S.M.’s Final Reflection

Along our journey, from Tokyo and Tohoku to Washington DC, many different people have asked us what were our major takeaways and how have we grown from the experience. I personally had a very difficult time answering these question concisely. That may be because I was still in the process of change and evolution when I was in the trip, but it’s also because everyday in the program was so intensely packed, and me being a little bit of a slowpoke, did not have enough time to sit and process information through my brain.

When I got home, I finally got the time to process all the brain food, and cook those ingredients into tasty meals. The flavors of those meals that I made were extremely complex, yet in harmony.

From this organization process, I have successfully extracted the essence, the core lesson that I would like to depict as wonderfully as possible.

The most significant takeaway from this experience for me was about a way of thinking.

It was to be strong and flexible at the same time.

Looking at all kind of issues, both small and large on both ends of the globe, the people in society who make the largest and radical changes are the people that are strong, and have the courage to stick up and so something different from the crowd. However sometimes, that stiffness could become a problem. That strength sometimes blinds people. It makes one pursue something way too hard, that they forget to blend in. They forget to cherish others.

We now live in a globalized world. We have more connection across borders than any time before in our history. If we want to make large changes, we have to work with people from different backgrounds. The 21st century is very demanding, and people ask you to be both good at one area, and also be well rounded, and frankly that’s tough. We are now asked to be strong at times, but also be gentle and considerate.

This may be a very normal thing, but before, I thought being big and making big changes were everything. I wanted to work in a large company and do CSR and make big changes in the society. That’s important, but that’s not the only thing. As well as learning the importance of the “micro” side of everything, I also realized the importance of being flexible. I understood why we learned about cultural differences and issues about discrimination when we were in a program about social entrepreneurship. Everything started to make sense when I realized the importance of coexisting, and adapting.

Through slowly understanding things that I never bothered to understand earlier in my life, I now am aspired to become a BFG. A Big Friendly Giant as Roald Dahl has depicted in his child book. I would like to make small changes that impact the societies surrounding me largely. I don’t want to be a follower, but I will be the one to stand up and make people stand up. However, as well as being a strong and bold person, I also want to be the one who puts smiles on others’ faces. I want to be the one who can adapt to a new environment, and cherish that environment. That’s how I want to be, and that’s what I will be.

This experience has opened a million doors for my future careers. At this point, I feel like I am in a huge airport, looking for which flight I want to take. I do not know what particular field I want to work, but I know for sure that I want to be a BFG Social entrepreneur. A game changer, with a flexible heart that can draw people closer.

There sure will be many obstacles that will hinder my way, but I’ll try to stay focused and will become someone that I long to become.

Now, I would like to thank all the people who were involved in organizing this entire event, the sponsors who are geniuses to invest in this amazing initiative, my parents who not only have allowed me to go, but have been supportive all along, and my TOMODACHIs and chaperones who are the best voyage companions I have ever encountered. This is what a lifetime experience is, and this is how new buds sprout and bloom. I hope this legacy continues.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Learning African American History

John Franklin New MuseumPROGRAM NOTE: On Monday, August 10th, the group spent the morning with John Franklin of the soon-to-be opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. First they met with Mr. Franklin in his office to discuss African American history and the purpose of the museum. They went to the rooftop of his office building for a spectacular view of the city and to see the former slave trading area and slave pen that had been located right below them on Independence Avenue. Then the group crossed the Mall to visit the new museum building site and an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.


John Franklin and DusanRaised in a homogeneous culture, I never received much formal education of African American history. The very little knowledge came from books and TV as I have always been interested in the topic. Today, the meeting with Mr. John Franklin really opened my eyes to the big picture of what the new Smithsonian African American History museum features and why it’s worth celebrating it.

African American history is often associated with sorrow and inequity. This is partially true, however this history is also the story of never giving up, and making others happy. For example, Africa Americans have broadened America’s frontiers in the entertainment industry. Hip hop, one of the major music genres, would never have existed without them. I think meeting John Franklin and visiting the American History Museum was an enriching experience, and it was surprising to see many connections between the African American history with the Tohoku stories.


Mr. Franklin today expressed his excitement in many words during our conversation we had. He finally gets to see the fruits of his labor, something we all could relate to during the process of our presentation. But what struck me during our time with Mr. Franklin was our short visit to the American History Museum. There I watched a video of the Tuskegee Airmen. During this video, a message appeared saying that comments made in the video may be perceived as offensive because it’s from a certain point of view. This was interesting to me because it was a problem our group faced at certain times when tackling social issues. This has only taught us to respect others opinions and try to see from different perspectives.

John Franklin Group5

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

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.

Making of the presentation

Today was our big day in Tokyo. We were at the beautiful and sophisticated American Center, and were able to showcase what we have done in our journey so far. Through these 2 weeks, our team, students and chaperones all together, have developed a very special bond. We not only care about each other, but we would facilitate one’s success, or even critique one another. We were each others’ catalyst of growth. Through these past three days where we had to work as a team and put together an important presentation, this bond became apparent, and stronger.

These three days of preparation, to be honest, have been a nightmare at times. On day one, we were told from the chaperones that the presentation has to be top notch and be different from any of the things they have seen in the past. Every single one of us in the group are hard workers, and have a strong desire to succeed, so obviously, we really wanted to pull this off. None of us would dare take it easy.

A bunch of enthusiastic people having to produce quality work in a short period of time; You know what that means. It is a series of talking, or yelling over each other, having conflicting ideas, and stress. That basically describes our battle. I loved the energy level and enthusiasm, however we definitively had some bickering, which sometimes created tension within the group. It’s never really fun, but I guess it’s inevitable when you’re working with such powerful and amazing people. Plus, the bickering was not fighting, but it was more like constructive criticism. I think pointing out someone’s flaws requires courage, however this team is not afraid to voice their opinions, and the entire group was very open to constructive criticism.

So, yes. Three days, seven amazing teenagers working on one presentation. The stakes were pretty high, but we knew we pulled it off after the presentations, when all 14 of us and the three chaperones congratulated one another. There were numerous hugs, high fives and “great jobs!” in the house. That is when I felt like I could really say from the bottom of my heart, that we have become a family. It’s rather impossible to imagine that we were complete strangers just 2 weeks ago!

Overall, I am very proud of this team, and I cannot wait for what’s in store for us in DC. It is evident that creative collaborations really work with us, because we are all so passionate and ambitious. Now, it’s time for me to pack! The fact that I’m leaving and traveling overseas still hasn’t kicked in! I know that the next two days will be hectic, but yes, America, here I come!

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Why Not Forget Everything?

SM Blog Disaster Bldg 7.22.15As a learner, I always try to cast doubts to a statement so I’m engaged at all times. One of the many questions that aroused during this Tohoku Trip is “Why can’t everybody just forget about this whole catastrophe, and just move on?” This may make me sound like a very apathetic person, but I have to admit that I honestly thought so. I feel this way from seeing all those shattered buildings left in the cities, and hearing painful memories from the people who ran for their lives. As I discover more about this tragedy, I started to feel like the agony of the people who have to speak about their sad experience is not worth it.

It’s pretty obvious that one of the main objectives of leaving these monuments and passing on stories, also known as “Kataribe”, is to prevent lives from being lost in future disasters. If people know how to react and make decisions in emergency settings, it is possible to prevent casualties derived from human mistakes. However, governmental organizations are working on that and technology is constantly advancing. Many engineers are coming up with new technologies to reduce deaths in case of a natural disaster. I didn’t exactly think that passing on the story and preserving monuments are the most effective ways of saving lives in a future catastrophe. Therefore, I thought that there may be some other significance of story-telling. Something more deep and constructive perhaps. I just didn’t know what it was.

However, one of the words that a victim told me proved me wrong.

This lady, her name was Teiko-San, shared with us her experience of the catastrophe using photos of her own house and neighborhoods. After her vivid portrayal of the devastation, I asked her “Why do you talk about your painful experiences besides the prevention of deaths in disasters?” And she told me, “I’m only doing this for the sake of disaster-borne casualty prevention. Nothing else. I just want people to run for their lives when a tsunami occurs in the future.”

This was very unexpected for me because as I said previously, I thought there was a deeper significance in story-telling, but really, the victim’s incentive of telling her story was one simple thing: To run for your own life. She was preparing others. I realized that I was so caught up in reading between the lines, that I wasn’t really reading what was written on the lines!

Although I can’t really come down to answer to my question as I have only heard from one victim, I realized that a lot of people are speaking up no matter how agonizing it is to recall those memories, because they want to save potentially savable lives.

Through this experience, I not only learned to run for my life when a catastrophe occurs, but also a significant life lesson – Don’t forget the big idea when I’m focusing on an issue.

Throughout this program, I’m sure that I will be encountering different issues; from global issues, to local, or even issues within a small community. I will like to use today’s experience as a lesson when I analyze and try to remain open and come up with a solution.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School

Struck by Lightning

Despite being a Japanese citizen, I happened to not be in my country the day the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku. I was miles away, a middle school student in Lima, Peru, where I lived at that time. I watched the disaster on cable TV.

I have to be completely honest, the images just felt like some blockbuster movie depicting the end of the world. It didn’t hit me at all. It may be because I had no family or any acquaintances in Tohoku, but still, it was incredible how calm and unemotional I was. At school, friends and teachers, even my school bus driver would run to me and gave me a big hug and say “It will be ok.” I knew what they were talking about, however, since my emotions were so detached from the devastated area, I didn’t really feel anything.

I don’t know why I felt so dry, but that was how I was, and even after I came back to live in Japan and saw tons of people working hard to reconstruct their hometown, I praised and admired their effort, but never really felt anything in my heart.

Blog Ishinomaki phone SM.7.21So here I am, in the devastated town of Ishinomaki, four years after the day that everything toppled over and crashed. My honest first impression was, “Oh ok, this place is recuperating very quickly! Things look pretty good for only 4 years of work!” After that, when I saw gravestones, ceramics and other household utilities scattered on the ground, I felt like I got a slap across my face with a baseball bat.

It was the first time I ever “felt” this disaster with my own skin. The images are just extremely raw and real. From far away, the empty lands of Ishinomaki just look like a patch of weed and open lands. However, when we looked closely during our walk, there were spoons, pieces of porcelain, shoes, rice cookers… All these things that you would find in an average house, were on the ground. They may be from the house, which was built on that land, or it may be debris that traveled miles with the current, who knows.

Now that I briefly understand what the place looks like, I felt it was time for me to create an attachment with the people here. Hearing their voices, knowing what they are in need of and spreading it, is an essential part of progress that I can contribute to. Although we have limited time, authority and funds to take action, I’d like to take part of the revitalization of this area as a bilingual and bicultural Japanese teenager. My little step will obviously not change the world or make everybody who experienced this catastrophe be happy all of the sudden, but I think it will create hope, not only for the Tohoku locals I meet, but also for the people around me and even myself.

I’ll take full advantage of my opportunity to be here with such an amazing team, and do what I can do in this region.

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)