The Japan group just landed at JFK! They will work their way through customs and onto the bus. Once on the bus, I will give you an ETA for their arrival in Farmington.
After a half day of school at Kichijo, including a reflection presentation to the community and some lunch, our group boarded the bus for Narita International Airport. They arrived with plenty of time to spare and their Japan Air flight #004 took off on time. They are currently en route to JFK and due to arrive at 6:25pm EST this evening (Saturday). I will update this blog once they land!
We returned to Kichijo for Thursday and Friday classes, and spent time with host families and buddies. Japanese classes were invigorating, cooking classes mouth-watering, and afternoon activities rigorous and engaging. Our time here has been memorable, spirited, and dynamic. It’s hard to believe we’ll be heading back to Farmington so soon, bidding farewell to lifelong friends and a community we’ve come to call home.
From Jackie Beaule:
Today we went back to school and it was nice to get back into a routine and see our host families. It was good to have a break on both sides; our host families are always “on,” so it’s nice for them to have a break as well. I bought lunch today, ramen in miso soup, and I was really impressed with how delicious it was! After school, I went home with my host sister and we had some seaweed chips for a snack. They were so good! They were seasoned with sesame seeds and poppy seeds, and wow: it was a great snack! We also had a tea ceremony after dinner with their grandmother. The tea is so fresh here and the sweets are amazing; my favorite is the matcha kit-kats, (Kit-o-Kat-o). I could eat so many of them! I cannot believe how fast these two weeks went by but I am also excited to go home and see my family!
On Tuesday, we traveled to Misaki and Miura Beach for the annual Chakkirako Festival, a celebration of the fishing industry that offers prayers and blessings for a successful fishing season. The festival is hosted at the local temple, a UNESCO Word Heritage Cultural Site, and the festival has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Event., with village girls participating in the traditional dance and song, accompanied by generations of women. This ceremony travels throughout the village to honor the fisherman who have sustained Mirua Beach. Following the ceremony, we ate sashimi from local tuna, and departed to a flag-maker’s studio to create a symbol of a prosperous fishing season. We made two flags: one to dozo (give) to our hosts at Kichijo School, and one to return with us to Farmington, an emblem of the close relationship we have forged with host country.
Later, some enjoyed a traditional onsen, while others walked in the hot-springs area. Following the spa, we traveled to Yasuko Nagase’s ’96 “share-house,” and hiked into the hill above the beach, surrounded by temples, bamboo, and ocean views. We were treated to a feast of local foods, and helped prepare takoyaki, (a savory cake-pop with octopus inside–quote from Mia Gergis!). After dinner, we played a game about Sustainable Developing Goals.
Following an early and abundant breakfast on Wednesday morning, we attended the tuna auction, and watched opening bids. After learning about the auction and bidding process, we headed to a cooking class to learn how to assemble and decorate nerikiri, a traditional Japanese sweet consisting of white beans, boiled rice and sugar. Nerikiri is served with matcha tea; the sweet bean paste complements the bitter tea.
That afternoon, we took a bus, a train and a boat to Yokohama, where we spent some time shopping and exploring the area, including Chinatown.
A happy and tired crew traveled back to the Nishi-Ogukubo station to meet host sisters back at Kichijo School.
Sara Baltser and Marley Chang offer their reflection on their experiences:
Today was our first day at Miura beach. After spending a couple of hours traveling from Kichijo to Miura we finally arrived at our destination. Very soon after getting off the bus we were able to witness traditional dancing in front of a shrine in the village due to a festival that celebrates success in the fishing industry. After that we went to a workshop that taught us how to paint flags, and we ourselves got to paint two flags in order to celebrate our time in Japan. Later we got cozy in a traditional Japanese restaurant, that served us delicious fish and rice and well as Miso soup. After lunch we enjoyed a scenic walk in Miura as the weather cleared up and the sun was shining bright. Of course one of the most memorable events of the days was a dip in the traditional hot springs of Japan, which some of us took the opportunity to enjoy. To end this busy and wonderful day we had a feast together in the share house, enjoyed each other’s company and even learned how to make takoyaki.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, our group was fortunate enough to go on an overnight trip to Muira Beach, where we stayed at a sharehouse owned by a Porter’s graduate, Yasuko Nagase. After the two-hour bus ride from Tokyo to Muira filled with laughs, music, and plenty of snacks, we got off the bus and immediately went to a shrine for the Chakkirako festival. This festival is special to Muira and is a celebration where young girls dance and chant prayers for a prosperous fishing season. After watching and experiencing this beautiful tradition, we were split into two groups, and my group went to a local traditional seafood restaurant first for lunch. After arriving, we took off our shoes before climbing a set of stairs, where we were greeted by a beautiful dining area, complete with low tables and legless seats on the floor. After being seated, we were immediately served hot tea, miso soup, and a beautiful bowl of sashimi and rice. Though I do not eat seafood for ethical and dietary reasons, I was able to overcome my personal limitations, making sure to try pieces of each different kind of fish and seafood; however, I ended up giving out most of the fish to my friends– I didn’t want any of it going to waste! After our delicious meal, we walked to a tiny shop, where we were able to paint our own Tairyobata, a flag typically displayed on boats when returning to ports by fisherman to indicate a successful and big catch. My group came together as we discussed which colors to use and where, as well as switching spots and swapping brushes in order to ensure everyone had equal opportunities to paint the flag. It was an amazing bonding moment, especially at the end when we were able to step back and admire our work! We then reunited with the other half of our InterMission group and traveled to Jogashima Island, where we were able to walk around and explore a park on the island. After taking many photos, we finally made our way to the sharehouse, where we checked in and dropped off our bags before heading to a traditional Japanese hot spring. After spending an hour enjoying the relaxing hot water, we returned to the sharehouse, where we enjoyed a delicious meal, played a game related to the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), and finally, went to made our way back to our rooms to the futons set up on the floor. All of us were exhausted from our full day, and fell asleep very quickly!
On Wednesday, I set an alarm for 6, so I could have time to myself to watch the sunrise and eat breakfast before the rest of my InterMission group woke up. After helping prepare breakfast, eating, and packing up our belongings, our InterMission group traveled via public bus to the Misaki Seafood Regional Wholesale Market, which was essentially a wholesale auction for tuna. This experience truly opened my eyes to the size and value of tuna fish and sparked a discussion between a few of us within our group about the seafood industry and the ethics behind seafood consumption. We were all amazed at the size of the fish, and how much each fish was selling for. After leaving the fish market, we went on to have a lesson where we learned how to make traditional Japanese red bean sweets shaped like chrysanthemums! After snacking on our beautiful creations and drinking matcha tea, we took another bus, a train, and a boat to Yokohama, where we were able to explore and buy lunch in Chinatown. Though I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time and the activities we’ve done in Japan, I was grateful to have an hour just to wander and explore with my friends by my side. Lastly, we took our final few trains and arrived back at Kichijo, where we parted ways for a night in with our host families.
Students enjoyed free time with host families after classes on Saturday. They spent the weekend in a variety of ways, from traditional family activities to spiritual retreats at local shrines and temples. As always, these days included wonderful food and budding friendship.
From Olwyn Voss:
This weekend on Sunday, I went to Kawagoe with my host family. We walked around the town and ate various foods from street vendors, such as eel on a stick which was actually so good, and I ate a tofu doughnut! It was delicious! I was lucky enough to go to a kimono shop with my host family. I went through the process of putting on the kimono with its many layers and then we walked around the town. I visited a shrine and my host mother taught me how to pray, which was an amazing experience. We washed our hands to purify them using a bamboo spoon, and then put coins into a wooden basin and rang a bell to pray. The entire time we were in kimonos and the layers kept me warm, but my feet were so cold because I was wearing the traditional sock for sandals that have a separation between the big toe and the first toe. We went into a tea shop and my host mother taught me how to make tea using a special pot. I bought one for my own mom! I was able do see things that I never thought I would get to see in real life, including a bell tower called the “Bell of Time,” which is over 400 years old. We spent all day there, trying new foods together, laughing, shopping, and taking pictures to preserve our memories!
From Sofia Olivares:
My stay in Japan so far has been incredible everyday, and Monday was no exception. It was especially amazing because I was able to witness a national holiday, the National Coming of Age Day. First thing in the morning we visited the Tokyo Sky Tree and enjoyed beautiful, everlasting views of the city. Far in the distance we could see the peak of Mount Fuji in all its glory as it highlighted the skyline. Spread out below us were old and new buildings. We could see the Imperial Palace, central Tokyo, Asakusa, Tokyo Tower, and so much more. My host mother pointed out popular and important spots. My host sister and I took many photos together as well. Although Tokyo has felt small due to the narrow streets lit by many beautiful lanterns, I was reminded of its size at the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Afterwards we passed through a large mall called Solomochi where we bought sweets, souvenirs, and ate lunch. We also enjoyed matcha ice cream. Then we took a Sky Duck bus which is a tour bus that turns into a boat. So we drove around the Tokyo Sky Tree Town then we travelled on the Naka River. Once again, I was gifted with amazing views of the city. Finally, we went to Asakusa. This is an area rich in Japanese culture and history. We visited a grand temple and proceeded through a street busy with small shops. There were good smells wafting from all sides. I tried dango, a chocolate-covered banana, and several other sweets. When we reached the temple, my host sister showed me how to wash my hands and mouth. Then we entered the main temple and threw coins into a large vat. Everywhere we went, we took several photos and made wonderful memories. By the end I knew so much more about Japanese traditions. I’m so thankful to my host family for showing me their city and their culture.
We spent the weekend with host families, enjoying everything Tokyo has to offer, from sushi to the Meiji Shrine, the Tokyo Sky Tree to beautiful parks and gardens, shrines, temples, and celebrations in honor of the National Coming of Age Day. As we enter week two here in Japan, we feel so lucky and grateful to be immersed in our neighborhoods, new friendships, Japanese culture, and the Kichijo community.
From Haley Baum:
Yesterday was the first day of the Sumo Wrestling season. My host family took me to see the arena with all of the stands outside and the famous wrestlers coming in and out. My host mother printed a little pamphlet for me with all the information about sumo. I learned that sumo began over 2,000 years ago, originally as a religious activity, then for military training, and then it became part of a festival. After 2,000 years, none of the rules have changed and the platform is still made of clay and rice-straw bales. I also read that it is the national sport of Japan and my host mother told me it is extremely popular. We waited with the crowd outside of the arena and watched the famous wrestlers enter the arena. I was surprised at how respectful their fans were. People clapped and were very excited as the wrestlers came by but there was no screaming or asking for selfies. After, we got some houjicha and matcha ice cream, which was delicious, before going to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. We got to see some really cool artifacts and learn all about Japan’s Edo period. My favorite thing that we saw was “Mihara”, the sword that was passed down in the royal family starting in the 18th century. (photos don’t do it justice)
We left when the museum closed and it was finally time for me to try Japanese sushi. It was absolutely the best sushi I had ever eaten and the miso soup was unbelievable. I tried so many different types of fish and I was so full, exhausted, and happy.
On our way back to the train station we stopped at Tsukiji Hongwanji, a Shinshu Buddhist temple and it was breathtaking. When we got home, my host mother’s parents were waiting for us. They had covered the table in beautiful handmade bags and scarves and told me to take as many as I wanted, some things for me and some for my family members. My host mother told me her mother loves to sew and make art and she is overjoyed when she can give things to other people. She also gave me a little frame with a picture inside, made from precisely cutting and layering a photo over and over again and applying a special gloss. These are absolutely the most amazing gifts I have ever received and I was so touched. This family is so incredible and I can’t believe I have to leave them in just five days.
From the Meiji shrine, we took a walk around the area, with my host parents pointing out significant buildings such as schools, or historical landmarks like the preserved wall of an ancient castle. After visiting another smaller shrine, we had lunch at a famous nabe restaurant, which was almost exactly like Chinese hotpot, except with really fat udon noodles. The meal was piping hot that my host Father started sweating like mad!
Our next stop was the popular tourist shrine, the Asakusa shrine. I had been there before, but there weren’t as many people as before! Japanese people and foreign tourists flocked the food stalls and shrine steps, armed with their cameras and wallets. Thank goodness for being short, because we managed to duck under outstretched phones and peace signs. After having our mid-afternoon snack of takoyaki, candied apple, and chocolate banana, (this whole day was just composed of good food and walking), we began to head home. I was delighted to find out that my host family had booked a sushi restaurant for dinner near home, and the day came to a perfect finish with drool-worthy sushi and chawamushi. If anything, this day only proved to me how kind my host family is. They planned today according to what I was interested in, even when my host sister had a lot of homework. Now, I ought to find some way to give back to them.
Tomorrow morning we are headed Miura Beach to explore Japan’s fishing industry and economy. Additionally, we’ll be celebrating the start of the new year for the area fisherman, which culminates in a festival of blessings and well-wishes for a successful season. Due to limited internet connection, we’ll be unable to post for the next 36 hours, but we’ll have lots to catch up on when we return. Stay tuned!
Porter’s students engaged in biology classes, learned the fundamental purpose and practices of a traditional tea ceremony, and joined a Japanese archery class. Kichijo students have gone to national competition in archery for many years now, so our students were eager to learn from their peer experts. After school–Kichijo has Saturday classes–students traveled with their host sisters and buddies to cat cafes, dinner, or a shopping excursions in Harajuku. We feel comfortable and at home in Tokyo:
To an old pond
A frog leaps in.
And the sound of water. ~Basho, 1686
Here, we have one of the most famous Japanese haiku poets reflecting on both the familiar and the transient; a moment in time, an observation of the natural world, its impermanence and timelessness. We feel that way, too, as if we’ve been connected to this culture and its people for a very long time, even though in so many ways, we’ve really just arrived.
From Mia Gergis:
My day began at 6:30 a.m. where I got ready for school and began walking to the train station with my host student by 7:15. We arrived at the school by 8:00 a.m. and parted ways in order to prepare for our classes. After classes, I attended tea ceremony as an after school activity. Later, I went to Harajuku, one of Japan’s most famous tourist spots, with Olwyn and her host student to shop and further explore Japan. It was very crowded, but I’m glad I was able to experience it.
From Jenna Hall:
Unlike Porter’s, girls at Kichijo have Saturday morning classes. My day started off at 6:00 a.m. I woke up, got dressed, and headed downstairs to eat a delicious breakfast that my host mother had prepared. It was a mix of different fruits and pastries. So far, I would say Japan has the best pastries I have ever tasted. After eating, I quickly brushed my teeth and my host sister and I headed to the train station at around 6:45 a.m. Upon arriving at the train station, I board one train that brings me to Akabane. Then I get off and make my way to the Saikyo Line, and get off Shinjuku. Finally, when I arrive at Shinjuku I get off and take the Chao Line (Rapid) to Nishi- Ogikubo. Even though this sounds long we have still not arrived at school. I still have a ten minute walk from the train station to school. Along this route there are cute shops and restaurants that glow at night with all the lights that hang from the roofs of buildings. All in all my trip is about an hour and 15 minutes long. This is very different from what I am used to because from my house it only takes me about 20 minutes to get to school. After entering campus, Mia and I walked to homeroom and after a long morning this is where my host sister and I part. In homeroom, we talk to our Kichijo buddies and wait for the teacher to arrive and take attendance. After that, we walked downstairs to a room that is only for Porter’s students. In here, we reflect on the experiences we have had so far and talk about how we are feeling. This is an essential part of the day because I do not get to see my Porter’s friends throughout the day, and this helps me remember that I am not alone. Later on I attended calligraphy for two hours where we spelled our names in Japanese characters and tried making origami. My last class of the day was biology where I got to participate in the preparation of a lab that will be done with the students next week. After lunch, about thirteen Porter’s students had the opportunity to sit in on a tea ceremony (chado). In this activity, we got to see how tea is made and we even ate little snacks with our tea. It was very interesting to see how every hand movement meant something important when working with tea. After the tea ceremony, I departed campus to go to a hedgehog cafe in Shibuya with my host sister and some of her friends. The hedgehogs were so cute and it was fun exploring Shibuya, especially walking across the Shibuya crossing. Then we made our way to Asakusa, a famous district in Tokyo, and saw Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple. We walked around shops and tried new foods. Some were delicious and others were not my taste. I took so many pictures and had an amazing time. Before we left we stopped by a Japanese fortune teller where I got to take a sheet of random paper that told me how my year would look. Before we left we threw coins into the temple and made wishes for the year. After a long day we took the train home. We waved goodbye to my host sister’s friends at their stops and sat and waited for our train to arrive. When we got home I helped make dinner which consisted of Japanese style hot cakes. They were very enjoyable. It was around ten o’clock when I washed up and went to sleep.
My days here are very long yet happy, and I hope to make the most out of each day I am here. I am grateful for my host family for providing me with a house to sleep in and food every day, though I miss my friends back home in Farmington and can’t wait to see them when I get back. I love Japan and wish my trip didn’t have to end so soon. I will miss the friends I made here and will try to keep in contact with them when I am back home.
Porter’s students have free time with host families on Sunday, and Monday is a a National Holiday: “Coming of Age Day.” We’ll post photos and student updates throughout the weekend. And should you be interested: somehow there are pansies, petunias, geraniums, and camellias in bloom… in January. We’re mystified and curious… and happy every time we see the anticipation of spring.
From Sarah Spence:
We started our day by getting on a crowded train at the metro station near Kichijo. All the seats and handles were taken by stressed-out businessmen and women on their way to work. Amongst the crowd were six year olds, who looked like they knew the metro more then the adults themselves, traveling alone to school. The train was absolutely quiet despite the number of people.
We got off the train relieved not to be sharing such a small space with strangers and went to the second train line which would take us to Shibuya station. We gasped as the doors of the train slid open and revealed a train cart with twice the number of passengers as the first train we had taken. We squished in. The cart was so full that there was not enough space for us to move our arms, let alone sit down.
Our experience at the metro helped me understand the Japanese culture better. Being one of the most crowded cities in the world, organization and efficiency become essential to their everyday life.
After three train rides, each twice as packed as the last, we finally arrived at the Mori Digital Design Lab Museum. There are no words to describe the magnitude and creativity of each installment. The museum is composed of many large rooms all connected by dark hallways. Entering into each installment is like entering into a different universe. My favorite was a maze made of hanging string lights, all coded to replicate different scenes in nature by acting together to change patterns in their small light bulbs. Mirrors cover the maze walls which help to give the impression that the lights go on forever in every direction. When combined with music, it gives the impression that the observer is in a magical alternate universe. (Photos may be slow to load.)
From Marissa Chow:
We have been in Japan for about five full days now and it has been an amazing time. Somehow, I didn’t come to the realization that I would be in Japan, until we were on the plane! Being in Japan is surreal. These past few days I have really tried to step outside of my comfort zone, whether it is doing sports I haven’t done in years, or trying new foods. Soccer and volleyball are for sure not my best sports, I am very bad at both, but the girls at Kichijo Girls School are so nice and they laugh, smile, and encourage us all the time. Two days ago, we had a free period and some girls and I sat in a circle, and we took turns asking each other questions. At first, I was worried that it would be awkward and weird, but instead the room was full of laughter. The girls at Joshigikuin were also very nice and welcoming! It was very easy to create conversation with them! My host family is amazing. The mother is very good at cooking and my host sister is so nice. I have tried many new foods, such as octopus, mushrooms, and sashimi, and I have liked them all! The culture here is very different from America and I have so much to learn. Everywhere is quiet, steering wheels are on the right side, and even the swimming pool is different. Today we went to teamLab (Mori Digital Design Museum) and it was an incredible experience. The rooms were very pretty and intriguing, there was so much to do with so little time. Overall, I have really enjoyed my experience and I cannot wait for more memories.
Here are two student observations that reflect our most recent days at Kichijo and evenings with host families. Enjoy!
From Meghan Keating:
I can’t believe that it is already the end of our fourth day here in Tokyo, the time has really flown by! Today we spent the day at Kichijo learning traditional Japanese calligraphy and origami, as well as attending classes with our school buddies. In calligraphy, we practiced writing our names and numbers, and learned the techniques and traditions that go along with it. It is a required class for all students at Kichijo and Joshigakuin and my host student, Akane, says that it is her favorite class and that she started when she was just six years old. We had an hour of free time after lunch, so we went to the St. Germain bakery about a mile away from the school and treated ourselves to doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, breads and amazing sweets. In the afternoon, I joined the volleyball team with Marissa, Haley and Olwyn. The girls at Kichijo are insanely good, but they were so kind and willing to help us learn. It was definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip thus far. All of the girls at Kichijo are extremely kind and welcoming. They love talking to us about our hobbies and school life at Porter’s. My host sister and I have become so close in the few days that we have known each other, we have so many similar interests and we love listening to Taylor Swift on the train ride to and from school and watching iCarly together when we get home. I was very nervous for my homestay, but the experience has been incredible and irreplaceable. It has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of Japanese lifestyle and customs. Though I have traveled abroad with my family many times, this is the first time I have felt truly immersed in the culture of a country. Tomorrow we are off to the Mori Digital Design teamLab Design Museum, and this weekend we all set off with our host students to explore Tokyo. I have already made such amazing memories with the students at Kichijo and Porter’s, and am looking forward to the rest of my time in Japan.
On the way to Kichijo School from Nishi-Ogikubo Station
From Cici Barton:
This is the third day I have woken up a minute before my alarm goes off at 6:45 where my host sister Maasa comes in at 6:46 and I get up to go brush my teeth at 6:47 where my brother called me to tell me about his hockey game at 6:50 which was about 5pm at home. Maasa and I leave every morning at 7:30. She has me on the most consistent time schedule ever. I don’t remember the last time I have left my house or dorm at school at one exact time for this many days consecutively.
Okay, so today in Japan, to get to the good stuff, I got to school dropped off my coat in my locker got a matcha latte with Marley from a vending machine then went to my home room (1-1) and met up with my buddies, just to come back down to our room for reflection where we eventually got to everyone with PenX. I went to PE class for the first time since 8th grade and played volleyball which I’ll admit is not my strong suit, but I managed to keep the ball up for the most part. I almost hit Meghan a few times, but other than that I’d call it a success and a solid contribution. After PE we came back to the room and learned how to write our name and numbers in calligraphy. Calligraphy was surprisingly difficult but still very relaxing. I wrote out lots of numbers on old news papers and my name on fancy paper which hopefully wasn’t wasteful. I’m proud of my effort there—I learned something new. We also folded lots of origami kimonos, cranes, flowers, and Raccoon dogs or dog raccoons, whatever that is, with more success than the calligraphy in my case. Afterwards five of us went up to the cafe with our buddies to eat lunch. I had udon noodles again which might be the best I’ve ever had. I finished the school day with music class. After school a lot of us went out to Kichijoji and got pancakes which was delicious and so fun! I think we all bonded, and I loved meeting Noknoi’s host sister and I think it allowed my host sister to make new friends in other grades which made me happy. I just finished eating dinner and I’m about to read. I ate a lot of pistachios, wasabi peas, prunes–oddly enough–and sashimi, while having interesting conversations with my host family. We discussed oat cakes, my global studies homework, and hemp batteries all conversions that are as abstract as my dinner decisions. My host mother boiled tea for me and my host father showed me songs he likes on the CD player. This trip has been wonderful so far. Like anything it has ups and downs, but I’m so happy I’m here. My host family is so sweet, and Tokyo is incredible— It just keeps getting better! Stay tuned for videos and vlogs :))))
We’ve experienced so much in four short days! From great excitement and anticipation to nervous feelings about almost everything to shared experiences with friends new and old; our days at Kichijo continue to enrich and expand us as global citizens and sisters in the neighborhood of humankind.
From Isa Ramirez:
For me, this trip has been an incredible and once-in-a-lifetime experience. From the terrifying moment when we left the train station with our host families, to every little moment we have shared with others, ordinary things such as riding the train, walking to school, going up the escalator, attending classes, having family meals, trying traditional food, and meeting new people is unique and distinct because of how different Japanese culture is from what were accustomed to. Today we had Japanese classes at Kichijo during the morning and visited Joshigakuin School in the afternoon. I was impressed by the kindness and respect everyone treats everyone else with and their eagerness to get to know us while showing us their lifestyle. I am sure all of my classmates agree that even though sometimes it is hard and strange to be far away from home living in another family’s home, this is a remarkable experience that will make us value everything we have back home and grant us a broader wold perspective.
From Madyn Singh:
If I could use one word to describe my experience in Japan so far, it would be “amazing.” All the students at Kichijo and Joshigakuin are so friendly, kind, and welcoming. We’ve taken two Japanese language classes at Kichijo so far, in which we’ve learned some common Japanese phrases as well as how to introduce ourselves. One moment that I will always remember is at Joshigakuin earlier today when I introduced myself to a group of girls in Japanese. They all smiled and started clapping, making me feel very special. I’ve traveled abroad many times before with my family and on my own, but this is my first time staying with a host family and attending school in a different country. It is a unique experience unlike anything I expected it to be, but I can honestly say I’ve loved every minute of it. Since coming here, I’ve challenged myself to be fully present and to immerse myself in every aspect of Japanese culture by eating new foods, meeting locals, and learning a little bit of the language. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for every moment. My host family is the sweetest, and they’ve made me feel so at home. I like to watch movies with my amazing host sister Yui after school, as well as play with her dog. My host mom is the most incredible cook, and I’ve loved every new food that I’ve tried so far. I’m excited to take more classes and meet more students at Kichijo, to explore Tokyo, and to spend more time with my host family!