experience what the typical Japanese teenager does in their day to day life.
I arrived in Japan after a long 10 hour flight, and met with the INETS coordinators, and the
two other scholarship recipients, who had just flown from Washington state. We then arrived at
our Hotel in Tokyo via taxi. Right away I saw many things that were very different from the U.S.
Almost no one drove cars, meaning that traffic was always moving. After checking into our hotel,
we went out for dinner at a Denny’s a few blocks away from our hotel. Even the Denny’s was
much different than in The States, such as the food, and overall service that the employees
showed. We were able to walk to the Tokyo Tower before returning to our hotel after a long day
of travel. The next day we went to our Japanese class to learn more about the language and
culture, and practiced the speeches that we would make when we arrived at the high school we
would be attending. The class was extremely helpful, as it helped me better communicate with
people later on in my trip. We then went on a bus tour where we visited the Imperial Palace,
Kanon Temple, and the Nakamise Shopping Arcade. After doing some shopping we went on a
boat tour on the Sumida River.
On our second day, we went again to our Japanese class in the rain, which was quite
refreshing, since it cooled us off in the 80 degree weather. We then visited the Meiji Jingu Temple,
which is located in Harajuku, a high end shopping district where there are many fancy stores. We
ate at a Conveyer Belt Sushi restaurant, which is one of the things I love most about Japan. We
then visited the famous Takeshita Street, a tiny little street where thousands of people go to shop
at high end shops, and famous stores. My group and I were allowed to roam the street by
ourselves and just have fun. Many of the shops were quite different, with different styles of clothes
and odd merchandise. I noticed that almost all of the stores have multiple stories so that they don’t
take up much space on the street. For example, the 100 Yen store was 5 floors tall, and many of
the shopping centers were over 7 floors. We then met at the train station and made our way back
to the World Trade Center (where the INETS office was located). Next, we found out that we
were in the heart of Tokyo, but it didn’t feel like it; the entire time I had thought that we were just
on the outskirts of central Tokyo because it was always so calm. Having been in highly populated
cities like Tokyo before, I didn’t get the same chaotic rushing feeling that I have experienced in
Our INETS escorts then took us out for a very nice meal; we had Okanamiagi, a type of Japanese
pancake which consists of mostly cabbage, and other vegetables. Everything we ate we cooked
ourselves on a large grill in the center of the table. Since it was our last night staying at the Hotel
in Tokyo, we returned to our hotel and prepared for meeting with our host families the following
We had one last Japanese lesson to get us ready for meeting our host families, and
finalized the speeches we would make in Japanese at our school. We then had to say a
temporary goodbye to the students from Washington, as they were attending a different school
than us. My friend Jenny and I took a taxi to our school, Jumonji, where we meet with the person
in charge of the exchange program, and our host mothers. He showed us around the school and
where our homerooms were, before school was dismissed and we were able to go home with our
host families. I was able to stay with the family of the student I had hosted the previous year,
Kazuki. I was a bit worried about communication, as my Japanese was still improving, and my
host family knew very little english. But it all worked out in the end, and though communication
was a little tough, we still managed to understand each other and have lots of fun. The next day,
we went to Tokyo Disney with their neighbor, who was visiting from the U.S. and is fluent in both
English and Japanese, so she helped out with the communication barrier. It was my first time
going to Disneyland in my life, so it was a very fun, new experience. That evening, they took me to
another conveyor belt sushi restaurant, since they knew how much I loved the sushi there.
The following morning, we got up at 5:30 and got ready for school. We left the house by 6:30 in
order to catch the bus that would take us to the train station. It took us an hour and a half to get to
school every day, and since the trains are usually very crowded in the mornings, you usually have
to stand. I tried to pay attention to our stops, and what trains to get on, and which way to go, but it
was all so complicated that it was nearly impossible. It wasn’t until the last few days that I was
able to remember which way we had to turn to go to the correct platform. My first day at the
school, I had to introduce myself in Japanese to the entire school, and in my homeroom class. My
homeroom class was very accepting of me, and did their best to talk to me in both English, and
Japanese. I had mostly English classes, but my favorite class was Caligraphy. I was able to learn
how to write in Kanji, and learned how to use the special brush strokes. I also had a cooking class
where we prepared many traditional Japanese meals. In the evenings after school, we would
usually eat a snack and watch One Piece, a popular anime in Japan, since my host mother loves
it, and then we usually went out for dinner.
One day, we decided to watch a movie after school, and my host mother made me feel so comfortable on the couch, that I fell asleep and didn't wake
up until 10 pm, and I helped them prepare corn for dinner. I took a shower every night, and right
away got used to the way they bathe. It is quite different than in the U.S., there is a separate room
where the shower and bath are located. You first shower and clean yourself before entering a hot
bath to relax yourself. The baths were very nice, and I looked forward to them every night.
One day, the entire school went to go see a musical called, Elizabeth. My friends from my
homeroom did their best to explain it to me, but it was even a bit confusing for them. I couldn’t
understand much of the Musical since it was all in Japanese, but it was still very fun to watch.
Since it do enjoy musical theatre, and have done it for a very long time, it was interesting to see it
from another culture. As my trip came to a close, I was very sad about leaving Japan, and my host
family. I had made many friends while I was there, and still keep in touch with them today.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to visit such an amazing country, and to have been able to
experience what life in another culture is like. I learned so much from this trip and gained much
confidence. I would definitely like to go back one day.
The Tokyo Tower