Travelling to Japan with the Kakehashi TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars was an incredible experience that allowed me to improve my cultural awareness, forge everlasting friendships, and build upon my love for Japan and Japanese culture.
Despite just having met each other the night before, everyone was so friendly! We all shared a common excitement for the trip that permitted us to begin our friendships from our first moments together.
Upon arrival in Japan, we were greeted by an impressively maintained airport, in terms of cleanliness, as well as Ichikawa-san, our incredibly organized coordinator, and other Kakehashi Project members. Tired from the eight to nine hour plane ride, we leisurely gazed outside the tour bus window on our long ride to the hotel.
The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum provided insight about the history of Japanese immigration to such countries as Brazil and the United States. We received a lecture that explored the diverse identities of Nikkei. The museum displayed various exhibits that were oddly familiar (spam musubi, photo of family of Nikkei in aloha shirts)
The Japanese Open-Air Folk House Museum displayed an impressive preservation and replication of traditional homes.
Today, we left Yokohama for Fukuoka. Many of us were impressed by the considerate and efficient nature of Japanese people; passengers who had more pressing flight times were moved to the front of the check-in line by airport staff. In many cases in the US, we have to ask others in line for permission to be moved forward.
Umegae Mochi Activity
Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine
Unfortunately, our cherry blossom viewing was limited to one tree. Still, we had a wonderful time exploring the beauty of Ohori Park. Parks back home certainly are not as elaborate. We also enjoyed a picnic-style lunch that included three different flavors of musubi and a bento with chicken karaage. I was surprised every time at how perfectly juicy and crisp the Japanese prepared fried chicken.
Toyota Motors Factory Tour
I was absolutely amazed at the dedication and efficiency of Japanese line workers at the Toyota Motors Factory! None of the workers showed any signs of fatigue or boredom despite their repetitive tasks.
During our lunch with the Kyushu University students, Kelli and I met Hinako-san, who is an agriculture major. Although there was a language barrier between us, we were still able to communicate the personal aspects of our lives. She enjoys watching movies and playing tennis; her favorite parts of her trip to Hawai`i were the volcanoes and natural landscapes. Hinako-san has two brothers and is currently taking five courses, amazingly all in agriculture! I hope to one day see her pursuing her career in the field on her Instagram or Facebook account.
The Japanese Tea House Garden was an absolutely relaxing and peaceful experience. The garden is said to extend the lifespan by at least ten years! We learned about respect through the Tea Ceremony. Before drinking the tea, you must turn the cup to humble yourself to respect the person who prepared the tea. As thanks, you turn the cup back to its original orientation when finished. We (mostly Alvin) also made a new pigeon friend. Leisurely strolling through the garden was a lovely experience.
Today we stuffed ourselves with a buffet-style sukiyaki and shabu shabu dinner! This was the first time I actually dipped meat into raw egg as per sukiyaki style. At home, when my family has hot pot, my dad and brother always dip their meat into raw egg; I never did. It was delicious!
We moved back to Tokyo and Yokohama and had a wonderful day at the Tokyo Skytree, Edo Tokyo Museum, and Alumni Dinner party. It was quite incredible hearing about the different experiences from each alumni. A question that was posed to us during an icebreaker was along the lines of, “What did you like most about the country you visited?” One surprising answer from a TOMODACHI alumni who went to America was, “Freedom.”
(Day 8 and reflections)
Last day of the trip and we were ready to go home to finally catch up on Spring Break sleep, but not ready to part with our fellow Kakehashi TOMODACHI Inouye scholars, chaperones, and program guides. Through the many buffet-style meals, museums, and day-to-day experiences, we definitely had the full experience. We all shared an unforgettable experience in Japan. I certainly will cherish the absolutely wonderful memories of this trip forever and will take with me the admirable values in Japanese society. I hope these people-to-people relationships forged through this program will remain for a lifetime and longer, as we remain to stay connected through social media and face-to-face interactions. Hopefully, we can all have a reunion back in Japan someday! If not, we will always be able to relive the trip through our memories and this blog!
Thank you thank you thank you to everyone involved with this program for such a wonderful experience. Please keep in touch!
With love and A-L-O-H-A,