N.Y.’s Final Reflection

First, I apply for this program to improve my English skills. However, the program’s aim was not for English. I really feel this from visiting Touhoku. I won’t forget the impact of my first sight of the disaster area and what I thought; isn’t this good for nature? If humans weren’t living on the earth then nature would be strong. However, I learned that coexist of human and nature is possible if human care of nature. Also what I learned was high schooler’s power. We met many high school students who were going to some action. I thought, we shouldn’t think our power is weak and be passive. We can make an action and it can be a strong power.

In America, we think deeply about various discriminations. I had never thought deeply about that theme because it is not so big problem in Japan. The one thing that I learned was we shouldn’t persist in slanted image. We can think that every problem of discriminations happened because of the bad image about each race. Also there were some times that I realize that even if I thought I know about it, there are many information which I had never known. I felt my innocent and thought, I should have various perspectives in myself.

Last, to be honest, I was thinking my low English skill is my inferiority. There are many situations that I couldn’t follow what a person says, couldn’t understand the meanings, and couldn’t tell exactly what I want to say. However, all the people who I met were so kind. Some Japanese students translated for me and some DC students explain for me in other easy words. Many people took communication for me. Thanks to everyone, I felt very comfortable when I was with the member of TOMODACHI. I think I was demanding of perfection to my English. I wanted to speak correct English and that’s why I couldn’t open my mouth. However, what we really need is not perfection. Although it is not perfect English, if one really tried to tell what him want to tell, everyone will understand. I used to think that language is people’s ability, however it is just a tool.

I felt people’s kindness and warmth during this program. TOMODACHI member became more than friend and like my family. TOMODACHI is one of my comfort zones. If I have a chance, I want to go back there and want to solve many problems in the world. My biggest takeaway is “believe others and believe myself”. What I think is not wrong. There are some cases that my thinking differs from other people but that is not good or bad, just different. I believe that admitting the difference and cooperation with everyone in the world can make our world much more better place in the future. I want to say thank you for all the people who made me a member of TOMODACHI and people who I met during this program. We will make the future.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

DC: A City of Inspiring Words

Quote-Yuki-Darkness smY.A. – This is a quote I picked up from Martin Luther King JR. Memorial. I was simply amazed how he expressed this thought. Actually I knew there are these kind of thoughts such as non-violent protesting, but now I totally understand what it meant. And as he said in his quote, his way of fighting against stereotypes, racism and the discrimination was talking and telling the story to the others. His quote let me recognize the way how “we” solve these problems as global leaders.

Quotes-Nina-ComfortN.Y. – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


I like this quote because these words show us how to live. Living in comfortable and convenient place is easy. People’s mind wont be restricted and we can be what we want to be. On the other hand, when we are challenging something or having a controversy with people, it is not easy time. We have to live in pressure. However, I believe that people can grow much more in hard time because we have to think so many things and take an action. I have kind of experience of this. I was belonging to tennis club, which was said that is a most hard girls’ club in junior and senior high school. That rumor was true and I had spent hard time in both physical and mental side. However it was enrich time. I trained my body and mental.

Because of this experience, I believe that people should put themselves in to hard situations, and I think this thinking is not wrong. So, I could connect my thinking to this quote.

Today, life is becoming easier because of the technology development. We have to find hard way to make ourselves strong. The ultimate measure of a man is where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

N.M. – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience. But where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

The second I read this quote, I realized how it perfectly fits our whole group. As participants of an exchange program, we need to do our best to step out of our ‘comfort’ zones and ‘challenge’ new things in order to learn about new cultures and perspectives.

Quote-Korey-Love PeaceKorey – This quote speaks to me because it talks about how we should focus more on peace and not entirely on war. I want to live in a peaceful world where I don’t have any fears of war or destruction.

Quote-I Have A DreamK.Y. – “I have a dream…” The sensational words of the great Martin Luther King blows through the metropolitan city of Washington D.C. even today. Powerful and inspirational, those first lines of King`s speech made me think deeply; for, what my next goal is to pursue my dreams and accomplish my goals.

Quotes-Injustice AnywhereDusan – Upon seeing this quote at the MLK memorial, I stopped to think about its significance. In the past week, a theme came up along the lines of being an ally to justice, such as helping to stop police brutality when it happens by watching. This same quote applies to that same notion, and that is no coincidence. Everything that happens to one does affect another indirectly if we take the time to look at our lives and the lives around us. For example, if I ignored a police brutality incident before my eyes, that would not help the situation for anyone that police brutality applies to in the future, including myself. In fact, I could end up being brutalized because I never tried to take any initiative to stop that injustice from occurring. I’ll end with this: Buddha once said something along this line before, and if MLK said it as well, then someone before MLK and after Buddha most likely said it as well. If it is oft repeated throughout history, then it would be wise to take heed of it. So, ‘till next time….

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: 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.

Told the story by visual

Today, we went to several places in Miyagi prefecture. We moved from Ishinomaki to Minamisanriku by bus. Before arriving in Minamisanriku we visited Ookawa elementary school, which was hit directly by tsunami. We saw the broken school building and a memorial of victims. There were mountains around the elementary school and we couldn’t see the ocean. At that place, I was thinking about the children. The sirens sound and they exit like all earthquake drills they have practiced. They were supposed to be talking about the earthquake together because the school’s courtyard was an evacuation area for surrounding area. However, tsunami came. I could imagine the feelings of the relief turned into terror, but surely the real feelings were beyond the reach of my imagination. I couldn’t say any words to tell my feelings.

After that, we went to a disaster stricken area, viewed disaster photos in an exhibit hall and then ate lunch. We all stayed over night at a rural home in the mountainside of Minamisanriku. At my home, Teiko san, our host-mother, told us her story of the disaster. One of the stories was about her house. Her house was washed away, but the second floor was found 1 km away from its original place, and she was able to get some of photos. The story reminded me of my grandfather’s experience. He is a victim of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and he was blown away together with the second floor of his house. When I heard the experience, I couldn’t imagine and believe such things can happen. Her tsunami story was similar to how I felt about my grandfather’s experience. Maybe it is not related to this program, but I thought a ‘house was to save our lives and it has many memories and stories. Why isn’t it saving lives?’

I compared the tsunami and atomic bomb experiences and thought about the message of telling story. Telling the story of atomic bomb damage has the message to abolish nuclear weapons, but I was wondering about the case of tsunami. What’s the message I wondered? Tsunami is a natural disaster and we can’t stop it from happening. I know that we can tell the fear and power of nature, but I couldn’t figure out the message I was to learn from her tsunami story. Finally, Teiko san gave us one answer. She wanted to tell people to RUN AWAY if disaster happens! This has become the common message when people tell their story of the great tsunami. Just run away! We can’t think and talk to people if we were not alive. I should continue to share the message and lessons learned from these stories. I could get one answer to my question but I think there are more meanings of a story, and really we have to think what do we do next after run away? Let’s keep thinking.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Walking around Ishinomaki

PROGRAM NOTE: On July 20, students arrived in Tohoku by bullet train from Tokyo. Once in Tohoku, students walked around the city of Ishinomaki. Ishinomaki city had the largest number of casualties due to the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


Blog Ishinomaki NY.7.21.15Today was the first day in Touhoku and it was my first visit to Ishinomaki. We got to our first inn in the afternoon, unpacked and then walked around the city for two hours. While walking around I saw some broken houses, construction sites, articles left, and more waste from destruction. There was also life of nature. Grass and flowers were growing up. Birds were flying. The sun was shining. While walking, I saw a fight between nature and humans. The tsunami destroyed human life and now plants are growing. However, now humans are destroying nature again because of some construction. The rebuilding and renewal all affects nature. I was in complicated mind because I love nature. I thought if humans weren’t living on the earth then nature would be strong. I believe this is a horrible thing to think and I fear what I think because I am human. I am a human being. I’m not nature. I feel conflicted.

However, we are living and we have to live on earth with nature. 
After the walk and dinner, we reflected with each other back at our hostel, the Futaba Inn. We talked about our feelings, thoughts, ideas, and so on. During the reflection, we decided that one of things we can do to help Touhoku is to ‘tell the story.’ When telling the story, it is important that we tell the situation and our feelings. Finally, I think we should tell the story of recovery and share the progress. Disaster will happen in some places in the future but I don’t want to see such terrible damage like in Touhoku. We should share how to recover from disaster with the world. 
There are many ideas and solutions. We have to keep thinking! 
I am excited to meet high school students around here tomorrow and hear their experiences. I want to hear the real voices of local people. I’m sure that the days in Touhoku will be a valuable experience for us.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa 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)