My experience at the US-Japan TOMODACHI youth exchange program was just simply the greatest time of my life and it will be a piece of me for the times to come.
Our program started with the visit from ‘G,’ a slam poet, and began the shortest 2 weeks of my life. During the program, we not only visited traveler’s sites like museums and national memorials, but we also had the chance to explore the whole city of D.C. With the tour around the city and having a chance to home stay, I saw a different side of D.C that I never thought they had. Before attending this program, I only saw D.C as the home of the White House. But throughout the 2 weeks stay, I found out that D.C was a very diverse city and only a fraction of it showed the image of the White House; which came out to be the biggest surprise of my stay.
Although I enjoyed every part of the program offered to me, I loved being able to do ‘un-normal’ things. Without this program, I would have never taught elementary students Japanese, or experience any forms of hip-hop. I also enjoyed being ‘different’ from others. In Japan, I believe that everyone feels the need to have similar opinions with others, and are afraid to be different. But this program helped me revive my confidence on being different. Throughout all the discussions, it was interesting to see how each and every one of us had a different perspective towards the same thing. Simply being able to hear another person’s opinion and being able to express my own opinion itself was a great experience to have.
Again, my experience with everyone I met and everything I have done with them, was the greatest experience of my life time. All the friends I made there will forever be my friends. In a world where everything is connected, I think this exchange program gave me the most important thing to be connected to. Not Wi-Fi nor facebook or twitter, but GFFs, Global Friends Forever. I am blessed to be able to meet everyone that I met, and would like to enlarge my circle of connection.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
My favorite food I ate during the stay in Washington, DC was crab cakes. I ate it at Alexandria beside the river and I was looking forward to eat it ever since I came here because my host family was recommending me it day after day. We sometimes eat crab in Japan but we don’t often, so it was good filling my mouth with crab.
The highlight of my dinner was the delicious pizza with onion and mushroom. I still remember the crisp crust and the melted cheese filling my mouth.
My favorite food I had over the stay here was a chili dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl, a combination of chili and hot dog that we never get to see in Japan.
My favorite food has been Philadelphia Cheesesteak so far. Compared to other kinds of sandwiches, they have higher but better taste. I would love to bring them to Japan for my friends if it were possible.
I liked the African American soul food. I especially liked the BBQ ribs because it was big and had a lot of sauce on it. I also liked it because it was strongly flavoured.
On my first day of this stay, I got to eat Azerbaijani food which my host mom made for me. My host mom, she experienced Peace Corps at Azerbaijan, so she made exactly how her host family in Azerbaijan taught her how to cook. Lentil soup, soup made out of green vegetable, and some Azerbaijani tea. These were a completely new eating experiences for me.
We all met at the Smithsonian metro stop and headed to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. There, Russell a staff member at the museum, and some of his colleagues took us on a tour around the exhibits of the museum. The tour of the permanent exhibition took us through from the uprising of Nazis to the liberation of Jews, which ended the holocaust. After the tour, we were led to the temporary exhibit where they displayed some more information about the holocaust. Then we met Dr. Black, a historian at the museum who gave us a brief lecture of Japanese actions during the Holocaust. In the afternoon, we walked to the Tidal Basin and later on had a walking tour of MLK Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National WW2 Memorial, and Vietnam Memorial. During our walk to the Tidal Basin, some of us had the chance to see the First Lady.
One word that would simply describe my experience at the holocaust museum was ‘deep’. Every single one of the pictures, videos, and quotes all had a great message and everyone of them left me with shock, sadness, and greatness towards the life I am living now. From the debrief we had with Dr. Black, I learned how little interest Japan had on saving Jews during the holocaust. But I was surprised to hear that there was one Japanese who stood against the government to help the Jews flee to another country, which led to saving lives of many. MLK Memorial and Lincoln Memorial both had a giant sculpture of each man. Along the sculpture, messages said by them were engraved. As a Japanese student, these messages don’t have the same impact as it might to Americans, but I felt how big these heroes are even after decades after their appearance. Looking through the name of the victims at National WW2 Memorial, it made me really grateful for the peace that we are able to enjoy.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School