Fumiya’s Final Reflection

In the first place, let me say one thing. This life changing summer in 2015 has certainly ended however, at the same time, it IS the beginning of something wonderful for each of us. For me, it’s the start of my journey to becoming a “global citizen”. It’s really hard for me (I think for everyone from this program) to write all the things that we’ve obtained through this experience. So, I’d like to express my time by enumerating what I’ve got during the program. Not to mention but, I’ve got great number of things from this summer. So it’s going to take a lot of time if I try to write about all things. So, just 3 big takeaways.

Firstly, of course, the “skills”. I’ve learned some useful methods like how to organize the ideas, how to see a thing from different points of view, how to ride DC metro, and etc. These knowledges are definitely important to be a global citizen, however I know it’s NOT enough.

So secondly, the “ideas”. I don’t just mean kinds of “general” ideas. For example, it’s necessary for us to deal with a problem as a future leader. This is surely true but, I mean more specific and concrete ideas like it’s needed for me to think about the reconstruction of Iwate prefecture to make my home town better. What I’m trying to say is that by listening to a lot of stories from different people and thinking hard about each topic then, discussing the theme with other people, I’ve made my own ideas. I believe that it’s combination of skills and ideas, maybe beliefs that enables us to overcome difficulties which is going to appear on the way to our objectives.

Last but not least, the “TOMODACHI”. This is the most crucial one to me, hopefully to everybody. I thought that we represent the saying; not bad, not worse but different. Each one got talented and unique. So, we could have overcome many problems no matter how big. As I said in the presentation, I do think that we are like family now. In addition, I’ve met wonderful adults who had supported us anywhere, anytime during the program. Moreover, I’d like to appreciate my host family, my fellow in Japan, my teacher and my family in Japan who helped us and realized the program. These are what I got in the program. Whatever crisis I may face, these takeaways will give me power to get over it. I’m feeling confidence myself and I’m relived thanks to these ones. Again, my journey to becoming a global citizen has just started. I’ll always keep what I got in mind and pursue my goal.

Fumiya Otani
Fukuoka Senior High 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 3: First Impressions of DC

PROGRAM NOTE: On day one of the DC program, students attended a morning orientation at American Councils, followed by a presentation from Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to introduce the EverydayDC photo project. Then during the afternoon the group of 14 students traveled by chartered bus to areas and neighborhoods across the city, designed to expose them to both the federal Washington and the local “real” DC. The day ended with ice cream in Georgetown.

Aug 3 HS Blog compH.S.

Aug 3 HS Blog2 compSeeing the buildings, I noticed that I couldn’t find any tall buildings like we have in Tokyo. I’m not sure if this is related to the history and the culture of America, but I would like to try finding the reasons. Also, on my way to the American Councils, I took the metro train. Even though the train wasn’t clean, I thought the people on the train were polite. In Japan, people don’t really say “excuse me” when they bump into others, because it is normal for the train to be crowded and people trying to get in, pushing each other. But here, I saw people saying “excuse me” whenever they touched someone, or when it was the station they wanted to get off, and wanted people to move out of their way.


Today, we saw around DC in afternoon. I could find many differences between DC and Japan in the city and it was difficult to see similar points.

One of my surprising observations was that we could see a difference of poverty and wealth by a place. We went to the convergence of two rivers. One side of the river was a place where very wealthy people are living, and opposite side was a place that not so rich people are living. Although I had thought about poor people in the past, I hadn’t thought about the issue of difference between poverty and wealth in Japan. I was shocked. What we saw today are only parts of DC. I look forward to understanding more about DC and America during this program.


The days seem longer here in Washington D.C.; they are long days full of unexpected bombshells and random thunderbolts. On the crammed bus that reeked of sweat, I had the opportunity to take into account some of the daily lives of locals in the urban parts of DC. I want to express my impressions of the people on the streets here, particularly the African Americans we tended to see throughout the whole afternoon. What surprised me most were the overcrowded sidewalks; near the Lincoln Memorial, food trucks were crammed with patient customers. It was not only the number of people in line that caught my eye; I had never seen that many colourful trucks catering food to people on streets. Meanwhile, in a neighbourhood in Anacostia, some topless African American teenagers were on their bikes, enjoying basking in the sun. What left my eyes pinned at them were that most people there didn’t have clothes or “attire” that a majority of people acquire and wear in Japan; in other words, I could see a cultural difference between me and the locals. I also witnessed a cultural difference within one city. It was a fresh experience, as I got an insight into a new world.


As we toured DC I noticed two different points mainly.

What I was surprised at most was the diversity. Regardless of the skin colors and features, they don’t discriminate as much as Japanese do. Almost all people in Japan are Japanese so if there are some foreign people, Japanese avoid communicating with them or communicate as little they can. Japanese are afraid of foreign people even other Asians. It’s a kind of national character but also it’s so strong it can make foreigners feel uncomfortable.

Also there were a lot of memorials in DC to not forget the wars. The people in Tohoku also wanted to tell the stories to the next generation. I think DC would be a kind of example on how to convey and remember something important.

I know there is no better no worse. However the society in US is better for me because there are diverse people. Everyone is welcomed. Sometimes we are forced to be a stereotype in Japan and also discriminated if we are different. I used to be a Chinese and sometimes avoid people in Japan.   It was actually what I felt today but I’m excited to discuss a lot and how my thoughts will be changed.


While we’re taking photos of “Everyday D.C.”, I noticed that there are a lot of food trucks along the main street.

It was interesting because, we don’t have so much food trucks in Japan and it provides people with space and time to communicate with each other even in the hot weather. Also, people in D.C. are outgoing. So, no matter who you are, you can talk to people with some food from food trucks.

Everyday DC Fumiya1Y.A.

DC life started!!

This is my second time to come to U.S. First time, I went to New York, so it is my first time to come to Washington, DC. What caught my eyes here is the height of the buildings. Since it is a capital of the wealthiest country in the world, I thought there would be lots of high buildings as the center of the America. However, the actual buildings I saw today were not very tall; instead, they were large and well-designed like Roman architecture. My host family told me that in DC, the buildings taller than the Washington Monument are not allowed. I thought it is nice and cool that not making Washington just a “business” place but making the place more attractive and really for people live.


On Caitie’s first day in Japan, she mentioned that the city was very colorful. At first, I didn’t understand what she meant; my impression is that huge gray buildings hover over you, shutting out the sunlight and the beautiful blue sky. But now that I saw a little bit of DC, I think I’m starting to understand what she was saying. Signs being very simple and the metro being dark are things that came up during today’s discussion. I also noticed that for ads, they tend to all have the same topic in one area, which makes it seem less busy whereas Japanese ads are all over the place and in many colors and styles.

DC Next!

As the Japanese students have begun to look forward to traveling to Washington, DC for the first time, they each wanted to share what they were looking forward to during the DC program side.


I look forward to trying some local food and meeting with new people to hear their ideas about the world.


I think I can learn about citizenship. I look forward to meeting organizations about social entrepreneurship and what social entrepreneurship looks like in Washington, DC and how it is different from Tohoku. Also, I look forward to experiencing culture on America’s East coast.


I want to learn about the gap between poverty and those with money. Last year, I wrote a report about the income gap and I hope to learn how this problem is addressed in Washington, America and the world.


I look forward to being in a city and environment of all English speakers. I want to improve my English so my visit to Washington will help a lot. By being in the America’s capitol, I hope to experience various perspectives about global problems.


I know the culture is different in America and I would like to learn and observe the differences from Japan. Different people from different nationalities gather in America, especially DC, and I look forward to seeing this with my own eyes.


In Washington I hope to become a better learner. I never got used to the Japanese educational system because Japanese are restrictive and don’t reflect the students’ voices. Classes just provide information to be used on exams, which is frustrating because I’m not a good test taker. I think this experience in D.C. will allow me to gain more useful information to connect to the larger world. I will also be able to play on my strength of storytelling and learning through experience.


While in Washington I look forward to experiencing the diversity of city. I’ve heard a lot about it but I want to experience it for myself. I also hope to get to speak with local Washingtonians to hear their opinions on various issues.


I don’t know a lot about America. I used to live there but I was really young. I want to feel what America is. I hope to learn from the local people and observe the difference between Americans and Japanese. I’m excited about the host family experience and getting to learn about American culture.

Fumiya Photo Journal

Fumiya Blog Fishing 7.25.15We became “fisher persons”. It was a once in a life time experience! Fresh sea-foods, good wind, and clear sky! (the sky in the pic is not so clear tho) After we did actual fisherman’s work, we enjoyed BBQ! Then, we listened to one of the fisher persons, the discussion was so deep.

Fumiya Blog Stories 7.25.15Finally, Jarid and I handed the booklet of tsunami story translations to the two elderly women who shared their 3/11 stories. I’m glad to have met them all!

Fumiya Blog Fireworks 7.25.15In the evening we celebrated our last night in Tohoku at Minamisanriku’s festival.  The fireworks were amazing.

Fumiya Otani
Fukuoka Senior High School

The day I found a key to . . . .

Today, we had a discussion with the Mayor of Minamisanriku. He has a strong will to save residents’ lives from tsunami and he is enthusiastic about making the town a better place.

While I was listening to his story I came up with a question. I wondered, “What makes him such a passionate person, what gives him power?” So I asked him. He answered so simply, it was his colleagues who died in 3/11. It’s his desire not have people to die due to tsunami any more. These were the drivers of his passion.

Throughout the discussion, I realized that his eyes had fire; I felt his love for his town and the people who live in it. Also, I suppose that love IS one of the driving forces that enables him to overcome a lot of difficulties and obstacles.

After lunch, we had an opportunity to have a session with local high school students and adults who organize projects to get area high school students involved with the city’s redevelopment. We discussed many things including the aims of this program. As the discussion got going, suddenly I felt my misty consciousness become clear. I’m not sure what it was however; I gained clarity on the idea of ‘community’. I certainly knew that ‘community’ meant this wonderful something that was created at a time with a group of people. Yet, through the discussion and my experiences of the day I gained a greater sense of what community really meant. It’s about connecting with each other on not only a “community” level but also an individual level.

As I reflect on the evening, the sky full of stars, that I must get used to, somehow looked much brighter than usual when I look up and see.

Fumiya Otani
Fukuoka Senior High School

Social entrepreneurship: What is it?

We visited some wonderful people and organizations in Ishinomaki, such as Ishinomaki 2.0, Kagikakko Cafe, and met a local organizer who is friend of Shige. All of them showed us what we, as outsiders, can do, but not just for the devastated area, but also in our communities to bring people together.

Ishinomaki 2.0 has contributed to the city through a lot of projects and events. For example, they conducted Inatibu and Kinyou cinema, and constantly seek new “social entrepreneurship” and solutions. On the other hand, Ishinomaki’s Kagikakko cafe is trying to spread Ishinomaki by running cafe and creating original products such as Oyasio curry and rice.

At first sight, these two are different from each other, however, in my opinion; these are the same in the big idea. These two organizations have different solutions, people, ideas, connections, and so on. But, they are struggling to realize a same goal: to upgrade Ishinomaki.  The people working in both organizations have a lot of love for Ishinomaki. And it IS love deeply rooted in Ishinomaki and its land, history, culture, and people that drives them. In spite of their difference in where they are from, they are certainly devoting themselves to Ishinomaki.

One thing that makes it possible is the idea of social entrepreneurship. They organized some projects and are selling time, space, hope, and fun to the residents. As a result, Ishinomaki IS reaching a hopeful future little by little. Organization by organization.

The reason Ishinomaki 2.0 and Kagikakko café are successful is because their social enterprises are connected to love, devotion and willing to make a difference. Profits don’t drive them but they’re sustainable. I’d like to bring this idea to my community in Iwate and tell the story to my friends and people I know.

Fumiya Otani
Fukuoka Senior High School

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)

My Day as a Keio Student

Today WAS a memorable day for me! I tried to pretend I’m one of the students of the Keio High School. However, it was so difficult for me…

It’s because it was so surprising that I couldn’t help but being amazed at the school and the differences from my own.

Let me give some examples.

1. Keio High is a more free kind of school, rather than a restricted one such as mine, which has a lot of regulation. For example, you don’t have a part-time job at my school. Interestingly enough, Keio has fewer school regulations at all that made it appear freer than my own school.

2. They have great amenities. For instance, a large school building with high-tech items and monitors in every class. My school in Iwate is old-fashioned, so I really envy Keio.

It seems these elements allow students to be creative. In class, their remarks are so intelligent and insightful. In the hallways students seemed free, wise and outgoing all at the same time. I like its atmosphere. My words sound really envious, maybe it’s true. But after all, they are just “differences.”

After the visit at Keio, we talked with a writer Baye McNeil. He was encouraging and I learned a lot from the talk. I learned the key to solving problems is inside of us, but we don’t realize it. As Baye said, One way to reach the key is to know that we don’t know anything at all. Starting at zero: it’s a first step.

Fumiya Otani
Fukuoka Senior High School