Chi – My Day on August 12th

First things first, let me tell you about. My childhood. I grew up around cartoons and anime. When I wasn’t watching anime, I was watching cartoons and when I wasn’t watching cartoons, I was sleeping. One of the animations I watched and loved was Ponyo. Though it was a while ago, I still remember my eyes gleaming with joy watching her become a human. I also got into a phase of Your Friendly Neighborhood Totoro, in which case I saw a strikingly expensive hoodie but still bought it all because of the Totoro on the front. Soo, hearing we were going to the Studio Ghibli Museum was quite the good news for me. Then I learned that we were going to Harajuku, the city of fashion, where I was planning to spend a little bit of a lot of money on clothes.

Going to the Ghibli museum was definitely a fun experience. Although the prices were a bit too much for my speed, the museum itself was definitely exciting. When I read the map, it described the museum as a maze, something I had never heard before, and said “Let’s lose our way together.” Going off of those words, that’s what I did. Trying to make our way to the rooftop (which is only accessible through the third floor spiral staircase) we ended up on the first floor–three times. We found our way to the rooftop (thankfully) then went en route to the straw hat café where we spent the rest of our allotted time. Before all of that though, we first saw a short film that can only be seen at the Studio Ghibli Museum. The film was definitely entertaining as I was prepared to cry because I was told that some of the films would make me cry. I just braced myself for any one that I saw. Afterwards we just wandered around the museum with the casual ooh and ahhs and we went to the gift shop; and my my, you know a store is overpriced when you spend around ¥1,700 for a pencil and a pen. Anyhoo then we started looking for the way to the rooftop yada yada.

When we went to Harajuku, we had two options: we could go the Meiji-jingu shrine or tour the famous Takeshita street, known for fashion. Me, being an aspiring fashionista, went the Takeshita street route. It had stopped raining not too long before we went to Harajuku but then it became hot, like really hot. Then to make the situation even better, the street was extremely crowded and boy was that fun! The stores had really nice things, but I realized that I didn’t want to blow all my money on that street, especially since we’d be going to Akihabara the next day. In that case, I budgeted myself so that I could spend money in both places, but sadly none of the shops could fit my budget. Well, except the crepe store (yum!).

That day had lots of walking and exercise, something that I don’t do much of, so I was extremely exhausted after that day. I had fun, don’t get me wrong, but the day was still packed and so was that Takeshita street.

Chi Onyeka
Banneker Academic HS

My Time at a Farmstay

I live in an urban city, where there’s technology in lots on places, I have internet everywhere I go (well in most places anyway) and I can get ANYWHERE by bus or train. Going to Japan, I had to say goodbye to the internet in most places and scavenge for wifi anywhere I went. I’ve gotten used to that but at the end of the day I would encounter wifi at the minshukus (Japanese-style hotels) we would stay in. This homestay was a different experience.

Skyy, Rey and I had the pleasure of staying with Mie Sato, a mother of two, in a house in the mountains with an ocean view. I expected a house kind of like the minshukus we’ve been staying in. That was not the case. When we were on the way to the house, call me a phone addicted millennial, I was the most worried about wifi. Then I saw the house, which was like a log cabin in the woods that was solar powered. At that point I knew there was no wifi. We took a look around and I admired to find out that literally 94.9% of the house was built by hand. We were told to get our stuff for the bath and we would go to to the lower level further down the mountain. Seeing as this house looked more house-y I saw it as necessary to look for wifi since the tv was on and the weather lately hasn’t been the sunniest, I knew the house wasn’t solar powered. I checked, and still no wifi. I felt really bad worrying about the wifi, so I just stopped (for not too long).

My home also had kids, two boys to be exact. One was seven and the other was two. I enjoyed watching the kids because the seven year old gave me nostalgia of when I was a young’n and the two year old reminded me of my little sister who’s four now, but when she was two as well. I admired their bond as brothers – they were both HIGHLY energetic and they weren’t scared of much. The seven year old, we would joke around and called him Tarzan since he knew a lot about plants and bugs and he climbed literally everywhere, especially when we were in the woods. The two year old was soooooooo cute. He ran to and fro, back and forth, over yonder like it was nothing. People complain about those Trouble Twos but personally, I like it when a child’s rebellious side shows. Well, when it’s innocent of course. There was a point in time where he didn’t want to come into the house and it was time to eat. Skyy was smart and tried to lure him in with candy, but when I tried he started to run away so I had to chase him. I almost fell on the hill he was running down the night before so I had to be careful chasing him, but he ran down the hill with no fear! Long story short, I got him and we had dinner. Yay.

In terms of the activities we did, on the first night we just set our stuff down in the lodge, ate dinner, watched a weirdly interesting movie, went to an onsen-style sento, then passed out in bed. The next day though was more eventful. When we woke up, we took a walk down the mountain to the lower house. After breakfast, we walked by the ocean. The experience by the ocean was fun because my host mother was scared of me falling off of the sea wall so she quickly urged me to go back home and it was so caring that I couldn’t just say “no” and came when I felt it was time to go home.

After that, we stayed at home for a bit and I found this MAGICAL kanji booklet called “unko” which means “poop” in Japanese, so anyone who knows me would know that I would have to get that book as well as the rest of its volumes (which is a goal in progress). Anyhoo, once the children came back from their friends’ house we went by the ocean for a second time and this time I went in. The kids went all in, but I went in. I was like a kid in a candy store, I had lots of fun going in, feeling the tide wash upon my feet, looking for things in the ocean and then finding flat rocks attempting to skip rocks. It was just fun. Afterwards, we went into the bath which was a pretty scary experience, but that’s another story for another time.

Anyway, after we went to the bath we ate dinner and relaxed for a few hours. We went to sleep that night and the next morning, we met the father who was a pretty calm guy. He’s a handyman who built the cabin we were staying in, the well whose water we used to wash our face, and did a lot of the backyard work for the house further down the mountain. He always told us about how he wished he could have done more for us since he works faraway from home so he not exactly at home all the time. He’s not afraid to express his opinions and I like that about him because on the drop off to the meeting point at the end of the homestay, we ended up talking about how nature reserves were being altered for Minamisanriku’s recovery efforts.

All in all, the homestay experience in the mountains of Minamisanriku seemed very eventful for me. As I said before, I live in an urban city where there’s internet almost anywhere I go, so I never take the time to absorb my surroundings since I’m glued to my phone half of the time. Thus, being in a country where I don’t have 4G Data, and in an area where I don’t have wifi, it taught me how to appreciate what’s around me and what’s in front of me. I tend to take advantage of my first-world privileges and I never would have noticed that if it wasn’t taken away from me.

Chi Onyeka
Banneker Academic HS

When we think of Japan, what cities do we think of?

Most likely Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka. We don’t think Kesennuma, Minamisanriku, or Matsushima which are up north, in Tohoku. Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, the population exponentially rose, but afterwards, it began to decrease. Not only because of the casualties and the many deemed missing, but also because of people moving out of their hometowns because of the lack of jobs and other reasons. We talked about the lack of tourism in Tohoku for the whole morning. I felt really bad looking at myself when we discussed that when tourists come to Japan, they stay in urban areas like Tokyo and move west into Kansai. I definitely reminisced to when we were about to leave for Tohoku, I thought “nnnnnnnn, I don’t wanna go to Tohoku, I wanna stay in Tokyo and see the Tokyo Tower and go to Akihabara, then get lost on the train and nnnnnnnnnnnn.” But after arriving in Kesennuma I saw something that I hadn’t seen in a long time, which was a sense of community values that made me want to stay in the area. I sensed unification in an area that was surrounded by devastation. I saw pride when all I thought I would see was depression and debris. Just staying in an area like Kesennuma for only 3 days, I wanted to abandon the idea of “Every man for himself” because that doesn’t exist in this area.

I kept thinking to myself “Nnnn, how am I going to convince my sister to come to Kesennuma when she comes to Japan?”  I was looking around for things to do and trust me, the earlier presentation helped a lot. As I was looking, it slipped my mind that we were on our way to a festival, the Minato Matsuri to be exact. There’s so much to do there, so much to eat, so much to but I couldn’t help but feel stunned that people don’t often come to Tohoku for tourist reasons. I asked one of my Japanese Tomodachis whether they have festivals like these in Tokyo and she said no, not really, that festivals are normally in rural areas. Then I continued to think to myself: “Why. Don’t. People. Come. Here????”

We began the festival by giving out fans and tissues before the festival actually began. I saw a lot of people with smiles and wearing bright, cheerful clothing and it’s still impossible for me to believe that a big, destructive tsunami hit this area and caused a city to need lots of reparation. I saw smiles and determination in the Taiko drummers even though they were doing a very tiring exercise. We tried Taiko drumming and I was exhausted after just two sets of 3-4 different beats, but they had to drum for three hours. That’s unbelievable in my eyes. Maybe it’s just because I’m a generally lazy person, but to stand and repeat the same patterns would help me get better at it, of course, but I would get bored of it maybe after 45 minutes. We also saw fireworks that I’d never seen before. Normally when I see fireworks, it’s the normal burst of light and shimmery gold, but the fireworks that I saw were shaped like butterflies, flowers and some were even shaped like smiley faces! They were so bright despite the dewiness from the ocean, and I really had a wonderful time.

Even in a disaster-struck area, it’s heartwarming to see the community not driven by fear of the power of nature. For instance, the government wants to build a sea wall to prevent another tsunami from happening, but the citizens lean towards being able to see the sea despite the hardships the sea has given the town. When I went to Kesennuma, I couldn’t only smell the ocean, I could also smell the perseverance in the air whenever I saw people laughing, dancing, and playing–like nothing ever happened.

Chi Onyeka
Banneker Academic HS

Chi’s reflection on the DC program

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

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

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

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

Chi Onyeka
Banneker Academic HIS

MLK Reflections


We went to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. There are a lot of quotations which Martin Luther King Jr said. We have a lot of choice but I chose this one.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

I like this sentence. It is because this is totally truth and makes me feel stay in positive. And this is most simple to understand. I think simple to understand is important and simple sentence has strong power. It is because we can understand it directly.


I found this quote really inspiring because it first started off with an obvious metaphor, that darkness with darkness is still in darkness and light is needed, so the same logic can be easily applied to a simple yet difficult answer. If one retaliates and fights back with hate, we would never be able to break the endless cycle of hatred. Only love can pull us all out of it. LOVE trumps hate.


“I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”

This is my favourite quote because this quote tells us not only the importance of peace but the historical background on it. MLK joined the anti-Vietnam War movement, although his action was not accepted for other African Americans. I am proud of his bravery which gave us peace for today and tomorrow.

Bryson – Speech for Ordinary Freedom:

“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”

As a person who is fascinated (and horrified) by the circumstances of both World Wars, Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from a speech in California in 1967 instantly caught my attention. There have been protestors during various wartimes who advocate against war, but I have felt as though something was always missing from their movements. Dr. King identified that for me in the second sentence of this quote; “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” Movements against violence and tyranny are inherently positive in my opinion, but I agree with Dr. King that those movements must also consist of an effort to improve human conditions as they protest the powers that worsen them.

When Shizumi Manale visited our class last Thursday, I was moved by her film about the Hiroshima Children’s Art Project. Her inclusion of the reaction that a reverend of All Souls Church had to an A-Bomb cake which was served at an American military dinner, after the Japanese surrendered in 1945, provoked sadness, anger, and disgust in my mind simultaneously. The movement by that same reverend, and the people of All Souls Church, to help the children impacted by the United States atomic bombing of Hiroshima was inspiring to me. Not only did the community at All Souls speak against the shameful practices of the United States armed forces, they took action to help the people who were the targets of those practices. In my opinion, that response to injustice is a successful application of Martin Luther King Jr’s quote on the successful stoppage of war.


“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” Norway, 1964

I like this quote because we can see the background of American history. From the word “audacity,” we could see that they needed to be brave to express themselves in 1964, and what they expressed were ordinary things currently. I felt sad that they didn’t have their freedom; however, I’m also relieved that they expressed themselves.

Shawma – Question what is not Questioned

What makes a MAN? Who makes a MAN? Some people are born into this world living their lives without ever questioning anything. Then you have others who question everything that crosses their path. Martin Luther King was one of those people. He was born into a world where it is normal for a person to be judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Martin Luther King was a MAN because it was not in the moments of comfort and convenience where he stood, it was at times of challenge and controversy where he questioned what was normal.

I question what is normal. Identified by the color of my skin. Why do people care what I am? They should care who I am.The term African American is used as a normal term to identify me, but I am not African. I am not African American. My father nor mother are African. My father is a Jamaica immigrant, my mother is half white and half black. I don’t and never will I understand why I am called African American. I have African ancestry in my blood but I also have European ancestry in my blood. Why do people pick the ancestry that defines me?

If an African immigrant immigrated to the US and becomes a US citizen does it make them African American? Africans who become US citizens are the true African Americans. When I speak out about this, people think I hate my skin color. This is not true. I love my skin but I will not be called something I am not. Why do we live in a society where it is ok for a job application to ask for my nationality? Why do you care about the color of my skin? Does the color of my skin determine whether I get the job or not? For me I like to be called black. Black is a term used for all people who have brown or dark skin. Black is not defined by where you come from; it’s defined by all people who have darker skin. Black is unity, but African American is division. I speak out and question the world because comfort and convenience do not lead me a step forward in the right direction. In times of challenge and controversy lead me in the right direction.


This quote stands out to me because it reminds me of the time in 6th grade, when I was struggling to make reliable friends. My family would tell me to find friends who would stick with me through thick and thin, not the ones that I can just have a stable conversation with. Now I compare the friends I have now to the “friends” I had then, and I think of a time I was sad at the lunch table, over a completely stupid reason, and everyone was worried about me, but the “friends” I had in the 6th grade would just brush off my depression. Advice like the ones in this MLK quote taught me the types of people I should surround myself with and the types of people I can trust.

What we did on July 20th

First we started with three words:

  • Humiliation
  • Hostility
  • Hope

Then we had to find examples of each word for each of the activities we completed the days prior. This task was hard since more of them leaned towards a certain word and we just had to think of random things that correlated with the event we were writing about.

Afterwards we watched a movie called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard”. The film was centered around the connection between the kids from Honkawa elementary school and the congregation from All Souls Church. This film took in the context of the World War II bombings in Japan and after the bombing in Hiroshima, All Souls Church gathered school supplies and sent them to the kids from Honkawa elementary school. The kids leaped with joy and said that the school supplies smell like America and used them with all their little hearts content to draw pictures–bright, colorful, optimistic pictures. Then sent them to the church, as a thank you gift. People in the church were surprised at the vitality in the pictures even though they were drawn in what one would presume as dark, dull and lifeless times. The pictures were hidden in a box for decades but were later rediscovered, and displayed in the church. After a while, the congregation of the church decided to give the pictures back to the students, many many many years later.

We had talks from two people: Shizumi Manale, the producer of “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard,” and Mary Murakami, a survivor of the Japanese incarceration after the bombing on Pearl Harbor. Both talks were equally impacting. From Mrs. Manale instilling inspiration in the hearts of all the people sitting in that room that no matter what happens, one should follow their dreams, to Mrs. Murakami who spent three years of her teenage life imprisoned in small cells, with nothing to do but go to school, as she graduated high school while in the camp. One of my favorite parts of her talk was when she told us how strict the policies for intergender teenage relationships were. During the one time of year all the teens were looking forward to, a dance, if a boy and girl wanted to dance near each other, they would have to stand approximately a foot away from each other, otherwise their parents would be called. She still tells her story because the Japanese internment was based off of fear after the attack on Pearl Harbor, then after the war it was deemed wrong and the incarcerated Japanese families received compensation of $20,000 each. She still tells her story because the U.S is still judging off of fear, for instance, after 9/11 Islamophobia began to increase, especially after other terrorist attacks, like the Orlando nightclub shooting. Now travel bans are being issued to certain countries, whose citizens wish to emigrate to the United States.

We were supposed to go the memorial of the Japanese American Patriotism in World War II but it was too hot, so we decided to stay inside and do writing exercises. First, we put ourselves in the shoes of two people: an 8 year old, on their way to school–but then their school is bombed, and a 16 year old, whose family is rounded up and sent to camps. We were supposed to write just one, but me being a scholar, I decided to divide the time and write both. I prefer my second one where I wrote about the 8 year old. I liked it more because it focused more towards the future than my previous paragraph.

Lastly we went to an evening activity with Words, Beats & Life where we explored hip-hop by learning to freestyle and to DJ. I listen to a lot of rap music, and I can rap to those, but making my own is a different thing. First we learned to freestyle by picking three words that rhyme and putting them into a phrase that coincides with the beat. Everyone had a laugh at the people in the booth trying their best to create a rap in their head and say it in that same moment. Afterwards we tried DJ-ing, which was more complicated to me, but it was easy to get the hang of it. I loved to sing along to the songs that I liked, but no one could outsing Shawma. She loved, danced, and sang, to almost every song the DJ tried to mix into another song that she would love, and sing, and dance to.

The day was educational and fun at the same time. It was a fun bonding experience for the TOMODACHI students now that I think we’re finally settling into the fact that we’d be spending the next month together.

Here are some pictures I took during the Words, Beat & Life activity:

Chidera Onyeka
Banneker Academic HS

Ahh, it’s the start of the TOMODACHI program

When it comes to how I’m feeling about the fact that the TOMODACHI program is about to start, there’s a whole whirlpool of emotions to describe, but I’m excited, to say the least. Thanks to prior experiences meeting Japanese students through the Kakehashi exchange, I’m no longer nervous anymore about interacting with people from the other side of the world. On the note of interacting with people, I really hope that everyone gets along because it might be unpleasant for a quarrel between two people to affect the activities later on in the program.

By participating I really want to make something out of the experiences I’m going to have. I don’t want to feel like I applied for this program because I needed something Japan related to do over the summer. For all that I could have applied for a summer job option I was exposed to called Japan in DC. I also don’t want to feel like it’s just something to put on my college resume, because that also seems morally wrong to me. Over the course of the TOMODACHI program, as well as hoping for a good time, I want to be able to use this opportunity (as well as the hopefully many others I’m going to have) to better my global understanding of the world. Knowing the history of certain places as well as seeing its mark left on the areas affected, I look forward to being there myself – for instance visiting the town of Minami-sanriku in Japan, where the 3/11 tsunami and earthquake hit tremendously hard and being able to take in a true sense of a community — seeing people work together to repair their town.

On the America side, I want to learn more about this former global superpower that so many people wish to visit, or maybe to live in. Speaking from personal experience, my parents (born and raised in Nigeria) see living here as an advantage, and I really want to feel that way exploring DC. All in all, I just want to live in the moment, and be able to apply my time in this program for personal benefit and have a good time, just to put all this shortly XD.

Catch you on the flipside!

Chi Onyeka
Banneker Academic HS