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

Ryoto – August 7

In the morning, we left Futaba Inn in Ishinomaki and headed for Minami-Sanriku Town. On the way to Tomarizaki-So Hotel in Minami-Sanriku, we made brief stops at some places which tells stories about the disaster. First, we went to Okawa Elementary School, in which many people were killed because it was covered by the tsunami, although it was designated as a temporary evacuation site. Secondly, we went to Togura Junior High School, whose students and teachers realized the potential danger of a tsunami, and helped many elderly people or young people to escape to the higher ground. Thirdly, we went to Keimeimaru, a restaurant that serves seafood, and ate lunch. We also heard the story that their buoys were washed off with the restaurant and their house, but one of their buoys was found in Alaska, and why they could restart their restaurant again. Beside these three places, we visited a local seafood market and the disaster prevention center.

In the afternoon, we went to a local festival called “Utatsu Summer Revival Festival,” and learned the story of a postbox which washed away to Okinawa. Many people were dancing the dance in Okinawa on the stage, and a famous band from Okinawa was singing their songs. Everyone was so friendly, smiling, and very active. I couldn’t think that they were the same Japanese as me; they were the same people who suffered from the disaster five years ago.

The participants of Utatsu Revival Festival released balloons with their hope in Isatomae Temporary Shopping District.

Ryoto blog balloonsWhen I heard the story of Okawa Elementary School, I thought that the thing that had happened was also a kind of stereotyping. Many people couldn’t anticipate that the tsunami would come, and most of them lost their lives. As the example of Togura Junior High School shows, escaping from the Tsunami was not impossible. I recognized the importance of avoiding stereotypes anew. Everything we experienced today was so moving and touchy. I thought everyone should visit here, and everyone should know these stories.

Keio SFC 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.

R.M. – Day 8

Zoo group cropIn the morning, we went to the National Zoo. I personally saw pandas, birds such as flamingos, owls, ducks, and Asian animals such as giant pandas, fishing cats. I’ve found so many differences between Japan and D.C. since this program started, but when it comes to the zoo, it was not so different from ones in Japan.

After we had lunch at American Councils, we learned about quilting, and drew pictures which are representing things we learned in this program, and ourselves. It was a little hard to think of something representing both this program and me, but I felt the possibility of our imagination or creativity.

Free Minds GroupAfter that, we met people from a nonprofit organization called Free Minds Books Club, which helps prisoners, mainly prisoners incarcerated when they were teenagers, to read books, write poetry, and restart their lives. I read a poem written by a prisoner, which was about his gratitude to his mother and his hope for his return to the society and meet his mother. It made me realize the importance of having the help of parents, and also it made me think of the reasons why people commit a crime.

At last, we ate dinner at a church in Columbia Heights, and learned mural paintings, how to sing rap songs, how to spin and mix music, which were completely new experiences for me. Many people, especially Japanese people, are likely to think of hip hop, or murals as uneducated culture in a bad sense, but I found that they were wonderful cultures, and to understand these cultures can help people to solve the problem of poverty.

Ryoto blog photoWBL-R-DJ WBL Group hiphopThe most impressive thing for today was that there are many arts or activities we can do with low cost, and it can sometimes help poor people or prisoners to restart their lives. Many people usually do not pay attention to such cultures, but I thought that we cannot understand the world without understanding of these cultures.

Keio SFC High School

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.