Jarid’s Final Reflection

I remember back when I was applying for the TOMODACHI program that I wrote an essay about my desire to gain a broader scope of knowledge about a culture that I’ve come to love over the years, and that I can only learn so much from the pages of books and from behind the screen of a computer. You know, admiring a culture from the comforts of your own home is ENTIRELY different from actually visiting the origin of that culture and being completely immersed in it.

Well, I guess that’s pretty obvious; however, there were things about Japanese culture that really surprised me. For example, one of the observations that I made while walking around in the urban areas of Japan was that the buildings were very narrow and very tall. This is very different from the buildings here in America, which are very wide and short. This brought me to the conclusion that the Japanese are very conscious about space and how much they use. This is also apparent in the way people sit on public transit– with their bags in there laps, making sure that they leave the seat(s) next to them open for someone else to sit. I think this also differs from America because when I use the bus or train in DC, I put my bag in the seat next to me if I can. I also came to the conclusion that the Japanese were also very particular about energy conservation and their environmental footprint. While in Japan, I couldn’t help but notice that there were a great deal of vending machines (they are LITERALLY EVERYWHERE!). Right next to the vending machines would be about two or three recycling bins which you would throw empty cans or bottles in depending on the type of container that they came in (PET bottles,cans, etc.). There were even waste baskets for bottle caps specifically! There were a lot of times that I wanted to weigh the pros and cons of Japanese culture and American culture simultaneously to mentally decide which one was better overall. However, I had to also keep in mind the mental mantra of, “It’s not better, or worse, just different” to prevent me from coming to those conclusions.

There were things that I expected to like (Akiba culture, the nice tourist-y spots, etc.) and things I expected to have issues adjusting to (the food, being away from home). It took me a while to get used to some things; however, I feel like I have been able to grow as a person from this experience and that my self-confidence has grown a considerable amount.

Yes folks, Jarid Shields can finally smile in a photo without looking like a total maniac!

(I’m kidding of course.)

On a more serious note I feel like I’ve gained more confidence in my ideas and have become more open with expressing my feelings and opinions. I think all the group reflections and discussions benefited me greatly, because they were always assured to be safe environments for people to speak their minds, even if they were touchy subjects like race or politics regarding our respective countries. I’m not as afraid to speak the thoughts that come to my mind. I’ve realized that I have a purpose and so do my ideas.

Also, although I didn’t catch the travel bug, as I know many of my fellow TOMODACHI members have (I am very much still a homebody), I feel a little more at ease at the idea of traveling and experiencing other cultures up close and personal.

Being in this program has also helped me to understand my own culture a bit as well. It was interesting to hear the thoughts and opinions of the Japanese students when we talked about America’s mix of cultures. I’ve never been more aware of the fact that I grew up in such a diverse community until I heard the comments of those that look upon modern day American society with fresh eyes. It’s made me have to go back and assess the things that I seem to take for granted day to day – from larger things like the benefits of interactive school curriculums and cultural diversity, to smaller things like the types/brands of products we buy and use and even the music we listen to. America seems so much more varied than it initially did before this program.

Being able to share a part of who I am and where I live with someone from another country, whether it be food, music, or even slang, was fun! And being able to experience the everyday culture of another country was fun as well. I feel like both the American and Japanese students have built a stronger bond because both groups were able to taste a little bit of each group’s everyday life, if only a little bit.

The TOMODACHI program has been a huge benefit for me and my new friends and I hope that the friendships and knowledge that we all gained throughout this entire journey will only strengthen and grow over time.

Jarid Shields
Eastern SHS

August 5: Reflections on the 70th Anniversary

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Terry Shima TalkingDusan

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Terry and Mary Group1Career Panel Group 3IMG_2026

August 4: Our Most Vivid Impressions

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

Rock and Ron GroupAndres

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

Soul Food9K.Y.

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

Rock Newman1Shigetatsu

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

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

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

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

Free Minds Gift to Major SmilingY.A.

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

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

Ron Hampton2Caitie

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

August 3: Back in DC Again


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


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


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


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


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

Favorite Foods!

As the DC team’s time in Japan comes to a close, they each wanted to share their favorite Japanese dishes that they enjoyed and will miss.


My favorite food was the Japanese pancake. It was different from American pancakes because they were fluffier and had a different taste.   What surprised me most was it came from the convenience store 7-11! If only I could get good food from American 7-11’s …


My favorite Japanese food, which was very difficult to pick because all of it is pretty delicious, is also very simple. It’s called Inari, or Inarizushi, and it’s basically a “casual sushi” that is sweet tofu around rice and sesame seeds. It’s often enjoyed by children, which explains why I like it so much. The picture quality also isn’t my best work because I was devouring it at the time.


There were several delicious foods in Japan, but my favorite came on the 2nd to last day stay. Omuhayashi with rice and beef and curry was the victor in the competition of foods, with Yakitori & Sukiyaki tied for second. I’ll be remaking it in America for sure.

Dusan- foodJarid

My favorite food while in Japan was curry! No matter where we ate it or when we ate it, it was always good! It was full of spice and heartiness.


My favorite food in Japan was Karage. Karage is basically the Japanese version of fried chicken in America. The thing about karage is that you can use any sauce with it – whether it’d be soy sauce, mayonnaise or something else … The great thing about Karage that I’ve heard is that it’s really easy to make, so even I can make it back home! I definitely plan to try.


My favorite food in Japan by far was ramen. It was nice and spicy which made it delicious.  It is way better than any ramen I have back home.


Arrival in Minamisanriku and Farm Stay Experience

PROGRAM NOTE: On July 22 the students traveled to Minamisanriki to learn about the impact of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami on this coastal town. For the night, students lived with locals in the “Satoyama” mountainside to experience rural life in Japan.

Jarid Blog Minamisanriku Shopping 7.22.15Today was packed with activities. We said goodbye to Ishinomaki and hello to Minamisanriku.

Jarid Blog Disaster Bldg 7.22.15On the way to Minamisanriku, we stopped past many spots and buildings that were affected by the earthquake and tsunami. We visited a junior high school where the tsunami came all the way up to the second floor, an elementary school that was completely destroyed, and the destroyed disaster building in what used to be downtown Minamisanriku. If I had not known that the earthquake and tsunami had occurred in Minamisanriku, I wouldn’t have even known that an actual town had thrived here. There was nothing but hills of dirt, rocks, and debris.

We spent the night on a farm with a woman by the name of Teiko-san. Teiko-San spent some time with me and the other girls (both Japanese and American) in the program talking about her experience during the earthquake and tsunami. She even showed us pictures her children took of the damage to the town. Teiko-san’s house was washed away in the tsunami.

All day I became more and more astounded by the power of nature and its capacity to cause such damage. Someone pointed out that you could kind of estimate how high the tsunami was by looking at the trees. When trees come into contact with seawater, they bald wherever the water touched them. That made the tsunami more of a reality to me because when inspecting the trees, I deduced that the wall of water was almost about 15 meters high, about 49 feet! The fact that I stood where water reached that height… I can’t even put it in words!!

Jarid Shields
Eastern Senior High School

Jarid’s Tohoku Day 1 Reflection

After an hour and a half long ride on the bullet train and an almost equally long ride on the regular railway, we have finally found ourselves in Ishinomaki, the second largest city in the Miyagi Prefecture. Ishinomaki was one of the cities that were affected by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Today we just walked around a small section of the city close to the ocean to witness ourselves the type of damage that occurred here. We saw the foundations of houses that had been swept away and pieces of broken pottery like cups, bowls, and vases. While inspecting closer, we saw that there were a lot of personal belongings that had been left like cellphones, clocks, and clothes.

Jarid Blog Ishinomaki Trash PotJarid Blog Ishinomaki Trash ShoeJarid Blog Ishinomaki Foundation   Jarid Blog Ishinomaki ClockSeeing these personal items was what had the most impact on me, because it made me realize that this disaster affected REAL people! Of course that’s an oblivious statement, but there’s a difference between hearing about an event and seeing footage on a television versus actually standing in the place where it actually happened and seeing the belongings of people who were forced to flee from their homes. Where I was today could’ve been where a child walked/ran to get to school. Where I was today could’ve been the place where a mother hung out laundry to dry or the path an old woman took for her daily stroll. The effect of seeing these personal items and imagining the stories behind them was so powerful that I could almost see the shadows of these people in the process of living their daily lives.

It kind of made me feel a little hollow because I didn’t exactly know how to feel. I could feel sad for these people, but it wouldn’t help them in any way. Also, I almost feel like showing sadness or pity for these people would be really disrespectful. I know that if I faced a loss of this caliber, I wouldn’t want someone to come up to me, give me a pat on the back, and try to talk to me as if they knew what I was going through. So I’ll never do that. I’ll never try to act like I know what the people of Ishinomaki had to face or that I have faced something as devastating. However, I will marvel at the people of this city’s resilience as they try to make the most of what they have and try to rebuild their lives and community. I think that having this mentality will help me throughout this trip.

Jarid Shields
Eastern 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)

Sleeping Under a New Roof and Under a New Sky

So the day finally arrived: the day that I begin my home stay with my host sister and her family. Honestly, I was very nervous because I didn’t want to do something horrible and have her and her family have a bad impression of me. However, the first night went way better than I expected.

I had to take my shoes off at the door and there were already a pair of house shoes waiting there for me to put on. I had to leave my suitcase at the door because the wheels were dirty from rolling all around the city. We cleaned the wheels with really strong disinfecting wipes.

Jarid HomestayIt was decided that I would be sleeping in my host sister’s room. At first I felt really bad, but it turns out she doesn’t really sleep in her room but upstairs in the house. I think I’m the only one who is sleeping on the first floor … ha …

My host sister has a little sister who is really shy and she seems really nice but I haven’t talked to her much … my host sister really loves her little sister and really dotes on her. It’s funny to watch that dynamic because I don’t have younger siblings.

For dinner, my host mom made pasta and meat sauce. It was really good! Also she offered to wash my clothes, which I found really nice! I met my host sister’s father who I think keeps a video diary of some sort. He filmed me and the family at dinner…something to get used to.

My host family was really sweet and kind to me! I’m already feeling a little more relaxed around them and my anxieties have fled.

Jarid Shields
Eastern SHS

We Have Landed!

After long plane flights, a small bout of cabin fever, cramped knees, prepared airplane meals, and five inflight movies, we have finally made it to Japan!

Narita airport was a little different from the airports in America. American airports have a lot of commercial places to eat like McDonalds and Popeyes. Narita airport on the other hand had a lot of vending machines and stands to buy little snacks and drinks. Maybe there were other places to eat, but I didn’t see them. Also, the wifi in Narita wasn’t working for me. I have no cellphone service either so connecting to back in America became difficult, just to let my family and friends know that I arrived. We met up with Sosha, one of our two guides, in Narita! He helped us get our money exchanged and gave us our subway cards! He seems really cool!

We then took an hour train ride to the hostel in Asakusa. The train ride to Asakusa was … interesting. It was so much different from DC Metro! The train cars were SPOTLESS! I have never seen that before! I have never been on a public metro so clean. Also the patrons were really quiet. This is not the case at home.

We met Shinobu, our other guide, at the hostel along with the two students from Tohoku who were really friendly! It’s going to be really fun having them with us! Shinobu was really sweet too!

We went out to eat at this ramen restaurant where they had curry, these things called set meals, and of course ramen. Set meals come with a dish along with soup and rice. I ordered the fried chicken dumplings and they were FANTASTIC!! I’m really upset that I forgot to snap a couple of photos of the restaurant or my meal ( but trust everything tastes great!

The hostel is small, similar to a dorm room, but it feels so cozy! I really like it and the showers felt good after a full day of traveling. They also have a lot of guests that come from a lot of different countries.

So, day one impressions: so far, so good! I hope it’s smooth sailing from here!

Jarid Shields
Eastern SHS