The future starts today, not tomorrow

Five days passed after our arrival at Tohoku. Today was one of the most inspired programs – Fishery and Forestry. Although there are many things which I would like to write about it, I preface first talking about the Japanese guest house, the Minshuku. I had a prejudice about the Minshuku in Japan, and I presumed that all of the Minshuku were an old Japanese house. However, everything overturned after staying at the Minshuku Tsujiken and Sitamiti in Kesennuma and Minamisanriku. It was a satisfactory stay for me, and I hadn’t any inconvenience during my sojourn there. It was like the Japanese-style hotel. I was astounded and felt chastened for having such discourteous misapprehension about the Minshuku. Every day was a new and eye opening experience, and I was bewildered toward food and culture which I couldn’t encounter in the Kanto region.

Meanwhile, about my day, I woke at 6:00 am and walked around the refreshing waterfront street with the other exchange students who were awake. Comparing to the Kanto region, the temperature was more than five degrees lower, and I had the comfortable stay in Tohoku. We walked and ran for an hour and headed back to our room and took morning bathing which invigorated my brain to participate in today’s program.

We ate nutritious Japanese breakfast; white rice, hijiki, mackerel, seaweed, and steamed fish paste. I hadn’t eaten healthy food for succession, so my body felt different from a month ago. After having delicious food, we had a brief dialogue about today’s plan and started to get ready for it.

We headed to Shizugawa Bay and met with Mr. Kenichi Muraoka, and his wife Mrs. Kinuko, who work in fishery in Minamisanriku. He talked to us about the industry of wakame, a brown seaweed native to the coasts of Japan. Shizugawa was one of the places which were influenced by the great earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011. They almost lost everything by the calamity. Notwithstanding, without ceasing, they recovered to how things used to be. It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop (Confucius, Founder of the Confucianism). Hearing their life experience, I have learned the importance of never giving up, even if I face difficulty. Furthermore, it made me think about the way to live magnificently without ambiguity.

Subsequently, having fresh seafood cuisine with Muraoka-san, we moved to the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council), authorized forest managed by Sakyu corporation, taking the bus. For the plan, we were told to walk around the forest and feel the nature.  Unfortunately, the weather was rainy, and the schedule was almost canceled. Nevertheless, we stated our real intention to walk in nature, and they accepted our exploration of the forest. For the guide, we met with Mr. Taichi Sato. He was a unique person, and I had the strong impression left inside me. Through his activity, I realized the importance of the existence of the forest to circulate and sustain the community.

Saving nature correlates to saving our lives. This word strongly left behind inside my solicitude. I would like to reflect intensely on the community and take measures to revitalize my society to generate the immeasurable globe.

Shunsuke Watando
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

Without haste, but without rest

As today was the second day of arrival in Japan, the jet lag remained in the body. Although jet lag remained in my body, a firm intention of spending my time to my advantage pushed me to have a will to sleep as quick as possible. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to sleep till 3:00 am, and I woke up at 6:00 am. I arrived at Nogata station before 12:00 pm. Nogata is located in Nakano-Ku, in the metropolis Tokyo, and it was far from my house, because my house is located in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was uncomfortable riding on the metro in Tokyo for me because the time was the commuter rush hour. However, this view changed after perceiving that it will be a great opportunity to teach one of the Japanese typical livelihood cultures to the students who will homestay at my house, Carlos and Miles, from Washington D.C.

I had a rendezvous with other students at Nogata station and I was able to arrive on time. After meeting with everyone, we headed to share house which was a 10 minute walk from the station. I’ve never walked around the residential area in Nakano. Therefore, I was interested in what kind of the place which isn’t generally known in Tokyo by looking at it objectively. There weren’t the major differences between my neighborhood and Nogata. If anything, I found that the area of Nogata was the place where it is more densely built-up than my neighborhood. The share house was called the smart house in Japan and it was the place it aggregated the latest technology for the house.

We first started with the Japan Program Orientation by discussing the cultural difference between Japan and Washington D.C. It was very interesting to learn about the different cultural observation from the same generation with a different background. A student from Washington D.C had given a list of new findings in Japan and it increased my curiosity toward their views. There were many things in their discoveries which I was so familiar with, so it was refreshing to learn how they felt. There is a word, “caution is the eldest son of wisdom” (Victor Marie Hugo) and it was the word which suited me. It means, there isn’t anything more frightening than something you are used to. Through my own experience, I was able to realize the importance to take precautions to the thing all around me.

After having fulfilled discussion, we went to the Edo Tokyo Museum near Ryogoku station. Around this area, there is Ryogoku Kokugikan, which Japanese sumo wrestler takes the match at it. We weren’t able to get inside but it was a great experience to get near to the Holy Land of sumo. Passing the building of sumo, we saw an unusual structure which it was Edo Tokyo museum. We used escalator which it was rarely seen from my life experience. 150 years passed since the end of the Edo period and it seemed fresh for me to look inside the museum. There were many things which I couldn’t learn at the school textbook and it was the valuable experience for me to see the history of Edo.

Riding on the Toei Asakusa line, we arrived at Asakusa which it is one of the famous sightseeing spots in Japan. We walked under Kaminari gate and went to Asakusa Shinto shrine. We enjoyed browsing around the shop and eating Japanese confectionery.

For dinner, we ate Okonomiyaki which it is a Japanese savory pancake and astonishment of students from Washington D.C made me enjoy watching it. I believe that they would be able to find many new discoveries through the rest of the journey in Japan and I would like to carefully support them with the heart of Omotenasi.

Shunsuke Watando
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

Innovation to expand the connection

Today was a day saying goodbye to host family’s daughter and mother because they have to meet their friends in Florida. I’ve enjoyed my week here with them and they supported two Japanese exchange students with having hospitality. In addition, I have to say bye to my roommate, Keiichiro, because he is also getting out of the house to meet with his new host family, located on the other side of my host family’s house in Washington D.C. I had a great time with them but now I’ll have a different time, only two men in the house and I’m looking forward to seeing the differences in it.

I’ve got out of the house at 7:15 am and we used the car to the nearby train station: Takoma. We used red line till the Fort Totten station and changed to the green line to head to the Columbia Heights station. We arrived early because we got late yesterday due to the transportation by the construction of a few stations on the red line. We forgot about it because the construction began just this week. Meeting with the other students in the station, we rushed to CHEC: Columbia Heights Education Campus.

Firstly, we consulted with D.C students about the yesterday’s community service, teaching to elementary and middle school students at Walker-Jones Education Campus. Then we came up with a slogan: teaching from what we learn.

Big ideas from our debrief on our Walker-Jones EC teaching experience.

After that, we briefly brainstormed about the things which Japanese students viewed or thought in Washington D.C. till today and we presented to the students from Washington D.C. We had a few questions which we didn’t understand but after having discussions, the possible solutions came out and it made me have none of the doubt about detailed information. Then we talked about the things to do in the final presentation.

After the discussion, we started the workshop on Free Minds Book Club and Writing. Free Minds uses the book and creative writing to empower young inmates to transform their lives. After meeting with the people, I was able to realize the existence of such an important organization. We were able to learn from the backgrounds of people who used to be in the prison or is in the prison now. I was astonished by their poetry skills and it stimulated my interest in learning more about the poems.

Afterward, we headed to Farragut North to get to the office of the CSIS: Center for Strategic and International Studies. The office was an attractive interior decorating which was seldom in Japan. All of the exchange students were fascinated by the designs as I was one of them. CSIS was a major think tank in the US and we met with Matthew P. Goodman and his business colleagues. Think tank is the corporation organized to study particular issues and provide information, ideas, and advice. Through the program, I was able to learn the importance of the language as they mentioned, ”Language is the best way to have a connection.”

Lastly, we discussed the career panel with the women who worked in The United States or have a connection with Japan. Those people were looking forward to seeing more female leadership in Japan. It was a great opportunity to hear their real intention. Moreover, I was able to learn the importance of a good connection with friends from their life experience and I aspire to keep relation with the TOMODACHI exchange students.

Shunsuke Watando
Keio Shonan Fujisawa 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.

The Day to Leave

In the morning, we woke up at 7:00 am and ate meals which it was yesterday evening’s Chinese food leftovers. Today was the day in which we checked out of the George Washington University dorm and this place made me and Japanese students get used to American lifestyle from the first day of arrival. We stayed here for three days and we had found the great difference between Japan and America. The most memorable difference which I found today was the diversity in the community. We were able to see many nationalities in the dorm and around the neighborhood. Although it was the first time to meet each other, people were talking politely. I have been impressed greatly by the national characteristics of America in Washington, D.C.

That aside, at the beginning of today’s program, we learned to the way of blog and journal  at Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC). I had experienced writing journal before, but I have not had a chance to write a blog, so I was excited to write it or see others.

After having a quick review, we have done the Slam Poetry Workshop with Regie Cabico, who was a professional of poetry in America. We first moved our body to express our feelings and personalities to write our own poetry. Then we took the pen to write poetry about our life experiences. After that, we made a presentation in front of everyone to share individual ideas. We have achieved poetry skills which we didn’t know before, and it was a very satisfying time for me.

An hour and a half later, we met with a professor Clarence Lusane from Howard University, which is a private institution that was founded in 1867 and a historically black university (HBCU) in Washington, D.C. He had talked about race and diversity in the local society here. After hearing his lecture, I had a doubtful point left reminded: why the race problems wouldn’t be gone. Through the discussion, we Japanese students were able to learn about a new conception to the current events in the world, and I have deeply considered about the race problems. I would like to find a conclusion deduced with using my skills of observation and analysis in Washington, D.C. and Japan by comparing the difference and similarities.

It was nearly 1:00 pm and we entered the stylish restaurant, El Pollo Sabroso, located at Mt. Pleasant St. It was a specialty restaurant of Latin food and I particularly like Tacos. This plate was a recommendation from D.C student, Daniel, and I liked it.

After having lunch, we visited Carlos Rosario School and this place teaches English to adults who are training for a career from abroad. We met with the diverse immigrants and the most memorable person was a woman from Ethiopia. She came to America a year ago and she thanked the school repeatedly for supporting her life. The most memorable phrase was ”got a new life,” as if she was trying to notify us of the existence of great opportunity in Washington, D.C. The school was similar to the public school in America, and I liked the atmospheres of the place where students learning.

Lastly, we headed back to CHEC: Columbia Heights Education Campus. Continuing with yesterday’s Photography Workshop, we learned about photography and interviewing from Sydney Combs, who’s very active at the forefront of her journalism. I learned the interview skills from a professional journalist and the useful phrase which she told us was, ”Tell me about it,” or ”explain about it.” By using these phrases in the interview, it will make conversation to be an enjoyable one. The important things in the photograph are to take from the same height and choose a background which makes people be natural. It was inconceivable to me as she added that eyes have a lot of details in the photograph, because I have never focused on it.

Shunsuke Watando
Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School