Kakehashi Family in Japan, Re-United!

Hello. I’m Hika from Sophia University.


Here, I am going to write about the best thing I was impressed at during the 7 days of Kakehashi project, also about the recent news from Kakehashi family in Japan.

IMG_5448 のコピー


What I was impressed the most in this program was the fact that the students at George Washington University follow varied career paths and they appreciate their differences. Some of them are (or used to be) full-time workers, while they continue their studies.


In a brief session at GW, one of the GW students told me that the students who work as a full time can give a positive influence in a class discussion because they give comments based on their working experiences. Also, he told me that the comments from the other students could work in a positive way for his work.


(Sorry for using this photo twice… but the brief session was like this. )

Even if they were unable to participate the class fully, professors and the other students understand well.


Things are different in Japan. If you would like to continue studies at Master’s program, or Ph. D, you would have to quit the job, or change it to a part-time. You cannot take both ways at the same time.

In fact, about a year ago, one of my friends from American Literature (he is now working as an English teacher) told me that he wanted to study literature again at master’s program. But it didn’t work. He gave up the plan because his boss told him that working and studying at the same time is too hard.


It is true that taking both ways are difficult. But now I found that it is a very attractive way.

Actually, from this April, I am going to work as a full-time and, at the same time, I will continue my study at Sophia. Few Japanese students do it. But I’ll try.

I really appreciate the Kakehashi members at GW.



By the way, a few days ago, Kakehashi family in Japan reunited at Hanami (enjoying Sakura)! It was a real fun!!

This post is supposed to be the last page of “Kakehashi” blog.

But I hope we can keep it updated with our news related to Kakehashi.


Day 7, leaving for Tokyo

My name is Hazuki Kaneko, a first-year master’s student in Global Studies at Sophia University.
I’ll be in charge of the post for March 7th.
It’s the last day in the DC, and we are going back to Tokyo.
We are sick of eating the same breakfast everyday, but today I get emotional to think that this meal will be the last time for us…
Through this kakehashi project, I enjoyed visiting many places and interacting with a great number of people from different academic backgrounds. The whole schedule was well-planned and exciting. However, I want to emphasize that my experiences wouldn’t be the same without all the other participants. We go to  Japan’s leading research universities, study different subjects and have different perspectives on a variety of social issues. This is already such an exciting environment for me. After each visit and briefing, we always shared each other’s thought and opinions and tried to learn from one another. This happened very naturally  and made the trip academically significant.
We stayed up late talking about “why inequality exits?” “what is peace?” “how do we keep the world orderly?” “how can we go beyond nation-states?” These are million-dollars questions you will never find satisfactory answers, but we explored those questions from different academic perspectives. We are not American nationals, but we tried to actively engage ourselves in discussions on US politics.
This opportunity made me think and learn so much about the relationship between the US and Japan. In addition, I’m glad to expand my academic interest by interacting with other participants. Definitely, I would like to share this experience with other Sophia students and encourage them to apply for this project next year.
I study sociology of gender and sexuality, and luckily I got to do a group presentation on gender issues in Japan at GW. I want to pursue my academic career in the future, and someday I would like to  make gender studies more popular among universities and male students in Japan. I hope to inspire many people to be critical about invisible “norms” in society. In addition, this kakehaship project was a great opportunity for me to know about graduate school in the US.
Hope some of you see this post and become interested in the Kakehashi project!

Thank you all for those who made this project possible.IMG_0363


Day six by Ai Ito

March 6th

By Ai Ito


Hi my name is Ai. I am a graduate student at Sophia university and I study international relations. On March 6th, our schedule started with paying a visit to the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation in the morning. After lunch, our group (group A) headed to Washington CORE, an IT consulting firm. Later, we had a time for shopping so we went to Trader Joe’s which we LOVED so much, and finished our day with reporting session in the evening.


At the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, Mr. Benjamin Self, vice president, gave us a brief introduction about the foundation. He began with talking about the founder, Mike Mansfield, who was a Congressman served majority leader for such a long time in US history as well as ambassador to Japan during the 70’s. It was very interesting to know how he developed his interest and affection for Asia, including Japan and wanted to contribute to reinforce US-Japan tie.

Another thing I found it interesting was how Mr. Self and the foundation are keen to promote gender equality in the US and Japan. Particularly he mentioned women’s’ working environment issue in Japan and the fact that the issue is now widely known even outside of Japan was very interesting but it made me realize how disturbing the situation is.


After lunch, our group visited to Washington CORE, an IT consulting firm. Ms. Kobayashi, a founder/president of Washington CORE, gave us a speech about her company and her career path. She mentioned what she thinks important, and she said having gratitude to people around you and always trying to make one’s best efforts is a key. And as she just said, she showed her gratitude to have us and hear opinions and questions from us, even though we are the ones who should thank her to meet us out of her busy, tight schedule. I was simply touched how wonderful person she is.

She talked about many things but what really struck me was what we need to be a global citizen. One of the elements she introduced was the ability to engage with others. She said actively talking to other people, asking questions, and showing participation are very important to become a global citizen and I strongly agree with her. She was concerned about Japanese people’s ability to engage with others through her job, and I also think it’s a big issue that we need to address (I think education, especially school curriculum or learning environment at school can play a big role on this issue.. what do you think, my education major friends?)


with Ms. Kobayashi at Washington CORE


At last, we had reporting session in the evening and shared our experiences of meeting people from various institutions and visiting historical places past 6 days. Our group particularly talked about our findings from Japanese Embassy and George Washington University. From Japanese Embassy, we concluded that PR plays an important role to increase understanding of Japan, and members of Kakehashi project are the ones who can demonstrate it.

Secondly, we introduced our findings from interaction with GW grad students. Surprisingly many of GW students have a full-time job while work on their research as grad students. Having working experience is definitely an advantage to pursue academic career for them because if you work for GW, part of tuition will be waived, and when you apply to a scholarship you can talk about your performance at your job, which adds your credibility. On the other hand, a PhD candidate in our group mentioned that students who pursue academic career in Japan are expected to have lots of academic achievements (publishing papers in particular) rather than working experience, so it’s a big difference between Japan and the US.

Then we went on talking about our general impressions of the US after spending time in there for about a week. We found Americans are generally patriotic but some people have to go through “identity crisis”. We found it especially by story from Mr. Gerald Yamada, who was born in internment camp during WW II. He told us about “no no boys”, who said no to the questions posed by US asking about if they serve for US military and fight against Japanese emperor. Interestingly, about 70% said yes and merely 5% said no. We learned, at that time, some Japanese-Americans struggled from having patriotism to the US while they feel they don’t fully belong to the society they live because they have another identity. And we still see this crisis today in the US or anywhere, so it was very vital for us to realize this issue. We finished our presentation with our action plans. Our action plans aim to strengthen Japan-US tie by keeping close touch with GW students and helping them with their research, sharing our experiences on social media or organizing workshops at school, etc.


Our presentation at the reporting session. we nailed it!

It was last day for us, and I think it was a great way to conclude our journey in the US. I’d like to thank GW students (you guys are the best!!), Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, JICE, Sophia university, and everyone we’ve met during our trip. I will continue to promote Japan-US relationship and understandings each other.



5th day of our visit -by Hiroki Tachibana

Hello!  I am a graduate student at GRIPS (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies) in Japan. I am very glad to have an opportunity to contribute to this blog.
I’d like to report our activity on March 5th.


In the morning, we prepared for the report session of the next evening (March 6th) in a workshop. We discussed about constitution of the presentation: contents to report our findings and outline of our action plan.


In the afternoon, we visited Mount Vernon, the house of George Washington. I was amazed at the area of the premises and a large number of volunteers. To hear that George Washington had large land and many servants, I realized that he was a bourgeois and that American War of Independence was bourgeois revolution. And I felt that the U.S. people have great respect for him. It may resemble that Ieyasu Tokugawa, who opened Edo Shogunate (Edo Bakufu), was deified by his descendant in Japan.


After dinner, we came back to our hotel and reopened preparation for the report session. It was midnight that a rehearsal of the presentation was over!

Day Four

Day four.


This is my honor to share our experience in the US with all of you. My name is Genya Morishita, a graduate student at Sophia University.

On March 4th, we visited two major US historical places.

In the morning, we went to the US Capitol Hill. Sooner we stepped in, I realized that the entrance was full of people including children. What surprised me the most was that although we have visited various places during this program, younger generation frequently caught my eyes and they seemed to be very exited. (some of them were not though.)

Because as long as I remembered, we Japanese in general rarely go (or have little opportunities) to museums when we were elementary, junior high school or high school students. That is why it surprised me a lot.

Before we went into a tour, we saw a short movie. In this 12-minutes movie, what is vividly remaining on my mind is that how the US is centralized in this Capitol Hill.

Because the US has been having an allergy toward totalitarianism, authoritarianism etc.

I am curious about how people in the US see (feel) the process of representing a mass of opinions (from citizens) to the public.

Because indirect democracy is now dividing the US, European regions. People think that the process is democratic but the possible problem is that 51% is considered as representing the majority. The rest of 49% is left. This will probably be the core incident in the near future.

I saw the history of how the US had been trying to develop democracy.


During about-one-hour tour, I saw a lot of statues in various spots. I also was surprised that the first president, George Washington was deified. This might be an extremely exaggeration that the US is a really complicated states. Because presidential system, separation of powers and the congress, generally-considered democracy has deeply been rooted whereas the president was once depicted as god. This remained me of Japan during WWII.





Mr. Gerard Yamada

After visiting the US Capitol Hill, we met Japanese-American, Mr. Gerald Yamada. He introduced the history of Japanese-American.

Historically speaking, Japanese-American emigrated to the US from late 19 century. They originally came to the US as a labor. During the WWII, many of them were recruited as soldiers and most of them were passed away as the US citizens. In my opinion, I was not so interested in immigrants in my academic experience. But when I was told about those stories, I felt that our ancestors were very close.



Then we had a lunch with Mr. Yamada. He has told historical incidents.

Even if we have the same ethnic identity, Mr. Yamada had been having completely different experiences. I learned a Japanese history in a different way.

I realized that “~se(an) ~an “(Ex, Japanese-American, German-American, African-American) is much deeper what I expected.

In the present US society, about seven thousand Japanese-American people are living in and having a variety of backgrounds. For example some of them are politicians, military officers, artists, others are musicians, police officers, doctors.

I will continue studying for what I have got in this precious experience.

I thank to Mr. Yamada for having us in such a busy time.






Smithsonian Museum

From daytime to an early evening we visited the Smithsonian museum. Smithsonian Museum was established by British Scientist James Smithson for the purpose of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” On one hand many of them are located in the Washington DC, on the other hand, the others are located in the other states.

We had about two hours to go around Smithsonian. I went to the US Holocaust Historical Museum. Since we did not know that reservation was required, it ended up not taking part in the main tour. I instead found something very intriguing.


What I saw in second floor was that pictures in Rwanda during the 1990s, Cambodia from 1970s to 1990s, and Syria. All of them were so graphic. ( Ex those who had been murdered by the states, who had been murdered by people in genocide, some pictures were including skeletonized bodies.)

I did not know that Holocaust Museum was displaying such pictures. I think at the same time that the US are philosophical, aside from this is good or bad. Because I saw that Cambodia and Syria are considered as authoritarian states. It probably is trying to say that non-democratized and anti-democracy systems are to be democratized. In my opinion, liberal democracy is not always a better choice for some states.

But on the other hand I felt that “this” supports the US’s democracy.



March 4th was an incredibly important day for me to learn more about the US.

I also thank to everyone who met during kakehashi project, GWs graduate students, professor Meggan, JICE, kristie, Mamiko, and all of Sophia colleagues for spending a wonderful time with me.


Thank you very much for reading.

I am very happy if you have any comments or questions on this post.

Genya Morishita





















































Day Three: The True Meaning of KAKEHASHI

by Hiroko Miyakoshi

Hello! It is a pleasure to take part in this blog. I am a graduate student at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Japan. Five of us from this graduate school took part in the KAKEHASHI program this year.

GRIPS is perhaps the least known national university in Japan. Most of us are dispatched from central or local government to study pubic policy on the one-year intensive master program. My major is in education policy.

The other uniqueness of GRIPS is that two-thirds of its student population is non-Japanese. The young professional international students come from various corners of the world, representing their central or local governments. So GRIPS is like a mini-world, where English naturally becomes a common language among the non-native speakers.

IMG_6136National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Tokyo

So among the five students from GRIPS, two of us joined Sophia University students on day three, to visit Graduate School of Education & Human Development (GSEHD) at the George Washington University. It had been over a month since we last met them in Japan, and the reunion started with hugs and smiles 🙂

What really amazed me is the fact that there are scholars in the US who are deeply engaged in researching about Japanese education, and the topics vary from global competency in higher education to special education needs. During our session, four presentations were given on various topics related to Japan or to education by both parties. (Check out the blog post GW’S TURN TO HOST! JAPANESE STUDENTS VIST THE U.S. for details) I was personally impressed by Lauren’s on-going research on “learning critical languages abroad”. I was not aware that the Department of State and the Department of Defense have special funds for critical language learners. A smart strategic approach Japan should learn from. The focus languages today are Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Lauren is researching how the Americans learn about the study abroad opportunities of these languages. Once working in a similar industry, studying languages abroad, I am looking forward in learning about Lauren’s findings once she finishes her research.


The latter half of the session was a 10-minute rotating one-on-one research discussion. Every 10 minutes, a new pair will start discussing whatever topic they are interested in knowing about from each other. This was especially a good way for the relatively “shy” Japanese to speak out. Although I wish we had more time, this intimate discussion session was truly informative and a true KAKEHASHI (bridge) between the scholars.


The great thing about the KAKEHASHI program was that it served not only as a bridge between Japanese and American scholars, but also among Japanese scholars from different fields as well. Researchers in a certain field tend to keep to themselves. Chemists stay with chemists, and educators stay with educators. Some fields are global, but others are kept within the domestic framework. Education is a typical example of the latter. Through KAKEHASHI, I was able to exchange ideas and learn from MA and PhD students from Sophia University. Their research areas ranged from early childhood education, literature, gender study, international relations, psychology, to engineering and chemistry. Without taking part in KAKEHASHI, I would have never met eager young scholars from such a variety of areas. And of course, GRIPS and Sophia managed to have our reunion after coming back to Japan, to “discuss” our action plan to spread our takeaway from the numerous experiences during our visit to Washington D.C.


Back in Tokyo, GRIPS and Sophia University Reunite to “Discuss” Action Plan 🙂

Second Day of Kakehashi 2017

There are certain moments in life you are glad from the bottom of your heart that you are there, and I guess this was one of the moments, and I’ll tell you what that was.

I’m Emiko Kakimoto (and Emmy for short) from Sophia University, currently in my second year of Masters learning clinical psychology. I’m graduating in March, which is very, very… soon, and Kakehashi was my last program abroad before graduation, and since our leader Take wrote about day 1, I’m going to write a little about day 2.

Day 2,consisted of a visit to the Japanese embassy, and the Department of State(Office of Pubic Diplomacy, Bureau of East Asian and Public Affairs).
At the Embassy, we had a rare opportunity to look around inside which included “Ippaku -tei” the tearoom that can be said its the “shape of friendship” with the two nations. I felt  the long history behind has, and was very moved by its existence. Its magnificence wasn’t just from its history, but also the feeling that our relationship has become much closer through historical hardships, and also the realization that us, the younger generations have the responsibility to keep – or vitalize even more than it is right now. (Maybe it sounds a little over-dramatic, but I’m not exaggerating!)

Also, we were able to meet with Mr. Tsukada from the Embassy who talked about how the embassy and the country itself is working on in public relations in a lot of areas such us spreading our culture (both new & old).

 We also had a chance to meet with Mr. James D. Winslow, from Sumitomo who explained what lobbyist is in general, and the recent change the government and the US has encountered – the big election,  and its outcome, and also how the company prepared and responded to the change. I felt that I have been following the news in Japan about the election, but just like the japanese saying “百聞は一見にしかず(hyakubun-wa-ikken-ni-shikazu)” (which is like “a picture is worth a thousand words”), what we hear through the media is different from what we hear from the people who have actually seen it.
Well not exactly “a picture” or “一見”since we “heard” it but lets not be too picky here)
After that at the Department of State, we were able to meet Mr. Paul Thomas, Mr. Tim Marshall, and Mr. Benjamin Goldberg(from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research). We were able to hear what the department does, and also their relations with Japan (and other Asian countries).  I was astonished how they were all open to our questions about the chances and the financial opportunities we have in the future to learn abroad, such as the JET program, and the Kizuna project, and much more.
To all the speakers we had the chance to talk to and discuss with on both our visits, I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation.  It was a great experience.
After this, we were able to visit Dupon Circle, which we enjoyed a little bit of shopping and sight-seeing (which consisted of a lot picture-taking-time)….

(pictures taken in Dupon Circle. Personal favorite were the flowers.)

So much to learn, so much to feel, so much to think.
Many more blogs about our program (and how our heads were running wild that week!) to come in the next few days!

The first day of our project

Hi. My name is Take(Naoki takemura). I am currently a PhD student at the Sophia university. I’m excited to be the first blogger for the Sophia University and National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies(Grips) Kakehashi 2017 exchange program to the United states. I’m glad to share my experiences with you.


I have been to the United states several times. But this was my first time to visit Washington D.C. that is the capital. It is a center of politics and governance. There are white house, the capitol and government offices. I was thrilled with delight that I could see those constructions.


The landscape of D.C was totally different from Tokyo. D.C. was well-ordered districts. The streets were laid out as a grid pattern. Even more, I could not see high buildings. A city guide told me an interesting anecdote. The height of the buildings was regulated. It must be lower than the top of the capitol.


The first day in Washington D.C, I visited to Sasakawa foundation USA. Dr. Jeffrey Hornung and Joy Champaloux welcomed us in a comfortable office. Jeffrey shared personal experience of JET program in Japan, and gave a lecture that is about the U.S-Japan relationship for us. He stressed that importance of the security alliance. He stated that the importance should be understood not only Japanese citizens but also the U.S citizens. I was so motivated to learn the relationship between our country.


This was also the first day spending a time with our great group members from Grips and Sophia. I was confident to travel with them. They were distinguished academics and persons of virtue. I was looking forward to work with them as Kakehashi members.


I hope you will join in with us online here and on social media throughout the Kakehashi 2017 exchange. Find us on Facebook GRIPS/Sophia KAKEHASHI Project 2016. We will also be using the hashtag #kakehashi2016#.

GW’s Turn to Host! Japanese Students Visit the U.S.

By Erin Maguire

Hello again to our faithful blog readers! A lot has happened since you read from us last here, but luckily we’ve still been seeing a lot of each other.  As you probably gathered from all the beautifully written posts by my classmates (or JaPals, as we now refer to each other), we had a difficult time readjusting to life back home, no longer spending every waking moment together.  The Kakehashi Project helped us build an incredible bond and, so far, we’ve successfully kept the spirit of compassion we cultivated in Japan, alive and well amongst each other.


Thanks to our #onlydudeonthistrip, Tyler, we had an amazing re-entry dinner and first class back at his beautiful home on February 10. After a week–long battle with jet lag, we had finally recovered and had some time to process our whirlwind adventure to Japan.  We all gathered around the kitchen to make sushi and enjoyed a feast of epic proportions (and our favorite, mochi, for dessert)!


We then settled in to play a white elephant gift exchange game with small surprises we had all brought back from Japan.  It was a wonderful way for each of us to bring a special piece of Japan back to share with each other!



When it was my turn to pick a gift, I opened these fantastic socks and Alyson stole them right out of my hands 🙂  Nice find, Aray!!

The festivities carried on throughout the night, over our What’sApp group chat, as we all got to (virtually) celebrate Lauren’s engagement!!  After dinner she went home to find her lovely, then boyfriend, waiting there on bended knee.  We’re still celebrating the exciting news!


This was the actual photo we all received just moments after Lauren left dinner!!

Flash forward to a few weeks later, when we finally got to repay the students from Sophia University and GRIPS, for the incredible kindness and hospitality they showed us while we were in Japan. We were so excited to host them at GW yesterday, as it was now their turn to travel to the U.S. as a part of the Kakehashi student exchange program.



We started the morning with four thought-provoking presentations where we learned more about the encouraging research that our friends have been conducting.

Hiroko shared insightful information on remedial education in Japan and the “encourage schools” that have been created. Though most primary and secondary students in Japan are immediately granted passage into the next grade in school, 79.3% of schools say that many students are not academically prepared for the next level of education.  Encourage schools were created as an alternative to night schools to help students who may need extra assistance.  She found that the three common elements fostering a peaceful student environment were: 1) Strict morality and classroom discipline 2) Caring teachers who looked after students, not just academically, but also mentally 3) Youth social workers who played important roles in following up with students’ welfare and career counseling.


Next was a presentation by Hazuki, Hikaru, Tomoyo, and Yuri on the gender gap in Japan. We learned that a report by theWorld Economic Forum ranks 144 countries on a scale that quantifies those with the best women’s statuses in the economy, education, politics and health (1 being the best, 144 being the worst for women).  Japan’s gender gap was ranked 111 (and interestingly enough, the U.S. was ranked 45).  When looking at graduation rates of Harvard University, there was no real gender gap when it came to the number of women vs. men who graduated.  However, at the University of Tokyo, less than 20% of women graduated.  Another interesting aspect to gender in Japan was the fact that while all primary and secondary school-aged children are required to wear uniforms, females are only permitted to wear skirts (not pants).  And some Japanese women picked their school based on which one had the “cutest” uniform option.


Genya, Ai, Emiko, and Naoki gave a fascinating presentation attempting to answer the question, “are Japanese reluctant to participate in politics?”. As it turns out, yes.  Historically speaking, many Japanese citizens shy away from being involved with politics or discussing it with their friends (which was something I could personally relate to as a rare apolitical Washingtonian).  Their research found that Japanese citizens were mainly unfamiliar with politics, they found politics to be too complicated, they didn’t expect politicians to actually make their lives better, and by not voting, they could show that they didn’t agree with politics today.  Studies also showed that Japan was the country least satisfied with their government performance, amongst all Asian countries.  That being said, since the 1990s, interest in politics amongst Japanese citizens has been growing.   A fascinating and inspiring story was shared regarding an angry mother’s blog post.  After the mother spoke out about the day care shortage that served as a disincentive for Japanese mother’s returning to work, those Japanese citizens inspired by the blog held a rally, which led to a change.org campaign, which eventually helped lead to a systematic overhaul and an improvement in day care.


Lastly, our very own Lauren, who has worked in the study abroad field for over six years, shared her research regarding “critical languages”.  Ever since 9/11, there has been an increase in the importance of Americans learning critical languages.  The three languages deemed to be the most critical are Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, which is why many programs are now funded by the Department of State and the Department of Defense.  An interesting fact Lauren shared with us was that only 1% of American students who studied abroad chose to go to an Arabic speaking country.  So, despite the fact that the skill of speaking Arabic is a hot commodity amongst employers these days, American students don’t seem to be racing to study abroad in the countries where they could easily learn that language.   Lauren plans to continue working on her research in order to develop best practices that study abroad providers can use to better promote their programs.


After we completed our presentations, we bundled up for a tour of our campus. I finally achieved my undergraduate dream of becoming a GW tour guide (they’re called STARS at GW…seriously!).

We covered all the highlights of campus including the basketball arena at the Smith Center, Kogan Plaza, the Quad, the GSEHD office, Gelman Library, District House, and of course, made a pit stop at the infamous hippo statue for one last group selfie on campus.


Overall, I left today feeling reenergized by my short time with the students from Sophia and GRIPS. The Kakehashi Project was created to build bridges between Japan and America, and truly, it did just that.  Little moments, truly show how small our world is and how connected we can be.  When we were in Japan and first arrived at Sophia University, I took a seat next to Yuri, who studies science and technology.  I immediately noticed she was wearing a FitBit, an identical model to mine.


We bonded over our love of fitness and became friends on the device so we could connect and challenge each other.  Once I was back home, and we were literally thousands of miles apart, we were still connected, cheering each other’s daily step count (including the fact that she was ranked #2 on my highly competitive leader board of active friends).  Without the Kakehashi Project we would have never met, and I would have never experienced the generosity, love, and compassion of Japanese culture.  Thank you to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, JICE, GW GSEHD, Sophia University, GRIPS and all those who made these life altering connections and experiences possible.


Harmonization- Lessons the US can learn from Japan

By: Melissa Glynn

Despite being back in the District for three whole days, many of the Kakehashi group had to dive right back into work and school responsibilities. I cannot stop thinking about the amazing experiences we had in Japan! This is partly due to the intense jet-lag and lying in bed while sleep escapes me but I know that it was worth it for such a gratifying whirlwind experience in Tokyo and Nagasaki. While many of us actively tried to disconnect from news while participating in the Kakehashi project, and upon returning to Dulles International Airport, it was difficult not to be overwhelmed by the enormous reaction to the Executive Orders issued by our new President in his first week. News cameras waited outside of baggage claim hoping to catch a glimpse of those impacted by the ban on immigrants, Muslims, refugees? No one seemed to be sure. Thus, our time of serenity and full cultural immersion came quickly and jarringly to a close, as the exposure to the non-stop 24 hour news cycle and the announcement of a new nominee to the Supreme Court jolting us back to reality.

As I reflect on our intense week-long experience in Japan while I settle back into the daily grind here in America, I keep coming back to one overarching theme: harmonization. Throughout every experience we had in Japan, whether it be the Isogo Thermal Power Station that attempted to harmonize energy with nature or at the Kanagawa Sohgoh High School where students were encouraged to express themselves in foreign languages, harmonization infiltrated every aspect of Japanese culture and society. The lasting impact that harmonization had on the GWU group was evident in our action plan that was presented to all Kakehashi participants, leaders and distinguished guests from the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE). Communicating the action plan we established collaboratively is one of my favorite memories from our time in Tokyo as I was able to speak on behalf of our group on emphasizing harmonization upon our return to Washington DC. Given the current state of affairs, it appears that we have our work cut out for us, but I am confident that sharing the concept of harmonization that we learned from the Japanese people with our broader personal and professional networks can help Americans move in the direction of embracing different ideas and perspectives.


The GWU representatives presenting our Action Plan for JICE and distinguished guests.

Of all the amazing opportunities JICE organized for us while in Japan, I continuously come back to the powerful interactions I had during our time in Nagasaki when describing my trip to co-workers, family and friends. My homestay parents were a retired couple who we quickly learned had been united through an arranged marriage and had been together for close to 50 years. Our host mother spoke a few words of English while our host father spoke a unique Japanese dialect. The love between them and the beautiful home they had created transcended language barriers. As the first Americans they had welcomed into their home, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were making a good impression in the prefecture we had decimated approximately seventy years earlier when our nation dropped the atomic bomb to end World War II. Following an incredible home-made meal, my host mother proceeded to dress me up in her daughter’s kimonos (perhaps my favorite moment of the whole trip) and shared pictures of her children before helping me settle into the best night of sleep I had the entire trip. As I parted with my host family in the morning, through a translator, our host mother told me she thought of us as daughters and I felt myself choke up at the incredible generosity the Japanese people had shown us. As our beloved professor, Dr. James Williams, said on the final day of our trip, “the enemies-to-friends story between the United States and Japan is something to cherish and continue to keep alive.”


Homestay Family in Nagasaki

After an emotional parting with our host families, our group set off to tour the hypocenter of the atomic bomb. This was followed by a visit to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and a testimony from a witness who was 11 years old when the bomb was dropped. As I toured the site, I was struck by the way in which the Japanese chose to memorialize the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost as a result of that fateful bombing. Every statue and sign seems to reference a movement towards peace and the harmonization of the world. This was evident in the Nagasaki Peace charter, which states, “We pledge our utmost efforts to promote a life of democracy, peace and safety and to work for the realization of global harmony.” After debriefing with many of the participants in the group, we all expressed awe in the resilience that forms the foundation of the Japanese community and their ability to rise above personal tragedy and spread a message of world peace.


Nagasaki Peace Park

During the short time I have been back in the US, I have reflected on the hospitality shown by the Japanese people throughout our trip despite our dark history. I have found myself wondering if the tables were turned, would Americans return this kindness and generosity? Arriving home in such a politicized environment, especially regarding the case of refugees fleeing war and violence, I must admit I have my doubts. Yet, remarks by JICE representatives on the day of our presentations give me hope that those of us who participated in the Kakehashi program can use this inter-cultural exchange to solve programs together: “You all are expected to build a bridge, not a war, between countries in the world.” Now more than ever, I feel equipped with the tools to engage with people of different perspectives, cultures and backgrounds. The Kakehashi project has reminded me that however great the challenge seems, society can always find a solution by uniting and working towards harmony together.