Minpaku, stay rich in nature

I had a great experience with my host family in Minamisanriku. I stayed at the Minpaku with Natsuho, Shawma and Raven. My host father was a local fisherman and he used to be a sailor so he has been many places all over the world. I felt I was traveling around the world by listening to his stories. This experience made me notice the power of telling stories. However, Natsuho and I had to translate his stories into English for two girls from D.C. because he could not speak English so much. The most difficult thing in translating was to keep interest. When I translated his story to English, the story had less interest than his own story. I thought that I really want to improve my English skill to be able to tell attractive stories with my own words.

Looking down at the beautiful ocean at Utatsuzaki

After going to the Lotus flower festival, our host father took Natsuho and me for a drive. We saw a lot of new houses on the hill, and when we looked down, there was always ocean. I liked the view from the tip of the peninsula the best. We also saw the difference between bay and out of bay. There are whitecaps outside of the bay, but no whitecaps at the bay. Our host father said that this is one of the reasons why Minamisanriku is famous for cultivation. We also heard about his childhood in Minamisanriku. There was no road but nature. I felt that people grown up in towns filled with nature would know how to coexist with nature. I hope that the ways to respect nature will be never forgot.

Yuuki Takashima
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

To make people smile again …

Today, we had three activities at Minamisanriku which is a town affected badly by the Tsunami six years ago. First of all, we talked to Mr. Muraoka, the local fisherman, and had barbecue lunch with him. He talked about the effects of the disaster on his fishery and its process of recovery. We learned how powerful the nature is from his real story. However, they, the fishermen and people living in this town, respect the nature and try to co-exist with it even though the earthquakes and Tsunami destroyed their daily lives.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, my teacher told me about the power of disaster, especially earthquake and tsunami, and the ways to protect our lives from the disasters at school, but I didn’t know the value of nature at all. I felt sorry about it and this weird thing, as a person who lives in a city, that people has never experienced the tsunami keep telling fear of tsunami and importance of preparation for earthquake, without telling the value of nature. One more thing that I was impressed from his story was they not only respect nature, but they trust it. He said that he is never worried about passing his job on to next generation even though the population of fishery in this town is decreasing, because he believes that the nature has enough power to attract the youth. I’d like to work on spreading this idea of having appreciation to nature after I go back to my town.

Next, we visited Women’s Eye which is a group trying to support women by providing jobs. We saw the process of making silk from cocoons. After the earthquake, there are many women who are good with their hands and good at careful consideration to everyone, but they had no jobs to show their skills. From this activity and other activities I had done, I noticed that the age and gender don’t matter for contributing to community. Only the passion is required.

Hand made cocoon octopuses

Lastly, we went to “YES factory”. YES factory has a lot of projects to make Minamisanriku energized again. One of the projects was to promote the town through the products of mascot character, “okutopasu-kun”. An owner of this company has been trying hard to make the products humorous such as “Okuto-pantsu,” which is combination of octopus and pants (shorts in English). He is also one of the survivors from the disaster and he said that we’d never be able to come over lots of hardships without these humors. These products made people smile again and gave them courage to live even after the disaster.

Today, we saw many works going on in Minamisanriku and all of them were to help revive the town and bring smiles again.

Yuuki Takashima
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

New eyes for Japanese culture

Today, I woke up with full of energy because I slept for 18 hours yesterday! However, I used all the energy to visit the Edo Tokyo Museum and Asakusa. For me, I also used the energy to get on the train in the morning too, because it’d been more than 2 weeks from the last time to get on Japanese trains in the lash hours. I was so tired that I slept for whole the time riding on the train to go back home in the evening.

We met at Ninja House and it was the first time for me to see everyone since we left the Narita Airport. I was excited about the program in Japan which has just started today, and I was trying to have fresh eyes toward Japanese cultures including history. Visiting the Edo Tokyo Museum was my first try to see the Japanese history with my new eyes. Comparing to the museums in D.C., I was surprised at the ways to tell its history. They had not only exhibitions of items, panels nor models, but we could try ourselves some of the cultures such as a palanquin, banner for firefighters, and so on. We could also feel the weight of a thousand-Ryou (a billion yen). I saw the children looking at exhibitions and writing worksheets too. In this way, this museum is trying to tell its story by so many different ways. I think we can learn some of the ways to tell our stories from this museum.

After walking around Asakusa, I hosted Skyy at my house. It was my first time to host someone so I was a little nervous but after we cooked Takoyaki together and ate them, I started enjoying.

It was enjoyable day today but we also learned about Japanese history and culture. It might be difficult for D.C. students to follow the Japanese rules at temples and even streets. I hope I can help them and I can remind them myself, too.

Yuuki Takashima
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS

Japanese Favorites!

Ready for take off! Our Japanese TOMODACHI students reflect on their favorite things from the DC part of the exchange. Now on to Japan!

Favorite Food: Cheese. I had the chance to try out various kinds but above all, I truly recommend Brie.
Favorite Place: Busboys and Poets.
Favorite Memory: At the dorm, playing hand games and card games or just talking about random stuff with my friends from DC.

Favorite Food: Lasagna (by host father) and banana bread (host mother).
Favorite Place: Farmer’s Market.
Favorite Memory: Time playing board games with my host family.

Favorite Food: Macaroni and cheese.
Favorite Place: Takoma Park.
Favorite Memory: I cooked Japanese food but my host family couldn’t eat it.

Favorite Food: Fried chicken.
Favorite Place: Busboy and Poets. I want to have it in Japan.
Favorite Memory: The day I went to see the stadium with my host family. The stadium was so large.

Favorite Food: American soul food, in particular, macaroni and cheese.
Favorite Place: My host family’s home and bowling place and the river.
Favorite Memory: I like Marco Polo and skating!

Favorite Food: Steak! I went to the LongHorn Steakhouse with my host family,and it was delicious!
Favorite Place: Military base! I went with my host family!
Favorite Memory: TOMODACHI!

MLK Reflections


We went to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. There are a lot of quotations which Martin Luther King Jr said. We have a lot of choice but I chose this one.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

I like this sentence. It is because this is totally truth and makes me feel stay in positive. And this is most simple to understand. I think simple to understand is important and simple sentence has strong power. It is because we can understand it directly.


I found this quote really inspiring because it first started off with an obvious metaphor, that darkness with darkness is still in darkness and light is needed, so the same logic can be easily applied to a simple yet difficult answer. If one retaliates and fights back with hate, we would never be able to break the endless cycle of hatred. Only love can pull us all out of it. LOVE trumps hate.


“I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”

This is my favourite quote because this quote tells us not only the importance of peace but the historical background on it. MLK joined the anti-Vietnam War movement, although his action was not accepted for other African Americans. I am proud of his bravery which gave us peace for today and tomorrow.

Bryson – Speech for Ordinary Freedom:

“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”

As a person who is fascinated (and horrified) by the circumstances of both World Wars, Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from a speech in California in 1967 instantly caught my attention. There have been protestors during various wartimes who advocate against war, but I have felt as though something was always missing from their movements. Dr. King identified that for me in the second sentence of this quote; “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” Movements against violence and tyranny are inherently positive in my opinion, but I agree with Dr. King that those movements must also consist of an effort to improve human conditions as they protest the powers that worsen them.

When Shizumi Manale visited our class last Thursday, I was moved by her film about the Hiroshima Children’s Art Project. Her inclusion of the reaction that a reverend of All Souls Church had to an A-Bomb cake which was served at an American military dinner, after the Japanese surrendered in 1945, provoked sadness, anger, and disgust in my mind simultaneously. The movement by that same reverend, and the people of All Souls Church, to help the children impacted by the United States atomic bombing of Hiroshima was inspiring to me. Not only did the community at All Souls speak against the shameful practices of the United States armed forces, they took action to help the people who were the targets of those practices. In my opinion, that response to injustice is a successful application of Martin Luther King Jr’s quote on the successful stoppage of war.


“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” Norway, 1964

I like this quote because we can see the background of American history. From the word “audacity,” we could see that they needed to be brave to express themselves in 1964, and what they expressed were ordinary things currently. I felt sad that they didn’t have their freedom; however, I’m also relieved that they expressed themselves.

Shawma – Question what is not Questioned

What makes a MAN? Who makes a MAN? Some people are born into this world living their lives without ever questioning anything. Then you have others who question everything that crosses their path. Martin Luther King was one of those people. He was born into a world where it is normal for a person to be judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Martin Luther King was a MAN because it was not in the moments of comfort and convenience where he stood, it was at times of challenge and controversy where he questioned what was normal.

I question what is normal. Identified by the color of my skin. Why do people care what I am? They should care who I am.The term African American is used as a normal term to identify me, but I am not African. I am not African American. My father nor mother are African. My father is a Jamaica immigrant, my mother is half white and half black. I don’t and never will I understand why I am called African American. I have African ancestry in my blood but I also have European ancestry in my blood. Why do people pick the ancestry that defines me?

If an African immigrant immigrated to the US and becomes a US citizen does it make them African American? Africans who become US citizens are the true African Americans. When I speak out about this, people think I hate my skin color. This is not true. I love my skin but I will not be called something I am not. Why do we live in a society where it is ok for a job application to ask for my nationality? Why do you care about the color of my skin? Does the color of my skin determine whether I get the job or not? For me I like to be called black. Black is a term used for all people who have brown or dark skin. Black is not defined by where you come from; it’s defined by all people who have darker skin. Black is unity, but African American is division. I speak out and question the world because comfort and convenience do not lead me a step forward in the right direction. In times of challenge and controversy lead me in the right direction.


This quote stands out to me because it reminds me of the time in 6th grade, when I was struggling to make reliable friends. My family would tell me to find friends who would stick with me through thick and thin, not the ones that I can just have a stable conversation with. Now I compare the friends I have now to the “friends” I had then, and I think of a time I was sad at the lunch table, over a completely stupid reason, and everyone was worried about me, but the “friends” I had in the 6th grade would just brush off my depression. Advice like the ones in this MLK quote taught me the types of people I should surround myself with and the types of people I can trust.

Weekend Home Stays

Nice tender family – by Natsuho

I played tennis with Rey and her host father. We took a bicycle to the place where we can play tennis but it made me little bit tired because it was hot and we have to go up many hills. It was my first time to play tennis but it was really fun for me because Rey’s host father is a tennis coach so he was good coach for me too. After we played tennis we were going back to my host family’s house and having a nice lunch. We had cheese, sausages, vegetables and so on. Cheese is one of my favorite food and US has many kinds of cheese so I am happy to eat them. After we ate our lunch we played a puzzle together. I never do puzzle with my family but it is good thing to play puzzle with family because we can have nice conversations. What I found from this weekend experiences is family should do something together to be a nice tender family.

New TOMODACHI – by Ryotaro

My host family and I went to the Chesapeake Beach on the weekend. It was raining in the beginning, but it turned to hot sunny weather. I swam in the water with my host family, and we had fun. I also talked with a fisherman, a man who was flying a kite, and people who were playing American football. I found it interesting talking with the people, and everyone was friendly. On the beach, there were people who were playing soccer. I asked them if I can join them, but they only spoke Spanish. I used gestures to join in, and they let me in. I played beach soccer with them and enjoyed. I also learned some Spanish and taught Japanese using gestures as well. I became friends with them and took pictures! This was the most wonderful experience this weekend and it was great!

I learned that we can connect and be TOMODACHI through sports, gestures, and smiles, even when we cannot communicate by using language.

Ko’s Weekend

Saturday was my host sister’s birthday. We strolled around the Eastern Market in the morning. It was so crowded, and there were many shops. Other than shops, there were many people who sold paintings made by themselves. It was wonderful to see many people expressing themselves.

In the evening, we went to Georgetown to celebrate Taylor’s birthday. I met Taylor’s friends, and they were very friendly. One of her friends had a sleepover at my house, so we watched a movie “Karate Kid” until late at night.

Sunday, I woke up late because we had nothing to do. So we went to the Lincoln Memorial at noon. At the Memorial, I found a plate that said “MLK was here.” It was a great view. Inside there was a big statue of Lincoln. I was so surprised to see people from many countries came to see Lincoln.

On the way home, I took a photo of me with the Capitol.

In the evening, I went to a house of my host mother’s friends to do a barbecue. He was a professor in a university in China, so many Chinese students came too. I learned many things about China.

This weekend, I had experienced many things. I am satisfied!!

Try New – by Yuuki

My host family always helps me to try new things. In my host family, there are no children but we have two cats. My host mother and father taught me how to play with the cats since I’d never played with cats. On Saturday, I spent a whole day with my host family. We made waffles together and went to a farm market in the morning. It was my first time to go to a farm market and there are a lot of fruits and vegetables which I saw for the first time. In the evening, we went to the vegan restaurant at Clarksville and I tried a burger with BBQ sauce. Ice “cream” was my favourite. They teach me many board games too. We’ve already played three board games and there are more at home. I enjoy having time with them and every time I get something new.

Sunday was a day I walked a lot. I visited the National Zoo with Chi and Bryson. I saw many animals I haven’t met before. The photo shows orangutans walking on the wire. We played Pokemon Go there and headed for Bryson’s house. I played with his three dogs and read some of his Manga. It was such a nice day for me.

I am glad that I had great friends and host family. I will continue trying new things without forgetting my feelings of appreciation for them.

Hide’s Weekend

This is my diary entry about my weekend. On Saturday, my host family, Ryotaro and I went to Chesapeake Beach. I played with kites with a stranger on the beach. He was very kind and friendly. I also talked with a fisherman because I like fishing. The bait was bigger than what I use in Fukushima’s river. I had a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we went bowling. The bowling area is in the military base. We had hamburgers and fries for snacks. The meat was thick. I used honey-mustard in my burger. It was my first time but I liked it. At home, I played with my host brothers and sisters. We played with wii and a Japanese game called “darumaotoshi.”

This weekend was a lot of fun because I was able to experience many things.

Rey’s Weekend

This weekend with my host family was superb! We didn’t go anywhere special or fancy but instead we experienced what their usual weekends were like. For instance on Saturday, we biked up and down the steep hills to get to a tennis court, and played tennis early in the morning. Even though I’ve never played tennis before, my host father taught me how to swing the racket and we were all playing a game in no time. After tennis, we went to our neighbor’s house for lunch. Because I told them I love cheese, they got me various kinds of cheese I’ve never eaten before including the Havarti. They were so good I couldn’t stop reaching for a piece right after another! The two families also got together to complete a kite puzzle which was quite an achievement.

Developing Ideas

Today, we had three activities that developed my ideas. First of all, we went to Busboys & Poets at the U Street Corridor and we met with Andy Shallal, businessman and activist. Busboys & Poets is not only a restaurant, but a community for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers, as we could see a lot of arts and quotes on the wall. It creates a place where everyone is welcomed and treated equal. In his story of experiences, his decision that leads to success was very impressive. This story reminds me of the importance of passion which allows us to succeed in life and make the world better.

Next, we shared Japanese culture with elementary school students. After introducing ourselves and demonstrating Sumo, we taught them numbers in Japanese, paper Sumo, and Origami. I was in the Origami group so we taught them how to make Japanese Samurai Hats (they are called Kabuto in Japanese), paper fortune tellers and paper cranes. We made them as a choice so that the children could choose one of them. In this activity, I felt regret about the lack of preparation. When we planned this activity the day before, we were going to teach how to make paper Shuriken to those who had finished making the paper fortune teller or the hat. In fact, it wasn’t possible to make paper Shuriken because we had no time. That was our mistake: we didn’t think enough about the time. I can say the lack of preparation happened to me too, since I knew what I was going to make, but I didn’t know how to teach them in English. I realized the difficulty of explaining our culture in English. However, one thing that made me happy was when they said they enjoyed learning Japanese culture. It was only an hour but I had a lot of things that I learned from this activity. I hope the children we taught were interested in Japanese culture or learning new cultures somehow.

In the evening, we had a Quilting Workshop with Jacqueline Armstrong. We learned about quilting a little, and we drew our own quilt. Quilting is one of the ways to express our ideas by drawing. Our topic for drawing was what we learned in this week since our program started. I was a little afraid of this task when I saw the sample from last year because they were great and attractive, but I enjoyed expressing my ideas through drawing once I started. Although we had the same experiences and the same topic, everyone drew in a different way and each picture had different meanings. I found that this was the reason why people try to express their ideas through art.

In conclusion, today was very influential for me. Activities in the morning and evening developed my ideas. I believe that we can learn from the mistakes, as I did at the teaching activity. All the activities in this program helped me grow up. Not only during this program but also after this program, I would like to absorb as much as I can and grow up myself.

Yuuki Takashima
Keio Shonan Fujisawa SHS