At Minami-Sanriku

In the morning we went to “Oikawa Denim” which is a domestic denim product company. They were a shelter for people who lost their homes. Also they were the only company which is working for helping people. At first they communicated with each other in order to live together. After that happened they made this goal: “Let’s be independent.” So they started making products by using material which is from the community. They chose left-over resources which is swordfish, flags used by fisherman, and palm fruit. They also are buying materials because they want to spend money for their community. At first when I heard about these materials I was so surprised, especially swordfish’s sword. Who can imagine making denim from swordfish? However, I think this is a good way to contribute to their community. I want to make my town to be an international friendly town so this is a good example for me and I should tell this story to my town. This project is helping not only their community but also the global environment.

After that we went to “Minami-sanriku Portal Center” where there was a lot of “Kiriko-board”. “Kiriko” is one of the traditional decorations for a shrine. People who live in Minami-sanriku made a project that make a people’s memorial and treasure by using this traditional “Kiriko” art. I found one “kiriko-board” which made me realize that they want to coexist with the sea even after that happened. Ocean could be dangerous but ocean gives us a lot of things. So they will live with the ocean from now on.

At the end of the day we had a discussion with the mayor of Minami-Sanriku. He is a mayor but also survivor from the Disaster Prevention Center that is a famous story from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Before we met the mayor we went to the former site of the Disaster Prevention Center, but at that time I feel it’s a story just from the book. But after I heard his stories I was ashamed of myself that’s how I felt. His story was terrible. I couldn’t say anything. Can you imagine that you feel earthquake, after that the tsunami which is 12m high washed up their coworkers and there were only 10 people left. I felt really sorry for them. But even in those times, the mayor had to work for his job and he cannot be negative because everyone looked up to him. He is a leader for the town. This is why Minami-Sanriku could be such a cheerful town.

Natsuho Suzuki
Fukushima Prefectural Asaka Kaisei High School

Surprising Japan

7/31 we arrived at Narita Airport. After that, we took train to Komagome where we have place for our lodging host. D.C. students were surprised the train came on time. I also am surprised that compared to D.C. metro, Japanese train doesn’t shake so much. Our lodging host called “Ninja House” is a 3 story house. The first floor and second floor were used by girls and the 3rd floor was used by boys and this house is nice and cozy. We are happy we could stay here. I think all the students like this house.

Our first Japanese dinner was a set meal that we call “Teisyoku.” We ate it around Komagome station. D.C. students were surprised at automatic door that press the button to open. I never feel that is special because I always saw it everywhere. We can choose different type of food and I had chicken cutlet. It was good and I feel I came back to japan. D.C. students said they like it. I’m happy to hear that.

Next day, 8/1, we sleep long time because we were tired and jet lagged. Around noon Ena, who joined TOMODACHI program last year, came to our house and we went to lunch with her. We had two choices – “ramen” or “gyu-don” (rice bowl topped with beef) – and I chose “ramen.” Most of the Japanese students and D.C. students chose “gyu-don.” Only me, Ena, and Bryson chose “ramen.” The “ramen” was based on “Tonkotsu,” that is pork taste.

We enjoyed our lunch and had nice conversations. Ena told me about how was last year’s TOMODACHI Program. It was similar to this year program but few things were different. For instance last year their lodging host was at Asakusa which is known as a tourist spot but the lodging host this year was nicer than last year. We also talked about our host family. We happened to have the same host family; it makes me surprised. We could be a TOMODACHI and I’m looking forward to meet her again on our final presentation in Japan.

We had so many experiences that surprised us and these experiences showed me that for me is just common things but for foreigners it is not common.

Natsuho Suzuki
Fukushima Prefectural Asaka Kaisei HS

Japanese Favorites!

Ready for take off! Our Japanese TOMODACHI students reflect on their favorite things from the DC part of the exchange. Now on to Japan!

Rey:
Favorite Food: Cheese. I had the chance to try out various kinds but above all, I truly recommend Brie.
Favorite Place: Busboys and Poets.
Favorite Memory: At the dorm, playing hand games and card games or just talking about random stuff with my friends from DC.

Yuuki:
Favorite Food: Lasagna (by host father) and banana bread (host mother).
Favorite Place: Farmer’s Market.
Favorite Memory: Time playing board games with my host family.

Natsuho:
Favorite Food: Macaroni and cheese.
Favorite Place: Takoma Park.
Favorite Memory: I cooked Japanese food but my host family couldn’t eat it.

Ko:
Favorite Food: Fried chicken.
Favorite Place: Busboy and Poets. I want to have it in Japan.
Favorite Memory: The day I went to see the stadium with my host family. The stadium was so large.

Hide:
Favorite Food: American soul food, in particular, macaroni and cheese.
Favorite Place: My host family’s home and bowling place and the river.
Favorite Memory: I like Marco Polo and skating!

Ryotaro:
Favorite Food: Steak! I went to the LongHorn Steakhouse with my host family,and it was delicious!
Favorite Place: Military base! I went with my host family!
Favorite Memory: TOMODACHI!

MLK Reflections

Natsuho:

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

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

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

Rey:

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

Yuuki:

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

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

Bryson – Speech for Ordinary Freedom:

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

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

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

Ryotaro:

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

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

Shawma – Question what is not Questioned

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

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

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

Chi:

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

Weekend Home Stays

Nice tender family – by Natsuho

I played tennis with Rey and her host father. We took a bicycle to the place where we can play tennis but it made me little bit tired because it was hot and we have to go up many hills. It was my first time to play tennis but it was really fun for me because Rey’s host father is a tennis coach so he was good coach for me too. After we played tennis we were going back to my host family’s house and having a nice lunch. We had cheese, sausages, vegetables and so on. Cheese is one of my favorite food and US has many kinds of cheese so I am happy to eat them. After we ate our lunch we played a puzzle together. I never do puzzle with my family but it is good thing to play puzzle with family because we can have nice conversations. What I found from this weekend experiences is family should do something together to be a nice tender family.

New TOMODACHI – by Ryotaro

My host family and I went to the Chesapeake Beach on the weekend. It was raining in the beginning, but it turned to hot sunny weather. I swam in the water with my host family, and we had fun. I also talked with a fisherman, a man who was flying a kite, and people who were playing American football. I found it interesting talking with the people, and everyone was friendly. On the beach, there were people who were playing soccer. I asked them if I can join them, but they only spoke Spanish. I used gestures to join in, and they let me in. I played beach soccer with them and enjoyed. I also learned some Spanish and taught Japanese using gestures as well. I became friends with them and took pictures! This was the most wonderful experience this weekend and it was great!

I learned that we can connect and be TOMODACHI through sports, gestures, and smiles, even when we cannot communicate by using language.

Ko’s Weekend

Saturday was my host sister’s birthday. We strolled around the Eastern Market in the morning. It was so crowded, and there were many shops. Other than shops, there were many people who sold paintings made by themselves. It was wonderful to see many people expressing themselves.

In the evening, we went to Georgetown to celebrate Taylor’s birthday. I met Taylor’s friends, and they were very friendly. One of her friends had a sleepover at my house, so we watched a movie “Karate Kid” until late at night.

Sunday, I woke up late because we had nothing to do. So we went to the Lincoln Memorial at noon. At the Memorial, I found a plate that said “MLK was here.” It was a great view. Inside there was a big statue of Lincoln. I was so surprised to see people from many countries came to see Lincoln.

On the way home, I took a photo of me with the Capitol.

In the evening, I went to a house of my host mother’s friends to do a barbecue. He was a professor in a university in China, so many Chinese students came too. I learned many things about China.

This weekend, I had experienced many things. I am satisfied!!

Try New – by Yuuki

My host family always helps me to try new things. In my host family, there are no children but we have two cats. My host mother and father taught me how to play with the cats since I’d never played with cats. On Saturday, I spent a whole day with my host family. We made waffles together and went to a farm market in the morning. It was my first time to go to a farm market and there are a lot of fruits and vegetables which I saw for the first time. In the evening, we went to the vegan restaurant at Clarksville and I tried a burger with BBQ sauce. Ice “cream” was my favourite. They teach me many board games too. We’ve already played three board games and there are more at home. I enjoy having time with them and every time I get something new.

Sunday was a day I walked a lot. I visited the National Zoo with Chi and Bryson. I saw many animals I haven’t met before. The photo shows orangutans walking on the wire. We played Pokemon Go there and headed for Bryson’s house. I played with his three dogs and read some of his Manga. It was such a nice day for me.

I am glad that I had great friends and host family. I will continue trying new things without forgetting my feelings of appreciation for them.

Hide’s Weekend

This is my diary entry about my weekend. On Saturday, my host family, Ryotaro and I went to Chesapeake Beach. I played with kites with a stranger on the beach. He was very kind and friendly. I also talked with a fisherman because I like fishing. The bait was bigger than what I use in Fukushima’s river. I had a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we went bowling. The bowling area is in the military base. We had hamburgers and fries for snacks. The meat was thick. I used honey-mustard in my burger. It was my first time but I liked it. At home, I played with my host brothers and sisters. We played with wii and a Japanese game called “darumaotoshi.”

This weekend was a lot of fun because I was able to experience many things.

Rey’s Weekend

This weekend with my host family was superb! We didn’t go anywhere special or fancy but instead we experienced what their usual weekends were like. For instance on Saturday, we biked up and down the steep hills to get to a tennis court, and played tennis early in the morning. Even though I’ve never played tennis before, my host father taught me how to swing the racket and we were all playing a game in no time. After tennis, we went to our neighbor’s house for lunch. Because I told them I love cheese, they got me various kinds of cheese I’ve never eaten before including the Havarti. They were so good I couldn’t stop reaching for a piece right after another! The two families also got together to complete a kite puzzle which was quite an achievement.

Natsuho – Day 4

In the morning we had discussed about what is big idea from our programs and we found 5 big ideas.

  • The difference in equality.
  • Ask WHY without a fixed mindset when trying to understand culture.
  • Who is America to deprive a man of his rights!?
  • America is known for freedom but it took its own citizens and incarcerated them.
  • No one can hold back the young mind since it has so many possibilities.

These 5 ideas are really important for us to understanding differences and make good society. So we need to keep these ideas in our mind.

After our debrief ended we had to see a film which is “Picture from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” That film was talking about children survivors from the atomic bomb. And also we had conversation with Shizumi Manale, who is the film producer. Children survivors from bombs had strong mind. It is because the education and their teacher making them positive even if they are hungry or they have totally nothing. Ms, Shizumi’s story was interesting for me because she tries so many things and she is so powerful.

In the afternoon we had a lecture from Mary Murakami. She is a former internee. We heard about her life during World War II and after the war. It is important to hear from people who were in there at that time because so many people pass away so this is a valuable lecture for me. And I could feel it real what I learned from the Smithsonian museum.

End of the day I learned Hip-Hop. It was nice and fun. We did rap and DJ. They taught us how to rap. It is seems so easy but actually it’s so hard. When I rapped I had some words in my head but the words didn’t come out with beats. And DJ it also seems so easy but it’s really not. The DJ teacher counted for me but I couldn’t go with count.

I learned if things seem too easy actually it is not easy but challenge is important so I’ll keep trying.

Natsuho Suzuki
Fukushima Prefectural Asaka Kaisei HS