What we did on our free day in Tokyo

Jeffrey: Today, I met my cousin who was stationed here from the navy and she spent a few hours with us, and then I went to a store called Vanguard to buy this really awesome Baoh shirt from an anime I watched a few months ago.

Jeff blog Aug 14E.N.: On the free day in Tokyo, I went to the ocean in Minatomirai. It made me remember about Tohoku and how people who went through the disaster were not afraid of the ocean. Also, I loved feeling nature in a city. It made me realize that wherever I am, I connected to the nature and Tohoku.

Ena blog Aug 14Temple: Today I went to out with Kiara and Kamashae to the visitor center to exchange more money. We walked around the Temple and noticed that in Japan men pull carriages around with people on them, but at home in America we have horses that pull the carriages.

Kiara: Today, I hung out with Tempestt and Kamashae. We went to Burger King and a beautiful shopping center and I got the cutest coin purse and snacks. When we were climbing the steps to go back to our hostel, I had to take this picture.

Kiara blog Aug 14Kamashae: Today me, Kiara, and Tempestt went out looking for things to get into. The most interesting thing we did was tried Japanese Burger King, which actually tasted like American Burger King! I ordered a cheeseburger with fries and I felt as if I were back in America.

Ayane: I went to a Chinatown in Yokohama today. I had a seamed meat bun and bubble tea. It was so delicious and the town was beautiful. I really enjoyed today.

R.H.: Today I went to an amusement park called Cosmo World!! I love riding roller coaster, but I haven’t rode it for a while so I really enjoyed it!

Kan: We went to many places, and the most interesting thing for me was pikachu!!! I have been a fan of Pokemon since I was second grade student in elementary school. I love pikachu very much. I was so happy to see pikachu in real world.

Kan blog Aug 14A.O.: Today I went to Owakudani with my family and Yeysi. There I ate black ice cream which was a completely new experience for me. The taste was vanilla but it contained bamboo carbon, which made the ice-cream black.

Ayaka blog Aug 14Yeysi: Today was a day full of new experiences. I was with Ayaka’s family and we visit a lot places. One thing that I tried was the “Black egg,” a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. At first I was scared to try the black egg, however when I tried it I ate two. It tasted same as a regular egg but the color makes it special. I enjoy to be with Ayaka’s family and I feel glad to be with them.

Yeysi blog Aug 14Rio: Today I went to a shop which sells a lot of Snoopy goods in Minatomirai. I love Peanuts so I was really happy to be in the place filled with Snoopy!

H.K.: I went to this place called “Akarenga souko” which is a famous old-fashioned shopping mall in Yokohama with a lot of the other participants. It was the first time I came here in the summer, so it was interesting to see how the design and the ice skating rink changed into a winery cafe.

Hayato blog Aug 14R.M.: Today, I went to World Porters in Minatomirai and drank Yokosuka Kaigun Ramune (Lemon Soda of U.S. Navy). It was different from any kinds of soda, and I really liked it.

Amanda: Sosha and I ate sukiyaki at a restaurant that has been around for 121 years. Sukiyaki is thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked in a sweet and salty sauce on the table. Once cooked, we dipped the meat and vegetables in a raw egg before eating. This wasn’t my first time having sukiyaki but it was definitely the best time!

Amanda blog Aug 14

The awesomeness of Japan

We asked each of the nine DC students to tell us one thing that is surprising/interesting/unexpected/awesome about Japanese culture.

Kamashae: The one thing that definitely caught my eye was the amazing hospitality. No matter your age, or their age. Respect plays a huge part in everyday life here in Japan. From when our group goes to restaurants, the plate setting. To when we go to gift shops, how they wrap and bag the gifts. To in hotels how they leave damp wash towels so customers could have access to a cool rag after a hot summer day in Japan. Japanese culture also even stands outside as guests are leaving their businesses or homes and wave us goodbye until the vehicle has left their view, which I think is very polite.

Jeffrey: The community in Minamisanriku was really surprising to me, because it allows everyone in the community to have a chance to be famous kind of like a small town celebrity, which was really cool to me. And I loved their mascot octopus-kun, who was a great addition to community because he isn’t owned by anyone but the community, so everyone can love him without any higher up being involved. Also I really liked how everyone in town was accepting and willing to help each other in times of needs while putting their own needs before themselves, which to me is what a community is meant to be.

Maxx: Something that really I like about Japan is its connection with nature. The people of Minamisanriku depend on the water and its life in order to survive using its water for drinking, cleaning, and other uses, and the fish to of course eat. The main reason this impresses me is because the waves of the ocean are beautiful and just to breath the air of wild life is extraordinary. But the people of the town have seen nature at its most horrifying and even though being scared, they forgave and loved the sea wholeheartedly and that I feel is amazing.

Yeysi: “Food” was a word that at first scared me because I learned that Japanese people have different food than the ones that I am used to eating. There are some types of food that I still don’t like although I try everything I can. So far my favorite food is Tempura. Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. This dish makes me feel in home.

Tempestt: Japan’s hospitality is the best by far. Getting greeted every time you walk in to a place; they show much respect. It feels good to be welcomed in a place where there aren’t many people of your color or looks. There have been some times where I walk around and I see Japanese people staring at me. I stare back and greet them with a smile. I keep in my mind and remember that Japan isn’t really a diverse country and that’s why many look at me as if I am someone different. It actually makes me feel special because I feel like all eyes are on me.

Chris: My best moments in Japan were going outside experiencing the nature. I’m an addict when it comes to scenery. I love embracing myself into the wilderness or looking at the architecture of the buildings. I feel inspired to bring out my drawing pad and taking a quick drawing.

Elijah: The Japanese style futon was interesting. The Japanese futon is a 3 folded bed!!! It is very comfortable and for the first time in a long time I actually slept like a baby. The bed was the best because I didn’t want to get up. The bed was the best thing so far.

Kiara: What’s so interesting about Japanese culture, mainly in Minamisanriku, is the friendliness and “at home” feeling I have whenever we go anywhere. Seeing so many smiling faces in a place highly affected by the tsunami lifts my spirits up and lets me see the strength that this town has. With every person that I meet, whether they be one of our speakers or passersby taking a picture of people enjoying the summer festival, my heart warms up.

Clinard: The thing that I enjoy the most while being here is the calm and quiet atmosphere that exists here. It’s so much different from what I’m used to. Where I am from, the streets are loud and the places are busy. There is a lot of commotion when people are travelling in groups. But here, it’s considered to be “controlled chaos”. For a place with many people, it seems to be regulated pretty well.

Kiara – August 4

Hey guys, it’s Kiara again. We’re finally in Japan! I’m so excited to tell you about what we did yesterday.

We all met up at Shinjuku Station. Before our speaker, Ms. Serena from the 2015 TOMODACHI program arrived, we all discussed and answered questions given to us by Sosha. One of my favorite questions was “What are you passionate about? What do you want to change?”

After our small session in the station, we all walked to Ms. Serena’s building and she began her presentation. A freshman in college, Ms. Serena co-founded a non-profit organization in which she recruits middle and high school students to write and edit their own news stories for an online magazine, not only for teens, but for adults too. We then revisited the question “What are you passionate about?” And we all shared what we want to change and how to go forth in doing so.

After we took some amazing group photos, we (including Ms. Serena) headed out to lunch. We went to a Chankonabe, a restaurant that sumo wrestlers dine at in order to gain weight. Some of these restaurants are started by retired sumo wrestlers. When you first arrive, you must take your shoes off. After sitting down, you’ll notice a pot full of chicken, broth, and vegetables sitting on a small, unlit stove. You have to cook it yourself, making sure that the meat is properly cooked. In the time in which your choice of meat is cooking, you can dine on rice and vegetables and take some broth and put it in a small to medium sized bowl.

Once we were close to finishing up, we all had a quick discussion about what we were going to do with our host siblings after visiting the Edo-Tokyo Muesum. My host sister Ena told them that we were going to look at the lanterns near the ocean and get ice cream once it got dark (which was so beautiful and fun).

When we put our shoes on and left out of the restaurant, we headed over to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. The American students were given lanyards with a ear piece so that we can hear the tour in English. There I learned what a Kabuki theater is. Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama, known for the elaborate makeup worn by some of its performers. After the amazing tour, the majority of us bought souvenirs and took more group photos near the shop. We then left with our host siblings to enjoy the fun activities the evening had in store for us.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. I can’t wait for all the fun to be had in the next couple of days. I’ll be back soon ❤ bye-bye.

Kiara McRae
Dunbar Senior High School

“I used to think . . . but now I know . . . .”

PROGRAM NOTE: The last day of the DC part of the program came on July 29, and so we asked all student participants to respond to this final prompt: “I used to think . . .  but now I know . . . .” The range of their responses is amazing, and speaks to the variety of  experiences that deeply impacted the students during the program’s first two weeks. So interesting!

R.M.: I used to think the freedom of individuals and the considerations for others are contradictory, but now I know the considerations are something which should be based on the freedom. I knew this when I visited the US Holocaust Museum and thought about the course of the Holocaust.

Chris: I used to think that I wasn’t as smart and deserving as other people to be included in programs like this, but now I know that I’m uniquely special. I saw this when I was picked to such special programs like the TOMODACHI student exchange and Boston engineering program.

H.K.: I used to think your degree and studies by college basically determines what you do as in lifetime job, but now I know what attracts you throughout your experiences regardless of when it is, can connect you to another job. For example, Mrs. Mya Fisher from the U.S. Japan Council went to a science high school but is currently working with helping programs going on between the two countries.

Clinard: I used to think that it was difficult to be a social entrepreneur but now I know that it is fairly easy to do something that establishes change. This is important because it inspires people to go out and do something positive in order to benefit their communities or just to simply benefit someone else’s life.

A.O.: I used to think that every gender had responsibilities but now I know that there is a country where gender does not pertain to what jobs you get. I heard this when I listened to Ms. White – a Japanese woman that lives in DC and works for Mitsubishi Corporation – saying that in her company, no matter what gender you are, every person is equal and all the work is being done from the people who realize it has to be done.

Kan: I used to think history and politics are far from our daily lives. And I wasn’t interested in history so much but now I know that to learn and share the history are necessary to understand others and our own cultures. This is important because we need this knowledge to build friendship with other countries in the future.

Maxx (Michael): I used to think Japan was more of a diverse independent voiced country with a political system like ours but now I know that the Japanese or most of them at least are introverted and focused on respect within a system that doesn’t elect the president. For example most Japanese stay to themselves and apologize often but some like E. can see themselves as more and this is important because it shows courage to move forward and I saw this when H, E, and R step out of their comfort zones and step up.

Hiroto: I used to think that America experienced lots of historic events and doesn’t reflect on the things that happened. But now I think US thinks much of its histories and makes something to remember it. Because we saw a lot of monuments in D.C. and also were lectured about historical things by many people, so I felt a difference with Japan and my mind was changed.

Jeffrey: I used to think I knew all about World War II but now I know I didn’t and that there was a much deeper side to it. For example, I saw this when I went to the Holocaust Museum and learned about the countless people who perished along with forgotten cities and towns.

Yeysi: I used to think that I was in the deep of the iceberg but now I know that I can be over the sea level. This is important for me because everyday is an addition to my future and this program is changing my hold on the world. It is making me feel that I can do something for my community and improve the environment that I live in.

R.H.: I used to think a “restaurant” is a place where you have to buy something to stay, but now I know that there are some places that provide a comfortable space for free. This is important because the founders are thinking about customers’ real needs in first priority, and I thought free space is something that they should have in Japan too.

Kiara: I used to think that entrepreneurship was just about being your own boss and making fast money. But now I know that some local entrepreneurs don’t really do what they do for profit, but to make a change or create a safe space for their communities. I saw this when we had Free Minds come to us and Charles shared his background with us. Free Minds helps prisoners express their true feelings through creative writing and I think it’s wonderful that a woman would stop by a jail almost every day to help them with their different interests in literature.

Tempestt: I used to think that it wasn’t so dangerous in other countries, but now I know that mostly all immigrants move to the U.S. for safety reasons. This is important because I have met students from Cardozo High School that said they moved to the U.S. because it was dangerous to live in their home country.

Rio: I used to think that there is a big wall between white people and black people because I heard the news white police shot black, but now I know many Americans are very friendly even if their skin colors are different. I saw this when I was on the train. People were truly mixed and I thought that was my stereotype.

Ayane: I used to think if you make a mistake before, it will follow you your whole life, but now I know it will not. This is important because the story that we heard at DC Central Kitchen completely changed my mind. I had heard about second chances. I realized you can make your future by yourself. I really liked the words, “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, what matters is what you are going to make right now.”

E.N.: I used to think that social entrepreneurs have a different goal for their future, but now I know they are all people who thought of a way to make a better society and worked towards it. This is important because I now know that anyone can be a social entrepreneur. If I start questioning my surroundings and think of a solution, I can become one too!

Kamashae: I used to think that justice could never and would never be served concerning the Black Lives Matters issue. Now I know that justice can be served, it’s just how you go about receiving it. This is important because all races/people should be treated fairly under the laws’ eyes. I saw this when our group talked with Ms. Mary Beth and how she kept saying how the voices of the youth are more effective in most cases than voices of adults.

Kiara – Day 6

Hey guys! It’s Kiara. Today was a very interesting and beneficial day. We started off with getting into our designated groups to practice our presentations for students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School tomorrow. After working on that for a few minutes, we sat down to a workshop on social entrepreneurship led by Scott Rechler, the co-director of LearnServe International, a program that identifies high school students with a passion for wanting to make a change in the world and provides them with the knowledge and beginning tools to transform their schools and communities-as well as themselves.

We all participated in an activity in which we wrote down what “pisses us off” in regards to our communities and the world in general. After creating our lists, we all got in groups and shared what we wrote. After sharing, Scott asked us to pick the one thing that makes us the most mad and create our own nonprofit organizations that could combat the problem we all chose. From this, I learned that entrepreneurship isn’t just about making money and being your own boss. A lot of entrepreneurs take the risk of developing their own brand just to make a change in what they and others see error in, whether it be in their own cities or the world. I also learned that making connections with other organizations is the best way to broaden your horizon and get your ideas into the public quicker.

In the afternoon, we went to Union Station to have lunch and visit the memorial dedicated to the Japanese-American patriotism in World War II. Topaz, the internment camp in which Mary Murakami and family were transferred to in 1942, was one of the 9 other inscriptions of the other camps on the walls. Quotes engraved on the semi-circular granite complement the statue of the Japanese cranes wrapped in barbed wire, perched on a tall, square pedestal.

A beautiful but hot day in Washington, DC highlights the beauty and sophistication of the Japanese cranes- one part of the memorial dedicated to the Japanese-American patriotism in World War II.

A beautiful but hot day in Washington, DC highlights the beauty and sophistication of the Japanese cranes- one part of the memorial dedicated to the Japanese-American patriotism in World War II.

After taking a few pictures near the memorial, we walked to the DC Central Kitchen to learn more about how the organization came to be. We then heard the background story of Angelo, one of the chefs at the kitchen. He told us about the time in his youth where he was a mid level drug dealer, serving 13 months in prison before deciding to start cooking at the kitchen per his probation officer’s request. His story reminded me about the power of second chances and how amazing your life can turn out to be despite the past challenges you’ve lived through.

DCCK Group Photo cropAfter taking a tour of the kitchen and listening in on a class, we went to the National Portrait Gallery to rest and speak about our final presentations.  Amazing ideas and reflections were shared among my group members and I honestly can’t wait to see what we make from our combined experiences throughout this program.

Our final activity was at the Marriott, where we heard the owner of the hotel and an employee speak on their past. The general manager, Thomas, spoke on how the loss of his brother only pushed him to succeed in life, dedicating everything he does to him in order to give him the motivation to keep working. We then heard the story of one of his best employees, who had only been in the United States for 3 years and working at the hotel for 1 year. She explained that the “American dream”, to her, is about finding an opportunity for yourself as an immigrant to have a fulfilling life filled with honest work in America.

Marriott group shotWell that’s it for now. I’ll see you guys soon. Take care <3

Kiara McRae
Dunbar SHS

Our Week One Highlights

PROGRAM NOTE: We asked all our TOMODACHI students this morning – “What was the most important or impactful activity from the first week?” Check out the amazing answers.

Ayane: My favorite thing was a story which Ms. Ayako told us at TOYOTA. She told us how she made “Kizuna across Culture.” I’ve joined the program which she made before so the story was really interesting and I was impressed by her life story because she made the company by herself to connect Japan and America.

Yeysi: My favorite thing from last week was when we went to the Washington Post and we met David Nakamura. I liked that part because he said inspirational stories that can get me out of my comfort zone like “Be curious in what you have passion on because it can be the key for your next door.” It made me feel that every time that I am feeling pressure can be another step to the change that I want to make.

R.M.: I liked a quote by Heinrich Heine, “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings,” which I encountered in the US Holocaust Museum, because it made me realize the danger of the actions without enough knowledge.

Jeffrey: My favorite part of last week had to be when we stayed in the dorms with the Japanese students. Because it felt really nice just bonding with them over that two day time span without any electronics – just words and actual communications through little mini games we played and especially when we did the Harlem Shake. I also enjoyed the times me, Ryoto and Clinard had in our dorm with the tea bottle beat we had going on.

Kan: The most impactful thing for me in the last week was DC students’ passion. They spoke freely and actively. I think I also should talk actively like them. And I was helped by them a lot, and also taught a lot by them. I think I was impressed by them.

Christefer: My favorite part of last week was talking about stereotypes. It opened up my eyes to know how many stereotypes and generalizations the whole group and I knew. It helped me as a person to become more accepting of others and not assume how they act. It also helped me realize that I shouldn’t get in the way of learning who a person is.

Elijah: My favorite event from last week was eating soul food and listening to Rock Newman talk. Mr. Rock Newman was really inspirational because he told me “race is a man-made concept” and that made me realize that humans are the only natural race and people love to be separated. Finally, the soul food was wonderful and it filled my stomach.

Kiara: My favorite thing from last week was visiting Mulebone. I enjoyed myself because I love the atmosphere of the restaurant and the fact that it’s a combination of a vintage clothing store made the experience even better. I can imagine myself doing a lot of open mic events there as well as doing most of my shopping there. Since I have a love for vintage clothing. I also love the fact that they allow students to work and study and don’t charge them for sitting for long periods of time. The amount of sunlight that comes in through the windows gives the place a beautiful shine as the hanging lights and racks of beautiful dresses create a pleasing image of simplicity.

Rio: My favorite part in last week was visiting the Mall. I was surprised that there are a lot of trees around there; nevertheless, it is in the capital city of the U.S. I could also feel the warm atmosphere of people who live in D.C. there.

Kamashae: The activity I enjoyed the most was the Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust Museum stood out to me because seeing the circumstances and the pain these humans were put through will never erase from my memory. Knowing that there are people who are experts at this time through history; wanting to ensure that this horrific event never repeats itself in the future, is wonderful and comforting to know, as an African American living in America. I also learned that day that every ethnic race has its own history of troubles and most importantly, endurance.

H.K.: My most favorite part of the last week’s program was Mr. Rock Newman’s speech. His speech was something impacting and catchy which you don’t see as much in Japanese speakers talking towards teens. The thoughts he brings in, the impacting and inspirational words to make you re-think about how you keep confidence in yourself, the amazing experiences and examples he shared with us, his techniques he used to make the speech significant . . . everything was inspiring and meaningful to me.

E.N.: What stood out during last week to me were the rainbow flags, flapping beautifully under the blazing sun. They symbolize gay pride. I really liked these because they show America’s culture of being open and showing what one believes to another in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Also, I think it represents America having diversity and people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Maxx: My favorite part of last week was eating Ethiopian food because the beef, colors and heat of the food was outstanding. Apparently, they don’t eat pork and all the food they have is bathed in different sauces and a big rule to remember is the darker the spicier. I personally think this stood out because I’ve never tried it before and nor did the Japanese, so their faces like mine were surprised. The even crazier point is that the fierce food wasn’t even as hot as it would have been in Ethiopia.

Hiroto: My favorite piece of the program in last week was the program at the Holocaust Museum 21.7. Because as I said to everyone at the time, I think Japan was killing people like Holocaust during World War II in China. So I felt the connection between these and appreciated German history and also Japanese history. I thought it’s important to look back to the history of each other, and know and thinking about each others’ histories will become the first step to develop relations between countries.

Tempestt: My favorite activity from last week was traveling to Cardozo High School to talk to the students who are in the International Academy. I enjoyed talking to those students because I learned where they were from, and how it was to transition to the American culture. We were also able to participate in a kickball game, which was very cool and fun. All of the students were fully engaged as a whole in everything we did.

Clinard: Today is the first day of the second week. As I look back and reflect, I have realized that the trip to the Holocaust Museum had the largest impact on me. I enjoyed learning more about what happened during the Holocaust. The Holocaust only remained continuous because people were unknowledgeable. Meaning that it could have been stopped or even prevented if people knew what was going on. By knowing that, I have been inspired to extend my knowledge in order to educate others so that I may benefit someone else’s life or community.

A.O.: Going to the Washington Post. This is because it was very exciting knowing that a Japanese American was in the press pool – people from the media accompanying Obama – in America, which also made me very proud. I never thought “journalist” as my future dream, but I realized that it looked like a wonderful job for me.

R.H.: A moment that had a big impact for me is when Amanda gave me “snaps” to a question that I asked to Mr. David Nakamura, a White House reporter, at the Washington Post office. It was a 5th day in DC and I was still a little nervous to ask questions or say opinions in front of the class, but a question popped in my head – Why do politicians take the reporters with them even though I sometimes see them keeping quiet to the reporters? I spoke up with courage, so I was very happy when Amanda snapped for my question. This gave me a confidence, and now I’m able to speak up with no hesitation.

Introducing Everyday DC

PROGRAM NOTE: On Monday, July 18, the first full day of the program, our DC and Japanese students participated in a two-part workshop led by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Workshop leaders Fareed Mostoufi and Evey Wilson provided coaching to help our students develop their photojournalism skills. Then they shared information about their “Everyday Africa” initiative, a project designed to capture the real, everyday side of Africa often ignored or unseen by mainstream media. The TOMODACHI USJYEP students were challenged to create their own “Everyday DC” photo project to document their time in DC. The real DC!! So after an afternoon bus tour that took our group all over the city, here’s what they came up with:

Ena-EDC-TwoRiversE.N.: I took a photo of TOMODACHI students playing in the field in the place where the two rivers meet. I took it at noon. I took this photo to show how the students from Japan and the DC students are coming together.

Tempestt-EDC-WashMonumentTempestt: This landmark is the Washington Monument during mid-day in Washington D.C. This building holds a significant role to D.C. because no other building in the city should be taller than this landmarkl.

Yeysi-EDC-GeorgetownSkyYeysi: I took this picture at Georgetown in front of the Potomac River on Monday, July 18. This picture includes Clinard and Jeffrey taking photos. 

Hiroto-EDC-RunandStayHiroto: Run and Stay.

Kamashae-EDC-WhenMoodSwingsKamashae: In Georgetown of Washington, DC . At 4:17pm, ” when the mood swings ”

Chris-EDC-Three FriendsChristefer: Three friends at Frederick Douglass’s house high fiving in the hot sun all for friendship!!

Kan-EDC-FountainKan: I took this picture of a fountain in Georgetown at 4:30 pm for the TOMODACHI group.

Hayato-EDC-Yeysis HairH.K.: Yeysi is tying her hair to keep it out of her way at Frederick Douglass’s house on a Monday afternoon.

Ayaka-EDC-Damp Sky A.O.: The damp sky just about to swallow the blue light, a man is staring at his phone and searching for a nice place to rest

Kiara-EDC-UnityinNatureKiara: A rare moment shows a sweet yet intriguing moment of bonding between the new students and alumni of the TOMODACHI Program..Unity in Nature.

Michael-EDC-Elijah and RobesonMichael: Taken by me at a martial arts dojo outside around 3 pm on July 18th. The picture is composed of Eli and an African American ball player, Paul Robeson. I took this picture because when Eli was standing in front of the drawing, turning his head just added the piece. Adding a black and white picture and it’s a historical moment.

Ryoto-EDC-GeorgetownSign R.M.: A picture of a tower and a sign in Georgetown on July 18th, 2016 for TOMODACHI.

Jeffrey-EDC-FountainJeff: Picture by a fountain near Georgetown around 4:30 pm with the rest of the TOMODACHI gang!

Ayane-EDC-MuralAyane: This is the mural which is a picture on the side of a building on U Street located in Washington DC in the daytime. I took this photograph because it is rare to see pictures in Japan on sides of buildings. This picture is a representation of what I thought America would be like because it is colorful.

Rio-EDC-SummerEveningRio: TOMODACHI participants enjoy their stay in Georgetown, Washington D.C. But they are concerned about the weather because they think it will storm. Japanese students will soon experience a summer evening in D.C. for the first time.

Clinard-EDC-ExchangeStudentClinard: An image of a foreign exchange student who sits and thinks as he reflects on what he has learned from his new friends and from the unfamiliar city itself.

Rina-EDC-DarkSkiesR.H.: This photo is taken in the late afternoon, July 18. It’s the photo of the fountain and the sky, in which the cloud is coming and starting to cover the bright and sunny sky. I took this photo because I thought it represents the typical weather of D.C.

Facing 3/11

PROGRAM NOTE: Our nine (9) 2016 TOMODACHI USJYEP DC students spent July 11-14 preparing for the start of this summer’s program through a variety of educational activities – a kind of “boot camp.” In one session, we focused on the Great East Japan Earthquake, using video and www.japanquakemap.com to help convey the enormous impact of the historic 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The event and its aftermath are the reason the TOMODACHI program was created – and it’s important for our students to try to understand what happened that day. These are their reactions:


After watching the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan, I was devastated. I was not only devastated because of the damage, also because of the fact that I could’ve been there, and if I was there, how unprepared I would’ve been. People watching their homes, with valuable things inside being swept away with the waves. Boats being swept deep into Japan from the sea. Seeing people in fear for their lives, including small children and animals. Seeing people trying to flee the area to save their lives and the lives of loved ones. Seeing this heart-wrenching event take place is almost unbelievable and unreal. That one tsunami could kill, rip apart, devastate, ruin, and destroy an entire country. I am glad there was footage, this footage in particular, to prevent such unreadiness from happening again, maybe to save more lives and more buildings by taking extra precaution to ensure safety for more citizens. My condolences go out to families that have been lost or broken by these horrific events that occurred on 3/11. I could never imagine the feelings you have toward these events.


Everything has left me speechless and emotional from what I saw. It felt as though I could feel the heartache everyone had experienced. The photos and videos had made me rewind my life back to the day Katrina had struck. The flooding of water and fire seemed almost too similar to the situation I had been in. I’ve always refused to remember the details that had happened, but seeing this has unlocked the door I had wanted to keep closed. I have empathy for the people that went through the earthquake and tsunami.


In Japan 3/11-3/12/11 was a catastrophic time period. There was a total of 226 earthquakes in a matter of two days. Knowing that DC does not have a lot of earthquakes, meaning that the number count is minimal, there are an abundance of mixed emotions going on inside of me. My city is fortunate enough to not experience these things and it makes me depressed and solemn to know that Japanese personnel have no choice but to experience them.


Words can’t describe this. Seeing the video and visual representation made me think about how fast situations change us. 148 earthquakes back to back. It’s heartbreaking to think about the aftermath. All the devastation. All the families missing loved ones or mourning the losses of friends and family. I can’t imagine pain and fear in their hearts from that day. I don’t know how to fully process this. Right after the tsunami was a huge fire. Picking up every piece that was broken, physically and/or emotionally takes time in events such as these. This makes me realize that some of us have a tendency to complain about certain things or possessions. When you look at the big picture, you realize that life is the best thing you can possess, as well as a sense of calm and security. If you don’t have that, everything is in shambles.


I gotta say just wow! Watching the actual video of the tsunami wasn’t that bad because although it showed the destruction of the towns at various times I couldn’t really get a feel of how bad it really was. But after looking at the Japan quake map, it really gave me a full view on how monstrous this event was and the little breathing time the people had in between these attacks. And it really allows you to grasp how lucky some countries are to avoid events such as this, especially on a large scale such as this.


Imagining many earthquakes from one day to the next is devastating. Hearing about one every now and then and deep hurricanes over in America and we think wow, oh my god and so on. But when you compare American disasters to Japan we have it trillions of times easier and that makes us lucky. To think of how scared people were at first and then to lose hope more and more as earthquakes keep happening for two days. It pushes fear to new heights. The man on the video who tried to boat away from the tsunami said he was ready to die at any time. That’s only one person. One brave person at that, and as a man he had to survive but others are petrified or could have been worse. It’s sad.


I saw that on March 11th that Japan suffered unexplainable damage from earthquakes. It seemed to me that after 2:46 pm JST (Japan Standard Time), Japan had suffered what I would call the domino effect from earthquakes. After one major earthquake, a series of earthquakes started to occur. Some were inside one another and I could only imagine if that was D.C. Also, to talk to survivors of the earthquake is very honorable. I would like to know if they remember the earthquake, how did they feel to survive. Did they feel sorrow for those who died, but also felt a sense of relief for surviving? Just that day from my perspective was so horrific.


I have never thought how big was the impact of the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. It feels like the pain will never have a cure, the terrible magnitude of those disasters can’t be explained in words. The words are less when you watch the stories that people passed through. The days will not be the same however. I think that the communities will have to be together and receive extra support of each other. It’s sad that just a quick action of the earth can destroy years of effort from families to construct their homes and their lives.


I feel very distraught about Japan’s 3/11. I give my condolences to all the families that lost a loved one during that tragic time. I could have never imagined myself in the situation/predicament that Japan went through but it takes a strong society with a phenomenal backbone to be where you all are today. Just by seeing the quake map and seeing how the earthquakes hit drives my passion to study more about why Japan gets earthquakes more often.