Despite being half Japanese, despite having lived here in when I was young, I had some experiences that I don’t think would have ever happened had I grown up in Japan and not come here for study abroad. Originally I had planned to arrive in Japan early just to be with family and get used to the lifestyle, however the opportunity to volunteer for the TOMODACHI Initiative came up and my summer gained a new purpose. If I hadn’t planned on being in Japan for the fall semester then I wouldn’t have had any intention of returning to Japan for the summer.
This lead me to get involved in Tohoku (Northeastern Japan) related service in a way that is much more sustainable then I had been able to do up until this point. I was working with high school students from the regions who were about to leave for a life-changing learning opportunity in Berkeley, California with the TOMODACHI Summer 2012 Softbank Leadership Program. I arranged and facilitated events with Japanese university students to find out how TOMODACHI can help students and young professionals follow their US related dreams and passions. I was able to physically GO TO Tohoku and volunteer for a few days and see with my own eyes the damage that a horrible earthquake and tsunami wreaked upon a small town, and hear with my own ears stories of those who faced that horror that day. Fundraising at GWU for a region that most people had forgotten of the following year was definitely a challenge, but I now believe that I was really approaching this service for Tohoku in the wrong way. Sending money to a region is not very sustainable. On a whim a donor can decide to withdraw their decision to donate, but this summer I was given the chance to make people to people connections that have much more directly tied to the region that I think I can help the most in. ...continue reading "これからも、ずっとTOMODACHIだよ! From here on out we will always be FRIENDS!"
Event planning in Japan is certainly not the same as it is in the United States. Posting bills with event details cannot take place without the approval of three offices, an electronic method of information dissemination does not exist and I had to use a fax for the first time since I was eight.
This technologically advanced country has some very interesting bureaucratic processes that perhaps Americans would see as unnecessary and inefficient but is seen in the Japanese eye as a way to ensure quality effort and care is put into everything. Thus far, this has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced with planning events for my work with TOMODACHI. ...continue reading "Study Abroad and Diplomacy"
It`s weird to go from Minami Sanriku to Tokyo. From a place where weeds grow in the cracks of the barren, concrete foundations of buildings gone to a city over-inundated with buildings and flashing lights.
I spent the past four days in Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture of Northeastern Japan. Minami Sanriku was a coastal town. In fact the whole town center was right on the water or on the river that lead to the ocean. That`s why the town is almost non-existent today.
The 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck at 2:47 pm. I was told you couldn`t even walk because the ground shook so hard. It only took 20 minutes for the tsunami to reach the coast line of Tohoku (Northeastern Japan). In that 20 minutes students returned home from school, many people were trying to figure out if their family members were ok. The Tsunami warnings were going off, but people didn`t know what to make of them. It just didn`t seem possible that the waves would be so high. But they were. At their highest the tsunami`s waves reached 15 meters. Taller then most buildings in Minami Sanriku. The town is set right between two small mountains, but the sides are steep and only the most nimble could hope to climb them quickly. ...continue reading "Tohoku Ganbatte: Minami Sanriku 11/3-11/6"
In my work with the TOMODACHI Initiative I have been focusing on reaching out to young potential members of a TOMODACHI Generation. We are trying to connect interested young Japanese and young Americans to collaborate on short term goals like working on projects in Tohoku together or on our larger goals of improving cross-cultural relations between the US and Japan.
...continue reading "TOMODACHI Connects"
I've had a lot of people ask me why I'm returning to Japan to study abroad. Is it really abroad when I hold citizenship to the country I'm studying in? Does it count? Will it be a true cultural experience?
I don't think I have the answer to any of these questions. Except for the question Why did I return to Japan.
I haven't lived here my whole life, but I've been here long enough to feel that it is as much of a home to me as America is. Although one problem is language...I speak colloquially but not fluently. I cannot express my personality as well in Japanese as I can in English and it has put up some barriers. I am never considered Japanese by Japanese people because I don't look it. I want to be able to function here as any citizen can so that A. I can surprise people by bustin' out my language skills and B. Because of the March 11th 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Northeastern Japan. (further referred to as 3.11) ...continue reading "We are all TOMODACHI"