Dear Readers,

Although the past two days did center around the GLA (Global Leadership Academy), which was both fun and slightly terrifying, I also had some wonderful experiences outside of the more professional side!

The second day in Japan, and the first of the GLA, I was expecting to spend the day with Serena again, but instead I was surprised with another friend of mine, Nina! It was a lovely surprise, as I had also not seen her since the program ended. We agreed to be back by 5, and then proceeded to spend the day together!

We spent most of the day in Yokohama, where last summer we met with Baye McNeil. This is ironic because actually that day, my chaperone Sally went to meet with Baye!

The first thing Nina and I did was visit a museum she had been interested in going to for a while, and one that sounded pretty cool to me. It was the Cupnoodles museum! The fact that Japan even has a museum dedicated to the creating of instant ramen is honestly pretty much the coolest thing. Sadly, I couldn’t eat said cupnoodles, because all of them had meat. But the experience was still wonderful.

CupnoodlesAfter the museum, it took us a while to find food, but we ended up getting some delicious fish with rice!! It’s quite funny because the last time I was in Japan, all I ate was rice, and this was my first time having rice since I had arrived. And then, we went on one of the amusement park rides near the metro! It was a little expensive, but super fun, and it spun a lot and went really fast which was great!!

RideThen, later that night, Serena joined Nina and I at our hotel room before we left for the first GLA dinner. It was honestly super wonderful to get to see both of them, and just have a bit of relaxed fun like I would do at home with my other friends.

Smile VegeThe next day was mostly spent at the GLA presentation, but later that night Serena, Sally, Sosha, Shinobu, and I went out to coffee then dinner as a way to end the trip. We also tried out this AMAZING vegan ramen place, because most ramen dishes use pork in their broth, and so for my final dinner I had a delicious peanut ramen with curry as a side dish. It was delicious, and I wish I could have taken more home to the states with me!

Ramen dinnerOver the last trip I had grown extremely close to both Shinobu and Sosha, and so getting to have dinner with them, as well as Serena (who I had grown even closer to the past couple of days) and just relax and chat was one of the best parts of the trip. We caught up on all the things we had been doing since we last saw each other, from other programs we had been doing, to our school lives, to simply casual small talk. Even though both Shinobu and Sosha were my chaperones and mentors, I also see them as friends, and even parents in a sense. They care about me the way a parent does, and unconditionally love me and are proud of me, and I feel the same way. I am so grateful to have such wonderful and inspiring people supporting me in everything I have done, especially relating to this program. I don’t want to get too cheesy about it, but I definitely cried when we had to part ways at the end of the night. They truly are my family across the sea, and I was so thankful I got to spend time with them.

The final part of the night was a wonderful surprise from Serena, who had me meet up with N.M, my host sister from the last trip!! Originally she had been taking her final exams when I was here, so I really didn’t think we would get to see each other, but luckily the stars somehow aligned and we got to talk for a bit! It was short, but I was still so happy to see her again, as she was easily the person I was closest to in the program. It was an amazing surprise and a great way to end the trip.

Caitie and FriendsArriving back at my hotel and saying goodbye to Serena for the last time was incredibly bittersweet. I think it was the moment I realized that soon I would be back in the U.S. I love my hometown, and I missed my friends, but this trip was a wonderful experience I wont forget.

-Caitlin McDermott

TOMODACHI Global Leadership Academy

Hey guys!!

So much has happened the past 2 days, so I am going to turn this into 2 blog posts. This one is about the GLA conference, and the more presentation side of the 2 days.

The first day was a dinner and discussion with people who are part of the GLA, or Global Leadership Academy. The GLA was basically a TOMODACHI program for kids from Tohoku who had already participated in other TOMODACHI programs, and they work together and learn about important topics such as education, entrepreneurship, and engineering, and create projects around those topics. Even though most of the program was in Japanese, I was still invited to be able to learn and experience the energy and passion of these kids, so I was pretty excited regardless.

GLA groupAt this first dinner I got to be reunited with Sosha and Shinobu, two of the chaperones from my program last summer, who happened to be running the night. They did not know I would be there that night, so it was an extremely exciting moment for all of us. Then, I went and sat down at the table I was assigned.

I was the only kid at the table who spoke English, but because the table I sat at consisted of the group leaders, their English skills were slightly better. We learned to use hand gestures to figure out words we couldn’t understand, and even though the communication was not always perfect, it was nice to make a couple friends.

Then the dinner started, and we had conversations with the mentors at our tables. I was lucky enough to have the President of the U.S-Japan Council, Irene Hirano Inouye, at my table. I listened to everyone discuss their projects, and the obstacles they had to overcome to work together. It is truly amazing how even though these people spoke a different language, and lived in a different environment, I could still connect and understand them.

Then, because Ms. Inouye lives in America, we discussed politics, specifically Donald Trump. It was interesting getting everyone’s opinions, and being able to speak on it.

The next day was the second time I had to present my poem, which was honestly almost more terrifying because it was in front of some very impressive kids. I think it went pretty well, and many of the kids came up to me later and complimented my poem. One of the girls who I had talked to the day before at the dinner actually came up to me, and said she was so inspired by my poem and started to tear up. It really touched me to know that I can have such an effect on someone, especially through a medium I am particularly proud of.

Overall, the program was really fascinating, and I loved experiencing the passion of these people from across the world.

Caitlin McDermott

Presentation Day

5 years laterWell…. I did it!! Last night was the big TOMODACHI event reflecting on the past 5 years! It was super nerve-racking, but I think I did pretty well!

Serena and CaitieBefore the presentation, I got to see Serena!! Serena and I were both a part of the TOMODACHI US-Japan Youth Exchange Program this summer, and we got to meet up and explore Tokyo before the big event that night! We had not seen each other in 8 months, since the program ended, and I was so excited to spend the day with her catching up and exploring the city! During the program I was able to explore Tokyo, but this time it was for a much longer period, and with just Serena and I, meaning it was a bit more relaxed.

The first thing we did was take the train to Omotesando, which was a fancy shopping area around Shibuya. We wandered the streets for a while, and ended up in a cute store called KiddyLand in Harajuku! The store was full of cute cartoon characters, which Serena knew I would like, being a small child at heart, and I purchased a gift for a friend.

Next, we went to Takeshita Street, a popular place for teenage girls. We went to a couple clothing stores, a 390 yen store (kind of like an American dollar store), wandered into a cute candy shop, and then stopped for bubble tea and crepes!! I had been craving bubble tea for the past 2 months, so it was a moment of pure bliss. We then did those funny photo booths that enlarge your eyes, which look extremely creepy on me considering I already have very large eyes. Then we went to Loft, one of my favorite stores in Japan that is full of stationary, highlighters, notebooks, and tape. It just might have been my favorite part of yesterday…. well, almost. Pretty much everything was amazing.

Bubble Tea IMG_5330After a bit more shopping, we went to a sushi place near the hotel. Because Sushi is typically food eaten on special occasions in Japan, I had not had authentic sushi the last time I was here. Well this time was different! The sushi was beautifully presented, and tasted soooo good! It was also technically my first authentic Japanese meal, as I had only eaten Western themed food yesterday.

SushiAfter that, Serena came back to our hotel, and we relaxed for another hour, and then… time for the presentation! I was very nervous to perform, but overall I knew I had worked really hard and I really wanted to do well, so I was also excited!

We went to the venue, and then I saw my friend Fumiya!! I also had not seen him in 8 months, and originally I did not even know he was going to be there! But it turned out he was performing his speech at the same event as my poem! It was wonderful seeing him again, and having someone I was super close with to support me and rehearse with me.

Three TomodachisThen, the big event! Everyone was so nice to me, helping me prepare to talk to these high up officials. We first did a round table discussion with people such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, people from the U.S. Embassy, and the President of the U.S-Japan Council! I talked a bit about my experience with the program, and how I became interested in it, etc. I think it went well, and everyone was very attentive.

Next, my poem!! I was second to last, and so for most of the night I was shaking and worrying about how I would do. Fumiya went first, and gave a wonderful thank you speech, and then it was my turn!

I was honestly surprised that I did not fumble, but with all the practicing I have done I am glad that I didn’t!! Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and they clapped very loudly! I got lots of compliments and business cards, and I am really excited to have all these connections! Then, after the long day, we headed home ready to sleep.

I could go on and on about the event, but I think it would end up being a 20 page paper! It was an amazing experience and I am so thankful I got to be a part of it!

Until later,

Caitlin McDermott

Here We Are!

Welcome to JapanHey guys! So… I am in Japan!! I’m so excited to finally be here! The flight was very smooth, no one sat next to me so I could lie down on the plane, which was truly a blessing. We flew ANA – All Nippon Airways. The flight attendants were very nice and took very good care of us. I am always truly amazed by the wonderful hospitality of the people here.

Once we got to Japan, it took us 3 times to get through customs because we kept forgetting papers! We went the same path to get through the airport as we did my first time here, so it was like being thrown back to 8 months ago. It is just such a different experience from the last time, and I was a very different person. I had never traveled before, and was with a group of people my age I was very close with. This time it is just me and Sally, and so I’m interested in what it will be like.

After arriving in the airport, we caught a limo bus to our hotel. The ride was about an hour and a half, but I got to see the sun set upon Tokyo, which was truly beautiful. After that we arrived at our hotel, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

Imperial HotelIn case you didn’t know, this is one of the nicest hotels in Japan, as I have been told by many of my friends here in Japan, as well as through some research. Stepping into the hotel both felt like royalty, and also quite overshadowed, and a little (well a lot) underdressed. Once again, the staff here was extremely kind. We had a man E. lead us to our room (we had to switch elevators twice), and we arrived in our room with the most beautiful view over the city! It’s truly beautiful here, and I’m super thrilled to explore.

View from our roomNext we decided we were starving, and we headed to the most informal of the many restaurants in the building, Parkside Diner. I had a delicious crab croquette and a chocolate milkshake, the first real meal in over 24 hours. And, finally with the free wifi of the hotel, I was able to go on my phone and receive all of the texts and emails I had missed in the past day. You really do not realize how dependent you are on technology until you are without it. It is crazy how I can keep in contact with all of my American friends, with a 14 hour time difference.

Then we collapsed in our beds around 8 and fell asleep. Sadly I was awakened by jet lag at 1:30, so I talked to a couple of my American friends (it was the middle of their day) and then I went back to sleep and woke up again at 5. Figuring that sleep was no longer an option, I took a shower (they have really wonderful bath facilities and provided shampoo, conditioner, even shaving cream and razors!), and then made plans with a friend of mine for today! We will be eating breakfast here at the hotel, and will be meeting her at 10 (it’s about 9). And tonight is my poem! I will write a blog post later about how that goes.

Wish me luck!

Caitie McDermott

Strawberry drink

Now I know I’m definitely in Japan

My crab croquette

My crab coquette

Sunset in Tokyo

A Great Development

Caitie at airportHello guys!! So, I have been blessed with the amazing chance to return to Japan this week!

In Tokyo on the 4th, the U.S.-Japan Council is holding a memorial for the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and I have been invited to share my poem! It is such a wonderful opportunity that I am ready to face head on!

Currently my chaperone, Sally Schwartz, and I are waiting in the airport to catch our direct flight to Narita Airport, and then we will head to the Imperial Hotel where we will be staying until the 7th. It is apparently one of the best hotels in Tokyo, so I am really looking forward to seeing what it’s like, as well as simply being back in the country.

I have missed Japan since I came back to DC, the TOMODACHI experience was such an amazing one that I jumped on the chance to come back! I will be able to eat the delicious foods (especially Inari sushi which I have been craving for the past 2 months), the beautiful sights, and the amazing people I met! I will get to see some of my friends from the program, which I am so excited about! We have been communicating on how to meet up in my free time, as well as at the GLA (Global Leadership Academy), where some will be volunteering and presenting!

Overall I am so thankful for this chance, and will be sure not to waste it. We leave in about an hour, and will arrive in Japan around 3:20 in Japan time. Keep checking the blog to stay updated on my travels!

Caitie McDermott
School Without Walls

Caitie’s Final Reflection

The TOMODACHI U.S-Japan Youth Exchange Program of 2015 has been a life altering experience. I came into this program unsure of what I wanted to gain. Yes, I knew I like Japanese culture and wanted to visit, and I was generally interested in learning more about the earthquake and tsunami that occurred, but I don’t think I realized just how vast of an impact this program would have on me.

One of the things I gained from this program that was truly unexpected was a growing interest in foreign relations, and the study of recovery from natural disasters. Going to Japan, specifically the Tohoku region, and getting to experience and start to understand the strength of these people was heart warming, heart breaking, and moving beyond words. I can try to explain what it was like to hear these people’s stories, to see photos and then see the disaster zones where the photos were taken. I can try to capture the utter devastation for you, and more importantly the sense of hope for the future, but I can promise you that I would not be able to do it justice. The power these seemingly “ordinary” people hold became something that grew more and more deep the more I heard their stories. They inspired me to want to make a change in not just my local community, but in my global community. I want to be able to help other communities that go through something akin to the Great East Japan Earthquake, and help prepare others for the possibility of something like that happening in their hometown.

I am now researching how I could obtain an internship in the Tohoku region, specifically Ishinomaki, after high school. The people of Ishinomaki made such a strong impact on me, from their kind and open hearts, to the unusual strength they possessed in such a difficult time. Before this program, I never thought that something like a gap year in the rural regions of Japan would be something that would capture my interest. But this program opened my eyes to so many possibilities, and has opened doors I never could have imagined.

I have gained so many important skills. I learned tolerance, patience and dedication. I learned how to cope with difficult situations without losing hope, how to reflect on the past but keep moving forward. I learned a new definition of passion, of hope, and of hard work.

But most importantly, I learned a new definition for the word family. Coming into this program, I knew that I would have to be working with people pretty much all day and every day for the course of about a month, so I knew I would be close. But I definitely did not realize how close we could become. We had our difficulties, our misunderstandings and mistranslations. But at the end of the day, we became a kind of family. We sometimes bicker, just like siblings would, but in the end we love each other. We support each other when times get rough, when we are struggling to stand tall on our own. We hold each others hands and help each other move forward when faced with difficulties that take a toll on us all, physically and emotionally. We inspire each other to try new things we would never regularly try, like playing guitar at an open cafe in front of total strangers, or leading a presentation. We may have struggled but the important part was that we stuck together throughout it.

It is strange to think back to the very first days that I met everyone, and remember that there was a time not long ago that these people were only strangers with similar dreams and interests.

To say I love these people is a grand understatement. As an aspiring poet and a singer, I sometimes end up being the sappy one, which I don’t mind. So in the end I want to say thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my own future. Thank you for giving me the hope that I can make a difference. And thank you for giving me a family that I know I will treasure forever. ありがとうございました

Caitie McDermott
School Without Walls

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 6: A Day of Teaching and Learning


Being a positive force in your community was a powerful takeaway for today, in how we participated in and led a program in the community in the same day. People always say, “it all begins with the little steps,” but that philosophy is not reflected in most community affairs and the way we conduct things and ourselves. If so, there’d be a lot more caring. However, there are people who are working with that philosophy.

In our teaching experience at the Petworth Boys & Girls Club, we were given the chance to teach kids in middle school all about our Japan experience, and in that we passed down simple themes of perseverance, seeking knowledge and the truth, and being active in your community. Seeing how interested these kids were, and how they were really taking in what we were saying and describing was just such a joy. I loved the teaching experience.

Aug6 Blog Dusan B&GOn the flipside, in our experience at Words, Beats & Life, we were able to see how a community organization that seeks to provide a creative space and uplift can do just as it says with focus and persistence. Moving through five classes in the afternoon, we got a first-hand account of how WB&L creates an atmosphere of creativity, fun, and positivity through teacher-student interaction, openness, and listening; really, some of the basic principles of Hip-Hop.

IMG_2057 IMG_2052 IMG_2046Being a positive force in your community is the stepping stone to doing great things. Though you can build yourself all day, your accomplishments are measured by those around you. The true investments are they, and they’re worthwhile, the community I mean. Why? With a strong community comes strong people, and with strong people comes a strong world. So, until next time…


This week has been really packed, and today was no different. We met with a lot of people in international affairs, such as the African Affairs office and Latino Affairs office of the DC Mayor. We also went to the Washington Post, and Words Beats and Life (WBL). A lot of moving around occurred, which was nice. I really loved WBL because it showed that you can make a passion into a career, which is something I worry about as a singer. I also loved meeting Mr. Nakamura, because hearing about the journalist’s side is really fascinating. Overall, today was one of my favorite days this week. I learned a lot of really exciting things, and got to take a hip hop class! And I think everyone felt the same way.

IMG_2050Nakamura TalkingY.A.

B&G Chopsticks YukiTeaching in Boys and Girls club was one of the fun events we have in our schedule. The day was well planned and seems every kid was in to what we taught. We divided in four groups to teach Origami, Tohoku lessons, usage of chopsticks, and writing their name in Japanese characters. I was in the group teaching how to use chopsticks. Actually, it was super hard to teach how the chopsticks work to children even though they were really passionate about learning Japanese culture. However, I also felt myself being satisfied and was glad to teach them. Today, I was really told by those small children to be passionate toward learning to show respect and make the ones teach us happy. I will meet many more organizations and groups during this program and it was great for me to recognize the attitude towards learning again.

B&G Group

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…