Closing Thoughts

While our time spent on the Kakehashi Project 2018 has come to a close, without a doubt I have made memories, built relationships, and furthered skills that will continue to shape the rest of my life.

Easily, the highlight of my experiences in Japan was the two-night home stay I had with the Itou family. The Itou family household consisted of three generations: the grandfather being a farmer, his son working a corporate job, and his grandchildren students attending the local school. What struck me about the Itou family was how truly content they seemed. While their lifestyle might be considered "simple" by certain categories of American standards, it was easily apparent how tight-knit of a family unit they were, and how much they enjoyed every second of it. They welcomed fellow-traveler Trevor and I into their home with open arms, and despite an enormous language barrier we shared many good times and deeply connected.

Other areas that made this trip the exceptional experience it was: the excellent food, the genuine insight we were able to gain into Japanese business culture and values, the variety of destinations we were able to explore, and the perfect group of UM students and supervisors that were able to maintain that ideal balance of professionalism and fun.

I want to thank all those involved with making such an incredible opportunity available to the students of UM. Japan is a country completely unique of the list of others I’ve visited, and I’ll be back before I’m 30.

Cheers,

Carson Brown

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Reminiscing on Japan

By Brooke Foster

As I sit at my dorm room desk, piled high with study materials and practice exams, I reflected longingly on my amazing experience in Japan. It seems that with each day that passes, I miss it more and more. Contrary to the majority of students, from both the University of Montana and the other schools invited to visit, I am not a business major. I am planning to receive a degree in elementary education with a masters in counseling services. My time in Japan strengthened my ability to understand a different culture, a different social structure, a different ideological approach and an overall different lifestyle. This allowed me to connect with a new and wonderful group of people and is important when considering the tasks I must complete as a teacher. My time in Japan and participation in the kakehashi project also taught me how to work collaboratively in order to produce a tangible action plan. I want to thank JICE, the Japanese Ministy of Forgien Affairs, the Kakehashi project and everyone else who made this life changing experience a reality for me. There is no doubt that I will be back in Japan as soon as possible.

Returning Thoughts

By: Ashley R.

There is no amount of words to express how much I miss Japan. Yesterday, my phone popped up with a message saying “You have a new memory – Japan Mar 5-13, 2018 Trip.” Knowing my time in Japan and the Kakehashi project has come to an end has broken my heart. Although I deeply miss Japan, looking through my photos and seeing my fellow Kakehashi peers on campus has filled me with much joy.

Reflecting on my time in Japan, an experience leaving a positive impact on my resolve as an individual was the March 11 Remembrance Day. A few days prior to the anniversary of the East Japan earthquake and tsunami the group went to the International Research Institute of Disaster Science center. This institute at Tohoku University conducts world-leading research on natural disaster science and disaster mitigation. Having background from this lecture made the anniversary day more touching—I saw fellow neighbors and families reunite and the community come together. I understood more as an outsider the devastation of this event and the resilient nature of the Japanese people.

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Another impacting experience of the trip was my home stay. Although I did not speak much Japanese and my host family did not speak much English, this did not stop us from connecting and making memories. My favorite part of staying with my family was how welcoming and fun they were—eating delicious foods, learning about cultural holidays and the Japanese language, viewing sites around town, and going to the hot springs were some of my favorite experiences of this stay. I have been emailing my family back-and-forth and I have made a commitment to visit my host family and Japan in one year.

Knowing I will be going back soon has made my transition back in the states much easier. I am now determined to learn elementary-level Japanese and have started using the Duolingo App for short daily lessons. I am so happy to have been given this opportunity to be apart of the Kakehashi and it has left a lasting impact on me. I am already counting down the days until I return.

The Lasting Impression Japan Left on Me.

By Abby Lessard:

The past week since coming back from Japan has been so incredibly busy. When I haven’t been making up exams and trying to stay caught up in school, I have been telling people about my trip to Japan. When people ask me how my trip was, I don’t even know what to tell them because there is so much to tell. Even though we were only there for 8 days, my time there felt as though it had lasted for so much longer. Each day was so jam packed full of various activities and travel, that sometimes it is hard to remember what happened on each particular day. in fact, since I was so busy and constantly getting to see new things, it has made being back in Montana a bit difficult as I am simply going back to my old routine where there is not too many new things to see and experience.

I had so much fun on the trip with my KAKEHASHI cohort, I could not have asked for a better group of people to travel with. All of the different activities that we got to do together forced us all to become really close friends, which is something I am extremely grateful about. I was lucky enough to have been paired up with a really great roommate and I am very happy I have someone to share memories of my homestay with. Its hard to describe everything we experienced to the full effect, the only people who will understand it fully are the other people who went.

Some of the trip highlights for me were:

  • Karaoke! I have never gone before so the fact that I can say I got to sing Karaoke in Tokyo is a pretty cool conversation.
  • The homestay was something that every student got to experience, and I think every one will say this part of the trip to be one of the most memorable. To be able to see into every day life of a typical Japanese family was an incredible experience, and almost everybody got to do something special with their specific family.
  • Riding on multiple types of transportation. I had never been on a train before this trip, and I got to ride on both a subway and a Shinkansen (bullet train.) The only form of transportation we did not use for the trip was a boat, which I am sure could have been arranged if we had really wanted.
  • The fashion in Japan is really unique, especially in Japan. I expect to see high platform boots become popular in the US in a few months.
  • The fact that the Japanese have the tendency to pack the elevator as full as is possible. Everyt ime our elevator in the hotel stopped on another floor, I was sure nobody else would try to get on. I was mistaken on every floor.

This trip has made me have a deep appreciation for Japan, the people, and the culture. The people are so incredibly kind and helpful, the food is fantastic, and their public transportation is astounding. If it were not for the KAKEHASHI Project and Jice I don’t think I can confidently say I would have ever visited Japan, so I can never thank them enough for giving me this amazing opportunity. I hope to visit again and get to see even more of Japan, I know there is so much more to see and learn about. Arigato gozaimasu!

Reflecting Thoughts on Japan

By Connor Lamping:

It has been nearly a week since we arrived back in Montana from our week-long experience in Japan. As I sit down to reflect on our experience, I feel overwhelmed with a bevy of emotions. Although our time in Japan felt much too short, it is filled with incredible memories. The people we met along the way and the beautiful sites we visited both contributed to this truly amazing experience. I believe all the participants of the KAKEHASHI Project have benefited greatly from this opportunity and have gained a unique perspective. Even though I continue to miss Japan every day, I can’t help but feel excited about returning one day to explore further endeavors.

One of the most unique aspects to this experience was that each day continued to upstage the previous day. I kept finding myself and many of the other participants saying, “This has been my favorite day.” Although we were only in Japan for one week, I feel as if we assimilated more experiences than I could have anticipated. In the waning days of our stay in Japan, the sun arrived and validated the true beauty of Japan. Our visit to the memorial ceremony at the Sendai Arahama Elementary School was likely the most distinct experience of the entire trip. Being present at the site where thousands of people lost their lives to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami is hard to characterize. It’s hard to understand what the people in this region experienced because we were only able to see images and video clips. It was an extremely emotional day but seeing the resiliency of the Japanese people to rebound from this disaster is very inspiring.

Concluding our stay in Japan, we enjoyed an incredible visit to Meiji Shrine in Shinjuku. Among the towering skyscrapers In Tokyo exists this hidden gem with soaring trees and lush greenery. After stepping foot inside the Meiji Shrine, I was overwhelmed with a tranquil presence. This was another unbelievable experience and truly highlighted the natural beauty of Tokyo.

As I wrap up this blog post I would like to reiterate how grateful I am for being provided this opportunity. I would like to thank JICE for their incredible contributions in arranging the KAKEHASHI Project and providing us with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As we move forward with our action plan in an effort to keep forging relationships with Japan, I will continue sharing my experiences and promoting the KAKEHASHI project. Arigato gozaimasu.

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Reflection

By: Kayla Sheridan

Last December when I applied to be a participant in the Kakehashi Project, I was not sure exactly what I was getting myself into. In total, 23 University of Montana students and 2 chaperones were sent to Japan for 8 days to learn about the rich culture, politics, society, and history of the country. The trip kept us busy everyday with a thoroughly planned schedule with time slots reserved for visiting the government ministries, Japanese businesses, and many wonderful culture tours. As I sit here now, surrounded by the never ending assignments I’m attempting to catch up on, I’m also still trying to process everything I learned while there. The one thing I know for sure is that the people of Japan are some of the most welcoming people I have yet to meet!

Our JICE coordinator, Mika, stayed with us the entire trip and acted as our translator, resource, and friend. We were able to learn the many political, social, and economic challenges Japan is facing today during our meetings and tours. A great deal of these challenges arise from the declining population of Japan and the increased the need to reach a steady population. Due to this pressing need, there is a high demand for expats in Japan and importance of creating international partnerships with Japanese companies. After spending 8 days learning as much as we could about Japan, I now understanding why certain trade agreements exist between both of our nations and how increasing ties between US and Japan would benefit both nations. Globalization is more evident now than ever!

At UM I study International Business and Sustainable Agriculture so I was especially interested to learn more about the import/export challenges for a country so dependent on agriculture. Our group participated in a home stay for 3 days where my friend and I were paired with a family of 7. Our family lived in house on rice fields that have been in their family for generations in the village of Kami-machi. Our Host Grandpa was the age of most farmers in Japan, roughly 65 years old, and told us he planned to pass the rice fields down to his Grandson who is currently 17. This is a rare phenomenon – as seen in Montana- because the younger generations do not normally stay on their family farm when they are able to move in the city and find work. As a result, the declining population and decrease in Japanese farmers are beginning to impact the agriculture industry and hurt Japan’s economy. Creating trade agreements that both countries can agree on is a top priority for the Japanese and should be for the US.

The Kakehashi Project taught us not only the challenges Japan faces, but how resilient the Japanese have been in the past. We were in Japan on the day of the 7 year anniversary of the Great East Japan Tsunami, a day where many lost their lives and homes. Our day consisted of visiting memorials and a university to learn more about how the Japanese have come together to promote research on disaster prevention learn from this tragic event. It was moving to see the people come together on this day and turn this disaster into an opportunity to learn and hopefully prevent future disasters from happening again at such a large scale.

Being a participant in the Kakehashi Project has been a definite highlight in my life, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the wonderful people who made our experience so amazing. This trip has sparked my interest in creating more ties with the people and businesses in Japan and I look forward to I applying everything I learned during this program to my daily and professional life! Arigatogozaimasu Japan!

Reflection

By: Trevor Campbell

Right now, I am so conflicted about wanting to be home or in Japan. It was nice to get home and catch back up on life, but I am really missing our awesome group, Mika (not sure if spelled correctly but she was our guide), and Brian’s awful jokes. It was really nice to disconnect from the world for a week and absorb the wonders on Japan, and I will never forget this experience. I am still just in awe of home much new stimulus I was exposed to. It felt like everything I was doing was a new and interesting experience that I could learn from, and I am not sure I have ever experienced anything like that.

Looking back at some of the cool things we did, the homestay was by far my favorite experience. The whole time, I felt like the people we were staying with were just like my family back home, and I wish they could meet each other. They were so welcoming to us, interested in our stories, and just wanted to show us a good time. I really think they appreciated us being there as well, and it makes me want to host foreign students in the future.

Another thing I thought was awesome was how nice the people were to us. I know some of the time we were being met with ambassadors to the country, but just the general population seemed so kind and helpful, and I really appreciated it while I was there. For instance, in Tokyo if you needed help finding something, it was so easy to find someone who spoke English and was willing to guide you in the right direction. The people there are just so humble, polite, and seemingly appreciative and it is something I will really take away from this experience.

I really recommend any student interested in just becoming a more well-rounded person to pursue this project in the future. Even if you have no business or Japanese background, just give the application a shot, because any person open to new experiences can benefit from this project. I can easily say that this experience was worth more than any week of school I have ever had, and it was no trouble to catch back up with school. That should not be the deciding factor for any student interested.

I am so appreciative for everyone who made this project possible, and it is something that I will never forget. Thank you.