Shige’s Final Reflection

About a month before this program started, the alumni manager of TOMODACHI recommended me to participate in it. I was very glad to be able to get the chance to talk about Tohoku with the students who don’t come from Tohoku, and also to be able to visit DC to understand American culture. I actually got new perspectives and takeaways as well as other students. However to be honest, if I only participated in this program, there must be tons of things that I couldn’t get well because I couldn’t connect the takeaways I got to my real life. What I learned were just about Tohoku and DC, so I couldn’t understand them deeper like ‘It is necessary for us/me to take leadership.’ I know, but what is the leadership? Does leadership just mean passing down things or spread the knowledge we got?

After I got back to Japan, I had a chance to be a speaker in a speech competition and the speech must be related to international understanding. My topic was the importance of taking leadership for younger generation. My teacher told me to participate in it after my summer vacation, and the content of last presentation came up to my mind. Passing down what happened and what we learned, and take leadership in next generation. It was not only about Tohoku, wars and something sad, but also many other things.

I myself have an experience to be bullied just because I was a Chinese. I also have a friend who hopes to solve the aging problems. We are always thinking about some big happening to take an action, but there were tons of things we should take a leadership and solve. If I was asked what the social entrepreneur is, I’ll answer like it’s the spirit to take action even if it can only make small influence. I cannot say some decent things but when I look back to this program, and consider what I can do as a student, I think it is just bring interest in a lot of social issues and think what I can do. There was a person I’ve met who is working hard to solve LGBT issue, and she made a comment to high school students: ‘It is a hard and admirable thing to hold a big conference and impress 300 people, but if you talk to 1 person everyday, you’ll be able to impress the same number of people as holding a big C conference.’

I was strongly impressed by the people who try their best to make their dreams come true through this program. I’d like to do what I can, what I hope, what I am needed to do in my high school life.

Shigetatsu Nishigai
Sendai Nika High School

August 7: The day hit us like a hammer

Holocaust flameFumiya

Visiting the Holocaust Museum has become one of the biggest things that went through my mind on the importance of leader. Sometimes, even great leader who has power to convince people to follow him/her mislead people to wrong way. The Holocaust is typical example of such leadership. We need to consider not only skills but ideas and beliefs when we take leadership.

Caitie

I think today was one of the most difficult days for the DC side. The quilting thing was really fun, but in the morning we went to the Holocaust museum, and it was very emotionally draining. I had heard about this event many times, and I had even been to the museum in middle school, but we received a personal tour, and through this I learned a lot about the event, some things I think I didn’t even want to know, although its good that I do now. I learned that they didn’t just target Jews. I learned how diligently good people followed Hitler, and how scarily good of a leader he was. And I learned that America was given the chance to help, and they didn’t. Remember when I said it was hard to be proud of America? Today I definitely felt that way. Especially since this could happen again. And that’s scary. I hope this museum continues to educate people, so that this kind of tragedy won’t happen again. Because no one deserves what Hitler did to these people.

H.S.

I can say today was one of the most intense day in my whole life. We visited the Holocaust Museum, and learned the history of German Nazis and how Jewish people were discriminated against by the Nazis. Learning about Hitler, I was able to see how one person could change the world, and how people can be controlled if they are brain washed. There were many things we could learn from the museum, since the things exhibited in the Holocaust Museum were powerful enough to tell the story raw.

Y.A.

Today was just intense. Holocaust Museum in America is one of the two major Holocaust museums in the world. Every single piece exhibited in the museum surely moved me, well; I rather say I felt I got hit by a hammer. Every picture I saw, every voice I heard, tells the reality. The smell of the shoes, the temperature I felt was telling me the reality of Holocaust and how one man can drive people crazy. One thing I felt the museum and our tour guide tried to tell us was not to be a bystander and not to repeat this tragedy. To accomplish the museum’s will, I strongly felt the importance of being curious on outside world and collect right information. Collecting right information from right source would not just help not repeating the tragedy, but also could stop all the other wars happening right now, and even bullying and such kinds of stuff in normal life.

USHMM DiscussionShigetatsu

Today, we visited the Holocaust Museum. I actually didn’t know much about the German history related to World War.

I learned at school that there were lots of Jewish people caught by the nation and forced to live and work in the concentration camps. However the situation was much worse than I had expected. People were not treated as human.

Now in Japan, new security related legislation has decided to be adopted. The government says it’s impossible to cause war and being implicated to the war. However, I don’t think so. We have to learn from the past experiences and make good use of them. Whatever, it’s disaster or war, we must not allow the same nightmares to happen.

There were such tragedies like genocide in Germany. Why don’t we learn from that and make big effort to pretend the same thing happen? I considered how to let people know the facts and one of the answers was also telling the story. I’m going to try my best and hope it doesn’t happen again.

Andres

After viewing an emotion draining chain of pictures and films, I seem to wonder why, why did America not do anything about this mass murder of innocent people? Sure, big people from there matter, but for entertainment? No. Had the US have open arms, per se, to the Jews of Europe: The Holocaust would have never happened, Lives saved, more jobs (money) more SOLDIERS and maybe Hitler’s empire would have fallen quicker. It’s one of the few times where although the war was over and America won. They lost. They lost lives because of their poor actions to prevent it. And that is what we must remember to not repeat history.

USHMM Group Lge

August 4: Our Most Vivid Impressions

PROGRAM NOTE: On August 4th, the day started with a workshop presented by Operation Understanding DC (OUDC) to better understand prejudice and stereotypes.The day continued at the Thurgood Marshall Center in the historic Shaw community of Washington with a closer examination of historic and current issues affecting the African American community. Speakers included Rock Newman, Ronald Hampton, and the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop.

Rock and Ron GroupAndres

Today we spoke about prejudice and racism here in the United States. It was very powerful being in front of Rock Newman during his speech. He told the truth behind how the Police today even have bias for whites and blacks. Mr. Newman also treated us to soul food which was delicious. We had macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, collard greens, and BBQ meatballs. It was very delicious and at the same time while eating I consumed this knowledge of truth that prejudice still exists in America.

Soul Food9K.Y.

Out of all the talks, people and workshops we had interacted with today, what stood out most was Rock Newman`s discussion. The reason for this was the way he influenced the audience, his strong and magical words surged into each of us like a gush of wind. Because the words and his tone were full of determination and powerful legitimacy, I was initially moved and awe-stricken just by his presence. What he had expressed was the corrupt nation of the United States, which ‘everyone is equal and that people regardless of their skin color or size are treated equal’. He told stories of his past where he dealt with racial discrimination that proved opposite. He said everyone should be treated with mutual respect and dignity. I hope to pass on his courageous story to other people.

Rock Newman1Shigetatsu

I’d like to write about the Free Minds Book Club. I was impressed by them strongly because of their ways and thought and operation.

There are a lot of people who are in prison because they did something illegal. Most people, including me, tend to avoid communicating with the criminals. It’s a very natural thing but also a serious issue we need to tackle. Usually, we only see issues that are broadcasted widely like 3/11 tsunami or 9/11 terrorists attack. However there are various issues that are needed to be solved in our society.

FM Tara and MajorFree Minds Book Club is an organization which focuses on such issues and is now helping lots of people. We met Major who was a participant in Free Minds when he was in prison. He was not so sensitive and talkable but his stories he did share were very powerful. He also shared his poem on how he appreciates woman. Books also have significant meanings to help people get other perspectives and knowledge especially while they’re in prison.

I recognized that there are issues we are expected to consider that are surrounding us. Also we have to try to solve them in an effective way. Probably the whole procedure and solution to many of these problems is the social entrepreneurship. Free Minds is a really good example.

Free Minds Gift to Major SmilingY.A.

Things are busy and were kind of overwhelming for me today, though we are just starting the DC part of this program. In the morning, I have got two biographies and pictures two men we were to meet. One was a white man and the other one was a black man. Later it turned out my hypothesis and assumptions were not correct, but at that time, that is what I really thought. As I read the biographies I even thought “isn’t it hard for a white man to criticize the discrimination made by white man even though he knows it was a terrible thing?” In conclusion, both men I read about were black man and I was surprised.

One of them was Rock Newman who doesn’t seem like a black man at all. He had white skin, and also blue eyes. Even if I was not Asian, I would think even Americans would see Mr. Newman and think he was white. He told us his story of struggle of looking white although he is actually considered and categorized as a black man. Even though Barack Obama has been a president and there seems to be no discrimination or prejudice that exists between black and white persons, there are still some in people’s minds. Before Obama and earlier in time there was more discrimination between blacks and white as one could easily guess. And I think Mr. Newman had experienced what he didn’t need to experience. For example, he said a lot of whites talked to him making fun of black people or criticize black people since they thought he was a white man which would never happen if he looked like a black man. Since he is a black man, and since he chooses to live as a black man, and since he decided to fight for black men, he had to face these criticisms he didn’t have to face. As I just mentioned he didn’t use his “advantage” of looking like a white man at all in the time of segregation and prejudice. I was just surprised and amazed by his courage and power which makes this United States keeps succeeding with DIVERSE SOCIETY.

Ron Hampton2Caitie

Today was a lot of work on defying and understanding stereotypes and their power. The main lesson I took from OUDC, Free Minds, and the Rock and Ron conversations was that you cannot let stereotypes define you or anyone else. Stereotypes, whether positive or negative, leave you never able to understand the person for who they are. We cannot get rid of stereotypes, and we cannot just pretend they don’t exist. But instead, we can know they exist, and get to know the person for who they really are rather than your first impression. And I think that’s a really powerful lesson.

Nina

Thurgood Marshall4Today was very interesting, especially because we met in the Thurgood Marshall building in the U St neighborhood. I didn’t know this building even exists and I live in the same neighborhood! It proves that many young people don’t value the historical landmarks in our city or are just ignorant to their existence. During our meeting we got the privilege to meet and listen to Rock Newman. He made so many strong points about prejudices and racism back in the day. But the passion in Newman’s voice made his words even powerful. He was my favorite speaker of the day.

H.S.

Today we met a lot of new people who were so powerful that I had to form new perspectives inside me. We met Rock, who told us about his past, how black people have been treated, and how they are still treated now. His stories of prejudice against him were painful and powerful to hear. If I am to change the world somehow, I think I would have to be like Rock, to be able to even sacrifice yourself to save someone.

N.Y.

Today we went to Thurgood Marshall Center and listened to many stories. First story was from Rock Newman, who looks like a white person but is an African American. He told us his experience and it was very fearful. Also he talked about media. When news told about some crime, those criminals are mostly black people. News doesn’t report about white criminals as much a black criminal. This is why people’s image of black is bad. I thought mass media is fearful. Mass media can create people’s mind. Media have to report untold news. And we have to think of information we receive and question it.

Also, this is not related to today’s meetings but I want to share about some things I observed while walking in DC. In DC, there are many garbage cans on the street and we can dump trash easily. Actually, Dusan told me that this is one of his favorite points of DC. I think so too. In Japan, we cannot find garbage cans easily outside so usually we have to find stores and parks, which have garbage cans, or bring the trash back to our homes after carrying it all day. Maybe this is a reason that there is so much trash on the streets of Japan. I don’t understand why Japan doesn’t do the same system of DC or how DC can set garbage cans in so many place. I can’t grasp this as just “difference” and thought this is one of worse point of Japan. I wish I could change Japanese garbage system.

Dusan

Dealing with stereotypes is a way of life for many of the people on Earth, but so rarely do I hear it brought up in a serious fashion by those around me. Yet when it is, it’s something worth listening to, and today was no different. We heard a variety of narratives, but the one that truly stuck with me was the narrative of Major, a man who had recently been free from jail after six years confined. His style of talking held a lifetime of pain and conflict in it, talking that took thought to communicate effectively, talking that began in his growth.

Free Minds BookSome of the common stereotypes of a black man are that he is uneducated, lazy, and destined for prison. For Major, some of these stereotypes, it seemed, were a cruel way of life created by people simply not caring enough to stop this cycle. He was most definitely not lazy, but he was illiterate for a time and committed crimes out of simple necessity. After all, what would you do if you were hungry — no, starving — and out of options? Exactly. To sum it up in short, this was a way of life for a time, because no one cared. No one was there to redirect Major down a good path in his childhood, no one was there to help him grow, no one was there to allow him to not turn to that life — not until he reached Free Minds, people who cared, people who were consistent.

Nobody was trying to help, and stereotypes were only bars that kept him locked in. In society, we cannot understand anyone until we go beyond their face value. It’s easy to stop at someone’s face and define them off that alone, but that opens the floodgates for more misconceptions to grow, more bigotry to grow, more people to just disregard it. Because we took the time to understand Major, we’ve begun to acknowledge and break down our stereotypes, in turn breaking down ignorance. As Global citizens, that is a coming skill needed. As citizens of our community though? I believe now, more than ever, that the capacity to truly understand another, to empathize, is an obligation. It all starts with little steps, after all. So, until next broadcast.

N.M.

Today we were able to learn many stories about how the color of your skin could completely change your life. Major, who was taught to steal to live, told us about his eight years he spent in jail and his thoughts about what he did in the past. I was surprised when he said he didn’t regret what he did. He felt in a way thankful for his experiences because he was able to learn many things from them and is currently writing strong, powerful poems to express his thoughts and feelings.

Jarid

I felt like the discussions we had with Rock Newman today was one the most outstanding moments of the day. Newman talked about his experiences during his childhood dealing with being racially defined as black yet not exactly physically appearing it to others. I think that was a really important topic to bring up because a lot of the time people tend to write off the narratives of multiracial people in this country.

Today, we talked about stereotypes and the African-American experience in the United States. I think this is the first time that I felt invested in because I completely understood it. It feels nice being able to hear the experiences of people directly from their own mouths and not through an interpreter. No offense to interpreters, but having to hear someone else’s words reiterated back through a different language and a different person kind of depreciates the experience of listening to others’ stories for me…

August 3: First Impressions of DC

PROGRAM NOTE: On day one of the DC program, students attended a morning orientation at American Councils, followed by a presentation from Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to introduce the EverydayDC photo project. Then during the afternoon the group of 14 students traveled by chartered bus to areas and neighborhoods across the city, designed to expose them to both the federal Washington and the local “real” DC. The day ended with ice cream in Georgetown.

Aug 3 HS Blog compH.S.

Aug 3 HS Blog2 compSeeing the buildings, I noticed that I couldn’t find any tall buildings like we have in Tokyo. I’m not sure if this is related to the history and the culture of America, but I would like to try finding the reasons. Also, on my way to the American Councils, I took the metro train. Even though the train wasn’t clean, I thought the people on the train were polite. In Japan, people don’t really say “excuse me” when they bump into others, because it is normal for the train to be crowded and people trying to get in, pushing each other. But here, I saw people saying “excuse me” whenever they touched someone, or when it was the station they wanted to get off, and wanted people to move out of their way.

N.Y.

Today, we saw around DC in afternoon. I could find many differences between DC and Japan in the city and it was difficult to see similar points.

One of my surprising observations was that we could see a difference of poverty and wealth by a place. We went to the convergence of two rivers. One side of the river was a place where very wealthy people are living, and opposite side was a place that not so rich people are living. Although I had thought about poor people in the past, I hadn’t thought about the issue of difference between poverty and wealth in Japan. I was shocked. What we saw today are only parts of DC. I look forward to understanding more about DC and America during this program.

K.Y.

The days seem longer here in Washington D.C.; they are long days full of unexpected bombshells and random thunderbolts. On the crammed bus that reeked of sweat, I had the opportunity to take into account some of the daily lives of locals in the urban parts of DC. I want to express my impressions of the people on the streets here, particularly the African Americans we tended to see throughout the whole afternoon. What surprised me most were the overcrowded sidewalks; near the Lincoln Memorial, food trucks were crammed with patient customers. It was not only the number of people in line that caught my eye; I had never seen that many colourful trucks catering food to people on streets. Meanwhile, in a neighbourhood in Anacostia, some topless African American teenagers were on their bikes, enjoying basking in the sun. What left my eyes pinned at them were that most people there didn’t have clothes or “attire” that a majority of people acquire and wear in Japan; in other words, I could see a cultural difference between me and the locals. I also witnessed a cultural difference within one city. It was a fresh experience, as I got an insight into a new world.

Shigetatsu

As we toured DC I noticed two different points mainly.

What I was surprised at most was the diversity. Regardless of the skin colors and features, they don’t discriminate as much as Japanese do. Almost all people in Japan are Japanese so if there are some foreign people, Japanese avoid communicating with them or communicate as little they can. Japanese are afraid of foreign people even other Asians. It’s a kind of national character but also it’s so strong it can make foreigners feel uncomfortable.

Also there were a lot of memorials in DC to not forget the wars. The people in Tohoku also wanted to tell the stories to the next generation. I think DC would be a kind of example on how to convey and remember something important.

I know there is no better no worse. However the society in US is better for me because there are diverse people. Everyone is welcomed. Sometimes we are forced to be a stereotype in Japan and also discriminated if we are different. I used to be a Chinese and sometimes avoid people in Japan.   It was actually what I felt today but I’m excited to discuss a lot and how my thoughts will be changed.

Fumiya

While we’re taking photos of “Everyday D.C.”, I noticed that there are a lot of food trucks along the main street.

It was interesting because, we don’t have so much food trucks in Japan and it provides people with space and time to communicate with each other even in the hot weather. Also, people in D.C. are outgoing. So, no matter who you are, you can talk to people with some food from food trucks.

Everyday DC Fumiya1Y.A.

DC life started!!

This is my second time to come to U.S. First time, I went to New York, so it is my first time to come to Washington, DC. What caught my eyes here is the height of the buildings. Since it is a capital of the wealthiest country in the world, I thought there would be lots of high buildings as the center of the America. However, the actual buildings I saw today were not very tall; instead, they were large and well-designed like Roman architecture. My host family told me that in DC, the buildings taller than the Washington Monument are not allowed. I thought it is nice and cool that not making Washington just a “business” place but making the place more attractive and really for people live.

N.M.

On Caitie’s first day in Japan, she mentioned that the city was very colorful. At first, I didn’t understand what she meant; my impression is that huge gray buildings hover over you, shutting out the sunlight and the beautiful blue sky. But now that I saw a little bit of DC, I think I’m starting to understand what she was saying. Signs being very simple and the metro being dark are things that came up during today’s discussion. I also noticed that for ads, they tend to all have the same topic in one area, which makes it seem less busy whereas Japanese ads are all over the place and in many colors and styles.

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.

Fumiya

I look forward to trying some local food and meeting with new people to hear their ideas about the world.

Shigetatsu

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.

Y.A.

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.

N.M.

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.

H.S.

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.

S.M.

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.

K.Y.

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.

N.Y.

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.

Shigetatsu – Reflections on Minamisanriku

I’d like to write about two major issues I felt today. I visited Ookawa Elementary School, Togura Junior High School and the Minamisanriku Evacuation Center and also heard the stories from Ms. Abe.

Shigetatsu Blog School 7.22.151. Secondary disaster caused by artificial mistakes.

Most of the children at Ookawa Elementary School have passed away by the Tsunami. The principal was not in the school and administrative chain of command wasn’t clear at that time. The teachers wasted a lot of time by discussing where to evacuate and how to do so. The lack of direction and leadership was the reason so many children and people died, not the tsunami.

In contrast, at Togura Elementary School large earthquakes had been happening in the past few days before 3/11. They held a teachers’ meeting and confirmed how to evacuate from tsunami. The school also practiced daily. No students died in this school.

I know it’s not a thing to compare with but I learned it’s possible that through proper preparation, lives can be saved. I can contribute to society by sharing with individuals how to notice and how to prepare for disasters. We can decrease the number of people who lose their important things but mainly decrease the amount of lives lost just by preparing for the worst.

2. The conflict between Minamisanriku citizens.

The conflict between the administration and citizens of Minamisanriku city is clear. There are some issues to discuss such as seawalls, raising ground, supporting local businesses and building the stadiums. The administration has planned and is implementing many projects even if citizens disagree. During our farm stay, I heard from my host mother that a lot of citizens want the Mayor and his administration to do something other than just ground raising. She felt there should be more engagement for young people and greater support for local businesses, not just tourist locations.

There is also conflict between Shizugawa and Utazu. Minamisanriku city was made by combining Shizugawa city and Utazu city. Nowadays they’re both areas of Minamisanriku city but there are some conflicts. Many volunteers only go to the Shizugawa side of town to assist and aid them. According to my host mother and some locals, ‘Utazu City’ is often ignored and doesn’t receive equal support.

However, what people desire is the same, they hope to make their town a better place. Each person and all people deserve to have their different opinions and concerns represented.

There are a lot of complicated issues difficult to solve surrounding disaster response and reconstruction. I’m learning that rebuilding after a disaster is really difficult and emotional. How people feel depends on where they are and their experiences in and out of the disaster. I can tell these stories with the hope of assisting with reconstruction of disaster areas in the future.

Shigetatsu Nishigai
Sendai Nika High School

My empathy at disaster area

Blog Ishinomaki Shigetatsu.7.21.15I visited Ishinomaki today. This wasn’t the first visit for me but I was able to think about many things.

In Ishinomaki I have a friend who lost their grandparents in the tsunami. He told me about the situation as soon as the huge earthquake happened and it was much worse than I saw today. There are still various issues in Ishinomaki we have to solve but compared to other disaster areas, the construction is progressing well in my impression.

I reflected on the many people who were spending normal days of their lives before they died. During our walk through Ishinomaki and our group’s discussion many topics related to 3.11 emerged. Being from Tohoku region, I shared with everyone some examples of issues that residents are discussing throughout Tohoku. For example, the sea walls in Kesennuma and the ground raising in Yuriage. It made me realize fixing a disaster is quite complicated, but it seems Ishinomaki is progressing. Anyway, even among the people who suffered from the disaster, there are many different opinions on how to rebuild a disaster area.

Every time I visit a disaster area, I think of what is the most efficient way is to contribute to Tohoku and what role I can play in its reconstruction. I must not be a person who is satisfied by doing activities that don’t make any sense. My aim on this program and goal of visiting Ishinomaki is to learn about social entrepreneurship and make good use of my projects to eventually support Nepal. I look forward to visiting more places, speaking with locals and learning more about social entrepreneurship. Today’s exploration was just another beginning to me helping Tohoku.

Shigetatsu Nishigai
Sendai Nika 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
(Fumiya)

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
(Shigetatsu)

Hot day in Akihabara
Long walk in electrical world
Don’t play the crane game
(H.S. and Andres)