Future Sessions

Today was our second official day in Tokyo! Even though we are still jet-lagged and tired, we all are filled with energy, excited to be here, and burning to try all new things! This morning we were lucky enough to meet with Mr. Takahiko Nomura. He created and works for the Future Sessions Inc. Future Sessions focused on Social Innovation by way of sharing ideas with those of different backgrounds and working together to bring them to life, in order to better the community. Future Sessions encourages the ideas of people with different resources and mindsets to inspire each other and create something new. Often times, regular people don’t have the power or resources to bring their own ideas to life, so Future Sessions was created.

Mr. Nomura inspired us, he told us that we could change society by ourselves. After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident, non-profit organizations, companies, and governments worked together to rebuild the community and it was very successful. Mr. Nomura invited us to participate in one of his sessions, where we walked around Shibuya for a couple hours and visited a beautiful, and ultimately peaceful park. The problem is…not many tourists are attracted to it. We split up into groups and evaluated the area and thought of ways we could make it more interesting and fun, without completely transforming the neighborhood.

After our walk, we gathered our thoughts, and each group prepared a presentation on how to improve this lovely park. From murals to greenhouses to shopping kiosks, we all expressed unique, yet great ideas! We learned that we can all be inspiring human beings and that asking questions on how to improve something will take you very far in the process of change-making. Most importantly we learned that looking at things from different perspectives will expand your horizons and take you a very long way in life.

Racquel Jones
Wilson SHS

A Visit to Walker-Jones

Today we visited Walker-Jones Education Campus, a DCPS K-8 school nearby Union Station and NoMa-Gallaudet station, where we introduced young American children to some aspects of Japanese culture. I for one had a great experience. All of the elementary students were very enthusiastic and excited to learn about a foreign culture. So being able to teach them about this topic really touched my heart, as well as all of my group members. When asked if they had ever met a Japanese person, almost all of the students replied “No!” But when we began explaining some of the activities, many of the kids found them very familiar.

We had three major hands-on stations set up: Origami, Kimono, and Language. The kids quickly immersed themselves in all three activities with a sense of curiosity and excitement! As we folded origami paper, tried on traditional kimonos, and learned our 1,2,3’s in Japanese, we realized that this visit was especially moving for the Japanese members of our group, because they were able to introduce their culture to people who had never heard of it before. I was so happy to see the joy brought to all of their faces as they explored all the new concepts we taught them. Each and every one of their smiles lit up the room. Instead of being the ones being taught, they were the ones doing the teaching, and they were all very, very enthusiastic in doing so.

Surprisingly we found that oftentimes as we taught the children, they also taught us many lessons, like the importance of asking questions, trying new things, diving into different activities, and being open-minded.

Racquel Jones
Wilson SHS

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum

On Friday, July 20, at the end of Week 1, the TOMODACHI USJYEP group spent the morning visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The experience was powerful, as always, and for many of the students (both from DC and Japan) this was new information, so particularly shocking. We asked each student to share a moment of maximum impact or significance.

Racquel: The Holocaust Museum as a whole was a lot to take in all at once. It was very moving, and really helped me understand what that time period was like. One exhibit that specifically caught my eye, and touched my heart, was called “Daniel’s Story.” It walked me through the life of a young Jewish boy before, during, and after the Holocaust. I had the ability to attempt to understand many of the struggles he went through, and all the pain he endured. I watched as his life went from peace and happiness, to disaster, devastation, and hopelessness. This exhibit really allowed for me to see what it was like to live under Hitler’s reign, as a Jew during the Holocaust era.

* discrimination
* prejudice
All terrible things start from discrimination and prejudice (black, white, Jewish, man, woman)

Arjernae: The survivors who spoke out after the Jews were freed from the camps was one of the many things that shook me. Also, the fact that people who were hospitalized were being murdered by hospital staff without the families’ knowledge. That they were experimenting and taking people who weren’t really sick hostage, just to burn their bodies and come up with a cover story about how people’s loved ones died, because of “sickness,” is sickening itself.

Noa: I Iooked at the exhibit on children’s shoes. I can imagine the view of the many children.

Jerusalen: “You are my witness” (Isaiah 43:10). I think when I saw the biblical quote on the wall, it hit me that the quotes said in the bible can relate to so many problems in the world, the people affected being Jews. The quote from a bible has a great impact on their relationship with religion. That stuck with me while seeing all the other exhibits. I think the other thing that impacted me was the room where you could light a candle for the Jews and soldiers. The tranquillity in the room made me feel peace.

Minori: About 8 people slept in a tiny space together. When one of them died, others used his things, such as shoes, clothes. Also, when they wanted to pee, they just peed while lying in bed, so others experienced the bad smell. I realized how important storytelling is through this experience.

Miles: I viewed a short film within the first exhibit. Firstly, the ambiance of the theater was fitting for the rest of the museum, was extremely dark with industrial features. The film was about the religious persecution Jews faced throughout history well before the Holocaust. Starting during the Crusades, thousands of Jews were killed by the hands of Christians. Jews were also painted as devilish/demonic figures with art pieces depicting them drinking children’s blood. The film also touched on how Martin Luther expected Jews to convert to Christianity during the Protestant Reformation. So when Jews decided to keep their faith, he called for the burning of synagogues and Jewish people’s homes. I found the film extremely interesting because I wasn’t aware of the long history of violence and persecution towards Jews prior to the Holocaust.

Anika: An image of babies piled up in the ground of the camp because they’re dead (dead babies).

Carlos: There’s a billboard in the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit which is a question to the public at the time:

What impacted me was the response:

“Yes 93%” and “No 1%” and “Don’t Know 6%.” I was impacted by the level of racism and discrimination that used to be, because they used to get scared that I’m related to.

Keiichiro: I was affected by the “Smile Photo” in the Holocaust Museum. I felt discomfort for it. Why? Why do they smile? The Holocaust is said to be so terrible. But at that time, people who live in Germany (not Jews) are smiling.

Shunsuke: “Amcho” is a word that was used by Jews to identify themselves as Jewish when they weren’t allowed to name themselves as Jewish during World War II. It’s kind of a secret word in Jewish. Jewish is human. They all have names, born, personality, and others like us. However, they didn’t have any rights or opportunity to name Jewish. They were discriminated against as aliens. As they were heading to their death by inhumane ways.

Noa: I looked at this – children’s shoes. I can imagine the view of the many children.

Naoki: When war has happened, human beings can do that.

Japanese American Stories

On Thursday, July 19th, my fellow peers and counterparts had the honor of meeting retired army veteran, Allen Goshi, and representative of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), and a truly amazing woman, Mary Murakami. We were lucky enough to have both of these people talk to us and provide answers to our many questions. On December 7th, 1941, the date of the fatal Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese citizens in America, and anyone of Japanese descent lost their civil rights. Mary Murakami told us her story, and described how the events of World War II deeply affected her life.

At age fourteen, Mary, her family, and many other Japanese-American citizens were collected from their homes and forced into internment camps. Mary described how treacherous and discriminatory the US government was against the scared, innocent Japanese families. She explained how some were forced into horse stalls, forced to take showers without privacy, forced to eat the same food every day, forced to halt their regular education, forced to say goodbye to family members…all as a punishment for something that they were not responsible for.

Allen Goshi went on further to talk about how what the government was doing was an obvious violation of the Constitution. He introduced everyone to the idea that not all executive orders are upright. He taught us about the 100th Battalion, also known as the Purple Heart Battalion. This was a group of courageous Japanese-American soldiers that fought honorably in Europe in World War II, after Pearl Harbor occurred.

Listening to both speakers’ stories, I felt extremely heavy-hearted, especially since they were both Japanese-American and were telling about things that they had actually experienced. No one should ever be judged or looked at differently just because of their race or ethnicity. They told us the whole truth about what many Japanese people had to endure during World War II, and how 118,000 people were sent to internment camps and treated horribly against their will.

Racquel Jones
Wilson SHS

Racquel: Learning about Peacebuilding

On Tuesday, July 10th, Sally, my fellow group members, and I were lucky enough to pay a visit to the USIP (United States Institute of Peace). This was a very eye-opening experience for my peers and me! We had never participated in a panel discussing controversial and fascinating issues relating to young people, such as ourselves.

My group members and I proceeded to take part in a Peace Teachers seminar. Peace Teachers are regular teachers from all over the United States that work with the USIP to incorporate peace-building and advocacy into their everyday lessons. The three main speakers described what it is like to be a peace teacher and what it encompasses. Each of them had a unique method in which they taught these skills. The first teacher conducted a pen pal operation with students in Columbia, and her students painted a mural representing what they had learned. The second teacher had his students do research projects on other cities, unlike his own, so that his students could take things in from different perspectives. Lastly, the third teacher taught her students about the importance of advocating, and her students were compelled to converse with the mayor/representative of their city. They all explained many of the struggles and successes that they had, but were still very successful and pleased with their results in the end.

Although we were slightly nervous and soft spoken at first, we later began to spark interesting conversations and actively ask questions on the many different topics they discussed. For example: how the media and school shootings can affect peace building. I genuinely enjoyed our experience and would love to visit again and get involved in new conversations about current events, and topics relating to peace-building. We learned that peace building is a skill and mindset that everybody needs to incorporate into their lives in order to be successful and in order to contribute to making the world a better place.

Racquel Jones
Wilson SHS