. I want to thank the chaperones for being there when we were in need and lightening the mood. I would like to thank all our host siblings and their parents for having open arms for us as if they were our own here in the U.S..

Thank you everyone for giving me this opportunity! Arigato Gozaimasu!

Andres Alvarez, Jr.
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

August 7: The day hit us like a hammer

Holocaust flameFumiya

Visiting the Holocaust Museum has become one of the biggest things that went through my mind on the importance of leader. Sometimes, even great leader who has power to convince people to follow him/her mislead people to wrong way. The Holocaust is typical example of such leadership. We need to consider not only skills but ideas and beliefs when we take leadership.


I think today was one of the most difficult days for the DC side. The quilting thing was really fun, but in the morning we went to the Holocaust museum, and it was very emotionally draining. I had heard about this event many times, and I had even been to the museum in middle school, but we received a personal tour, and through this I learned a lot about the event, some things I think I didn’t even want to know, although its good that I do now. I learned that they didn’t just target Jews. I learned how diligently good people followed Hitler, and how scarily good of a leader he was. And I learned that America was given the chance to help, and they didn’t. Remember when I said it was hard to be proud of America? Today I definitely felt that way. Especially since this could happen again. And that’s scary. I hope this museum continues to educate people, so that this kind of tragedy won’t happen again. Because no one deserves what Hitler did to these people.


I can say today was one of the most intense day in my whole life. We visited the Holocaust Museum, and learned the history of German Nazis and how Jewish people were discriminated against by the Nazis. Learning about Hitler, I was able to see how one person could change the world, and how people can be controlled if they are brain washed. There were many things we could learn from the museum, since the things exhibited in the Holocaust Museum were powerful enough to tell the story raw.


Today was just intense. Holocaust Museum in America is one of the two major Holocaust museums in the world. Every single piece exhibited in the museum surely moved me, well; I rather say I felt I got hit by a hammer. Every picture I saw, every voice I heard, tells the reality. The smell of the shoes, the temperature I felt was telling me the reality of Holocaust and how one man can drive people crazy. One thing I felt the museum and our tour guide tried to tell us was not to be a bystander and not to repeat this tragedy. To accomplish the museum’s will, I strongly felt the importance of being curious on outside world and collect right information. Collecting right information from right source would not just help not repeating the tragedy, but also could stop all the other wars happening right now, and even bullying and such kinds of stuff in normal life.

USHMM DiscussionShigetatsu

Today, we visited the Holocaust Museum. I actually didn’t know much about the German history related to World War.

I learned at school that there were lots of Jewish people caught by the nation and forced to live and work in the concentration camps. However the situation was much worse than I had expected. People were not treated as human.

Now in Japan, new security related legislation has decided to be adopted. The government says it’s impossible to cause war and being implicated to the war. However, I don’t think so. We have to learn from the past experiences and make good use of them. Whatever, it’s disaster or war, we must not allow the same nightmares to happen.

There were such tragedies like genocide in Germany. Why don’t we learn from that and make big effort to pretend the same thing happen? I considered how to let people know the facts and one of the answers was also telling the story. I’m going to try my best and hope it doesn’t happen again.


After viewing an emotion draining chain of pictures and films, I seem to wonder why, why did America not do anything about this mass murder of innocent people? Sure, big people from there matter, but for entertainment? No. Had the US have open arms, per se, to the Jews of Europe: The Holocaust would have never happened, Lives saved, more jobs (money) more SOLDIERS and maybe Hitler’s empire would have fallen quicker. It’s one of the few times where although the war was over and America won. They lost. They lost lives because of their poor actions to prevent it. And that is what we must remember to not repeat history.

USHMM Group Lge

August 5: Reflections on the 70th Anniversary

PROGRAM NOTE: Day Three of the program began with two panels: the first on the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II and the second, a career panel focused on professionals involved in the US-Japan relationship. The afternoon was devoted to topics related to the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima – with the screening of a film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard, and an evening visit to an exhibit on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at American University.


Terry ShimaToday was the longest and the most intense day in my life. We met many people, each having their own stories of their lives surrounding life as a Japanese-American and heard stories about the impact nuclear weapons had on Hiroshima and the world. I was surprised to hear Terry Shima’s story, because even though he wasn’t treated right by the Americans during the war, he still believed America was his only homeland, and had loyalty.


Today brought our focus back to Japan, and we met with people who are and were involved with both the US and Japan though good and bad. Often I find it really difficult to feel patriotic, as I look at the news or online and see all the terrible things my country has done. Today has made it both easier and harder to feel this way. Harder because I learned more in depth about Hiroshima through a film and an exhibit, and how can I feel proud of a country that hurt innocent people and made their lives so much harder. And easier because when talking to people who were involved in World War II and the career panel, I got to hear how America leaves us with wonderful opportunities to become better and make our nation better. Honestly I don’t know if I am proud or revolted by my country. But I think that is okay, and I think that that opinion will keep developing.


It was really opening-eye day for me. I have two reasons for that.

Firstly, the short film that was telling the story of drawings created by elementary students. All the colorful works drawn by color pens from the U.S. I didn’t know that story at all even when I visited Hiroshima last year.

Secondly, just hearing the stories of Japanese Americans was moving. I did know about the existence of discrimination toward Japanese Americans however, it was first time for me to hear the stories directly.

So, today, I thought these issues through from different perspectives as a person not only who had been discriminated but also as a person who dropped the A-bomb. I think that we have to pass down these stories from various perspectives at the same time.

Terry Shima TalkingDusan

Loyalty! That thing that I wish I could wholeheartedly say I have for America. Terry Shima and Mary Murakami’s experiences were hellish, in a word, but through it they kept a loyalty to a country that actively seeked to disown them in their times. As a black teenage male in America, I identify with them. However, I can’t find the same loyalty in America yet as they can. Looking inward, I guess I still hold resentment towards America for treating me the way it does, to having to have the extended coming of age talk for Black children growing up in America. The thing is, a hope spot is appearing for me because of hearing these stories. Mary basically grew up in a POW camp, and had to start her whole life over; She held loyalty, and became the change she wished to see in America. The same theme goes for Terry Shima. My loyalty may evolve to be different, but I think I can begin to find some in America, if only because I seek a change. I don’t want to have to give my child the “because you’re black” talk.


Today was a rich day again. We talked with so many people. Yesterday’s theme was issues facing African American people but today’s theme was about World War II and life of Japanese American people. We also saw the movie Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard about a school in Hiroshima and the All Souls Church in DC.

Hiroshima is my mother’s hometown and my grandfather and grand-grandparents were A-bomb victims. So I know a lot of information about Hiroshima, however the movie today showed me some stories I had never heard. The stories of school children in Japan and the church in DC. It was very important time to me to learn these new stories and I was so glad to watch the movie.

Also we went to a museum and saw some articles, pictures, and drawings from Hiroshima. I knew some of the situations but I felt the visual information was so strong. There were some shocking things for me. I felt A-bomb is a horrible weapon once more.


Today we mainly focused on discussing the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. I think today allowed me to delve deeper and gain greater understanding for a topic that I had learned about during my 10th grade world history class.

While discussing the whole historical occurrence, my interest was piqued by a comment one of my fellow Americans made. He said that in school Americans are taught that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible, but at the same time necessary. He then goes on to say that, that narrative led him to his own personal research of the topic.

This statement stood out to me the most because I didn’t fully agree with it, or maybe I couldn’t relate to his statement. I was never taught that the use of the atomic bomb was necessary. In fact, I was taught along the lines that the use of the atomic bomb was excessive on America’s part. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk as if the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was something that had to be done. Even though we are both Americans getting an education in the same city, we were taught about the same topic in completely different ways! This was quite eye opening.


The big idea from today was the devastation the A-bomb caused in Hiroshima. What I saw was something I couldn’t have ever imagined in my wildest dreams. People’s bodies deformed and changed beyond all recognition, some were swollen in different areas of their body, and others were burned to the point their skin was black. Those people didn’t deserve any of this, I understand that we needed to end the war but feel we should have found another way.


Today is 8/6, the day Hiroshima was blown away by a nuclear bomb America had dropped, so we had a session about it and also had a chance to go to an exhibit in American University yesterday. I visited Hiroshima last year for a school trip so I knew most of the basic facts about it and wasn’t shocked like how most people were. But from everyone’s reactions, I realized the difference of knowledge between the American students and the Japanese students and the perspectives on how this historical even is taught. I strongly believe this gap of education shouldn’t exist and students should all have equal opportunities to learn about this world event.


Hiroshima TalkThe film that Shizumi and Bryan made gave me completely different perspective towards the atomic bombing. The film was really focusing on how people in Hiroshima felt after the bombing. The image I had toward Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bombing was bad, sad, and horrible. Actually, the atomic bomb itself was tragic, but what people in Hiroshima who lost their friends and maybe even family felt was appreciation toward America which is the country that dropped the bomb but also supported its enemy after the war. I didn’t know at all about how Americans supported children in Hiroshima, and I didn’t know at all about how those children feel towards America. It was so new to me and surprised me the most. This film gave me a new perspective of the children in Hiroshima who actually experienced the Bombing.


We learned about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The film we watched about the lost lives of an Elementary school and honestly it was new news to me and eye opening. The impact of the bomb on the people, their skin literally melting off and their eyes burnt. In light of the darkness I never knew about the typhoon that came after and cleansed the land so it could be habitable. Had that not happened, reconstruction would have begun many decades later and redevelopment would have taken much longer.

The Hiroshima children who drew pictures and sent them to Washington DC as a thank you for the gifts they received were reunited after many decades apart. Their colorful pictures look like they were made yesterday. A very dark story became a bright and colorful one in the end. Most importantly, a takeaway for me is forgiveness is key and can fully end a bad past with a new start.


An atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and thousands died, lost their loved ones or lost their houses.

In remembrance of this day, today’s program focused on the U.S.-Japan relationship. As a Japanese student who has heard World War 2 stories from the Japanese perspective, it was eye opening to hear the story from the U.S. side.

The World War 2 story that I know has always been a bitter one. It was the tale of the outbreak of excessive nationalism and losses of life. Therefore, I expected America’s side of story to be a story of honor, pride and glory. This was in fact partially true, and partially not.

Americans do celebrate their victory in the war, however, as far as the A-bombing goes, they consider it as a shameful part of their history. Even 70 years after this, the reality of the world is that we live in constant fear of the A-bomb. If any superpowers clash, wars will occur, and there is no guarantee that another A-bomb will not be dropped somewhere, harming thousands of civilians.

I do not know if it is possible, however nuclear disarmament is essential for world peace. I hope we can see progress and the building of consensus within my lifetime.

Terry and Mary Group1Career Panel Group 3IMG_2026

August 4: Our Most Vivid Impressions

PROGRAM NOTE: On August 4th, the day started with a workshop presented by Operation Understanding DC (OUDC) to better understand prejudice and stereotypes.The day continued at the Thurgood Marshall Center in the historic Shaw community of Washington with a closer examination of historic and current issues affecting the African American community. Speakers included Rock Newman, Ronald Hampton, and the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop.

Rock and Ron GroupAndres

Today we spoke about prejudice and racism here in the United States. It was very powerful being in front of Rock Newman during his speech. He told the truth behind how the Police today even have bias for whites and blacks. Mr. Newman also treated us to soul food which was delicious. We had macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, collard greens, and BBQ meatballs. It was very delicious and at the same time while eating I consumed this knowledge of truth that prejudice still exists in America.

Soul Food9K.Y.

Out of all the talks, people and workshops we had interacted with today, what stood out most was Rock Newman`s discussion. The reason for this was the way he influenced the audience, his strong and magical words surged into each of us like a gush of wind. Because the words and his tone were full of determination and powerful legitimacy, I was initially moved and awe-stricken just by his presence. What he had expressed was the corrupt nation of the United States, which ‘everyone is equal and that people regardless of their skin color or size are treated equal’. He told stories of his past where he dealt with racial discrimination that proved opposite. He said everyone should be treated with mutual respect and dignity. I hope to pass on his courageous story to other people.

Rock Newman1Shigetatsu

I’d like to write about the Free Minds Book Club. I was impressed by them strongly because of their ways and thought and operation.

There are a lot of people who are in prison because they did something illegal. Most people, including me, tend to avoid communicating with the criminals. It’s a very natural thing but also a serious issue we need to tackle. Usually, we only see issues that are broadcasted widely like 3/11 tsunami or 9/11 terrorists attack. However there are various issues that are needed to be solved in our society.

FM Tara and MajorFree Minds Book Club is an organization which focuses on such issues and is now helping lots of people. We met Major who was a participant in Free Minds when he was in prison. He was not so sensitive and talkable but his stories he did share were very powerful. He also shared his poem on how he appreciates woman. Books also have significant meanings to help people get other perspectives and knowledge especially while they’re in prison.

I recognized that there are issues we are expected to consider that are surrounding us. Also we have to try to solve them in an effective way. Probably the whole procedure and solution to many of these problems is the social entrepreneurship. Free Minds is a really good example.

Free Minds Gift to Major SmilingY.A.

Things are busy and were kind of overwhelming for me today, though we are just starting the DC part of this program. In the morning, I have got two biographies and pictures two men we were to meet. One was a white man and the other one was a black man. Later it turned out my hypothesis and assumptions were not correct, but at that time, that is what I really thought. As I read the biographies I even thought “isn’t it hard for a white man to criticize the discrimination made by white man even though he knows it was a terrible thing?” In conclusion, both men I read about were black man and I was surprised.

One of them was Rock Newman who doesn’t seem like a black man at all. He had white skin, and also blue eyes. Even if I was not Asian, I would think even Americans would see Mr. Newman and think he was white. He told us his story of struggle of looking white although he is actually considered and categorized as a black man. Even though Barack Obama has been a president and there seems to be no discrimination or prejudice that exists between black and white persons, there are still some in people’s minds. Before Obama and earlier in time there was more discrimination between blacks and white as one could easily guess. And I think Mr. Newman had experienced what he didn’t need to experience. For example, he said a lot of whites talked to him making fun of black people or criticize black people since they thought he was a white man which would never happen if he looked like a black man. Since he is a black man, and since he chooses to live as a black man, and since he decided to fight for black men, he had to face these criticisms he didn’t have to face. As I just mentioned he didn’t use his “advantage” of looking like a white man at all in the time of segregation and prejudice. I was just surprised and amazed by his courage and power which makes this United States keeps succeeding with DIVERSE SOCIETY.

Ron Hampton2Caitie

Today was a lot of work on defying and understanding stereotypes and their power. The main lesson I took from OUDC, Free Minds, and the Rock and Ron conversations was that you cannot let stereotypes define you or anyone else. Stereotypes, whether positive or negative, leave you never able to understand the person for who they are. We cannot get rid of stereotypes, and we cannot just pretend they don’t exist. But instead, we can know they exist, and get to know the person for who they really are rather than your first impression. And I think that’s a really powerful lesson.


Thurgood Marshall4Today was very interesting, especially because we met in the Thurgood Marshall building in the U St neighborhood. I didn’t know this building even exists and I live in the same neighborhood! It proves that many young people don’t value the historical landmarks in our city or are just ignorant to their existence. During our meeting we got the privilege to meet and listen to Rock Newman. He made so many strong points about prejudices and racism back in the day. But the passion in Newman’s voice made his words even powerful. He was my favorite speaker of the day.


Today we met a lot of new people who were so powerful that I had to form new perspectives inside me. We met Rock, who told us about his past, how black people have been treated, and how they are still treated now. His stories of prejudice against him were painful and powerful to hear. If I am to change the world somehow, I think I would have to be like Rock, to be able to even sacrifice yourself to save someone.


Today we went to Thurgood Marshall Center and listened to many stories. First story was from Rock Newman, who looks like a white person but is an African American. He told us his experience and it was very fearful. Also he talked about media. When news told about some crime, those criminals are mostly black people. News doesn’t report about white criminals as much a black criminal. This is why people’s image of black is bad. I thought mass media is fearful. Mass media can create people’s mind. Media have to report untold news. And we have to think of information we receive and question it.

Also, this is not related to today’s meetings but I want to share about some things I observed while walking in DC. In DC, there are many garbage cans on the street and we can dump trash easily. Actually, Dusan told me that this is one of his favorite points of DC. I think so too. In Japan, we cannot find garbage cans easily outside so usually we have to find stores and parks, which have garbage cans, or bring the trash back to our homes after carrying it all day. Maybe this is a reason that there is so much trash on the streets of Japan. I don’t understand why Japan doesn’t do the same system of DC or how DC can set garbage cans in so many place. I can’t grasp this as just “difference” and thought this is one of worse point of Japan. I wish I could change Japanese garbage system.


Dealing with stereotypes is a way of life for many of the people on Earth, but so rarely do I hear it brought up in a serious fashion by those around me. Yet when it is, it’s something worth listening to, and today was no different. We heard a variety of narratives, but the one that truly stuck with me was the narrative of Major, a man who had recently been free from jail after six years confined. His style of talking held a lifetime of pain and conflict in it, talking that took thought to communicate effectively, talking that began in his growth.

Free Minds BookSome of the common stereotypes of a black man are that he is uneducated, lazy, and destined for prison. For Major, some of these stereotypes, it seemed, were a cruel way of life created by people simply not caring enough to stop this cycle. He was most definitely not lazy, but he was illiterate for a time and committed crimes out of simple necessity. After all, what would you do if you were hungry — no, starving — and out of options? Exactly. To sum it up in short, this was a way of life for a time, because no one cared. No one was there to redirect Major down a good path in his childhood, no one was there to help him grow, no one was there to allow him to not turn to that life — not until he reached Free Minds, people who cared, people who were consistent.

Nobody was trying to help, and stereotypes were only bars that kept him locked in. In society, we cannot understand anyone until we go beyond their face value. It’s easy to stop at someone’s face and define them off that alone, but that opens the floodgates for more misconceptions to grow, more bigotry to grow, more people to just disregard it. Because we took the time to understand Major, we’ve begun to acknowledge and break down our stereotypes, in turn breaking down ignorance. As Global citizens, that is a coming skill needed. As citizens of our community though? I believe now, more than ever, that the capacity to truly understand another, to empathize, is an obligation. It all starts with little steps, after all. So, until next broadcast.


Today we were able to learn many stories about how the color of your skin could completely change your life. Major, who was taught to steal to live, told us about his eight years he spent in jail and his thoughts about what he did in the past. I was surprised when he said he didn’t regret what he did. He felt in a way thankful for his experiences because he was able to learn many things from them and is currently writing strong, powerful poems to express his thoughts and feelings.


I felt like the discussions we had with Rock Newman today was one the most outstanding moments of the day. Newman talked about his experiences during his childhood dealing with being racially defined as black yet not exactly physically appearing it to others. I think that was a really important topic to bring up because a lot of the time people tend to write off the narratives of multiracial people in this country.

Today, we talked about stereotypes and the African-American experience in the United States. I think this is the first time that I felt invested in because I completely understood it. It feels nice being able to hear the experiences of people directly from their own mouths and not through an interpreter. No offense to interpreters, but having to hear someone else’s words reiterated back through a different language and a different person kind of depreciates the experience of listening to others’ stories for me…

August 3: Back in DC Again


Today I got to see DC from a completely new eye. I’ve lived in this city for years, but it’s so different being here now after going to Japan and seeing what their culture is like. Now I’m noticing all these differences in my city I had previously never second guessed, things that had just became part of my everyday life. Like how dark our metro trains are, or the amount of socialization just on the streets. The colorful buildings, the history, the inequality, all of these things I knew before. But after Japan, it’s like noticing it all over again. And it’s really given me a new look at my city.


Yesterday we took the Japanese students on a tour of our picture of Washington D.C. Not just the picture perfect D.C that everybody seems to see. This was important to me to show the Japanese students this part of D.C. because it’s important to see the difference of social classes in our city. I also learned something new as we traveled across the bridge to Anacostia. Clarence told us that Anacostia had the highest unemployment rate in the country in 2011. This was a huge shock to me because I knew there were seamy parts of D.C but I didn’t know exactly how bad it really was. This tour really opened my eyes even more to the socioeconomic problems of D.C. and the disparities that exist in my city.


Today we toured the nation’s capital and my home with our Japanese friends. I saw quite a lot of usual and new things I have never seen. One of my favorite spots visited was Hains Point, where you can have a full view of Reagan National Airport and see the airplanes take off and land. As a lover of planes and aeronautics, I fell in love with this spot! Another interesting place was Anacostia in southeast DC. I had never seen a drastic change in socioeconomic levels like this before, especially not in Washington. I now hope to get a better understanding of current issues of my hometown before going off to other countries and understanding theirs.


After returning to DC and being able to walk around the city for a period of time, I noticed a number of differences between it and the areas we visited in Japan. For example, both the areas we visited in Japan and DC have a number of historical landmarks and sites; however, Washington DC landmarks do not include religious symbols like shrines or religious art. Despite Japan and DC both having a metro system, personally I believe that DC’s metro system is easier to maneuver due to the fact that we only have a few lines, versus Japan which has an array of lines ranging from private to public, express, and even gender specific!


Being back in DC after being abroad for the first time in my life was like seeing home again at an undiscovered angle, and touring through DC today only augmented that. One thing that I noticed was the general disdain for the “have-nots” in DC and places they live. The lack of tour buses in places like Anacostia or on Benning Road to the ongoing gentrification that I recognized across the city during our tour. Gentrification is especially concerning, because as we drove down Benning road and up H street, NE, I could literally see the change from low-income to “Hip & Fashionable” places, or in other words, more pale-skinned people the further we traveled up H st. It was two parts depressing and infuriating and I’m actually beginning to know why: the people being gentrified and displaced are people too, people with goals and dreams and families to feed. We can’t sweep this disparity under a rug forever. The disparity will eventually consume any rug we sweep it under.

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.


July 19 – Collaborative Haiku

PROGRAM NOTE: On Sunday, July 19th, students had a free day to explore Japan with their host brother or sister.  Together, they wrote one haiku to represent the day!

Burning hot it was
Eating desserts and Monja
Made it all worth it
(Nina and N.Y.)

Clear blue sky, Odaiba
Look down, nice wind from sea
A can by my step

Akiba culture
Being pursued by many
All around the globe
(Jarid and S.M.)

Home of sushi food
I spot a mountain of plates
lost eating challenge…
(Dusan and K.Y.)

It’s hard to describe
Exactly what we did but
The best part was you
(Caitie and N.M.)

Got attacked by food
Monja is better than it looks
It gave us energy
(Y.A. and Korey)

Talking with my friends
heats my heart up nice in
a summer hot day

Hot day in Akihabara
Long walk in electrical world
Don’t play the crane game
(H.S. and Andres)

Andres: At Keio and meeting Baye

Keio classroom AndresThis Saturday I went to Keio High School with H.S. and attended two of his classes. The first one was Japanese, the English equivalence in America. I had no idea what they talked about because well … It was in Japanese. So I began to draw throughout the class; I hope the teacher and students understood my confusion and didn’t misinterpret it as rude. I then went to an English class for seventh graders where we saw the class and taught them about us as simply as possible. They were very shy and excited to see us and I was a little too. I then went on to H.S.’ Third period which was home economics, again in Japanese but the teacher wanted me to write something I’d like to say to my parents. I wrote, “I’m sorry, I do not understand” in Japanese using the handbook we received. We then had lunch with my lil’ bento box.

It was the final day of school for the Keio students and we traveled to Yokohama to talk with Baye McNeil about discrimination in Japan. The conversation was strong and moving because it motivated all of us to always ‘start at zero’ to make a change in our communities, Japan and even around the world. There is hope for change but one must advocate for it.

Andres Alvarez
E.L. Haynes PCS

Final Hours in the US and Seeing the Rising Sun

This great adventure began at Washington Dulles at 9 AM, we flew out on our little jet to Detroit, which was not as depressing as I thought it would be. We waited for about 2 hours to get on the Jumbo Jet to Japan. We got on and took off for an 11 hour flight Non-Stop. The onboard entertainment was good, a wide selection of movies and TV shows. The service was great and so was the food, well I liked it at least. I adjusted myself to Tokyo’s time zone and slept mid-way through the flight.

We arrived in Nippon (Japan)!! We got through Immigration and Customs quicker than in the United States. We got our luggage and headed off with Sosha, our Japanese tour guide, on the very extensive Metro rail to our Hostel. All of us were exhausted and sleep-deprived but nonetheless we were ready to meet Shinobu and the Tohoku students. A little later: We met Fumiya and Shige who seem very happy and excited just as we are to meet each other. I think we will have a great time together!

Andres Alvarez
EL Haynes PCS

Don’t forget to go go!

As the days get closer to the day we depart from the United States into Detroit . . .  but THEN to the unknown territory that is Japan I feel more anxious and excited, kinda like what one feels when they are about to get on the biggest roller coaster of their life, that’s what this feels like to me. Nonetheless this roller coaster will be easily overcome because I know that I will have a great time and this will be one of the greatest memories and events ever. So I am ready for this trip, I would leave right here right now but it’s Sunday so I have to wait. But I am ready . . . BRING. IT. ON.

Andres Alvarez
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School