By Yared Habtemariam, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Spring Break Kakehashi Project in Japan
From March 20th-28th, 2017, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Japan with the Foster School of Business for the Kakehashi Project. The purpose of the project was to get a better understanding of the Japanese economy, foreign affairs and policy, and the culture. I must say, this was the best opportunity and experience that I have had thus far during my college career!
Throughout the trip, there were multiple highlights that stood out to me the most. One of my favorites was staying at the traditional guest house in Nagahama City. The people who hosted us at the guest house were very nice and welcoming. They seemed so excited to host us and their energy made us feel welcomed and excited about the experience as well. Getting to sleep on the bedding on the floor in Nagahama was surprisingly way more comfortable than sleeping on the hotel beds. Getting to experience that was eye opening because it showed me that although Nagahama is in Japan, there are differences among other well-known popular cities in Japan such as Tokyo and Kyoto, that make smaller towns unique. I also can’t forget that getting to put on a traditional Yukata Robe after I took a warm bath really made me feel like I was in tune with the culture.
For every meal, I never knew what to expect but I was always blown away because it was different every single time and I learned that there is a lot of variety. I noticed that the presentation of each meal is important in the Japanese culture, and I was able to observe that right away. Attending one of the lectures about the food and agriculture was also a great learning experience. I was able to learn that, not only am I being served food, but the Japanese cuisine actually has meaning behind it. I learned about “washoku”, which means harmony/the food of Japanese. The concept is the notion of balance, which is displayed in the way that the food is prepared and presented.
Overall, I felt as if Japan was a very advanced country. It felt as if everything that we do here in America, Japan does it in a way that is more efficient and makes more sense. For example, the bullet train. I am so glad that I got to experience this. We were able to get to Kyoto from Tokyo in the bullet train in about 2 hours, which would normally take around 5 hours if you were to drive. I am happy to know that there are some plans for implementation of the Bullet Train in the United States, and I am an advocate for it to be implemented all across America. I can only imagine how much more efficient traffic would be in America if we were to have the Bullet Train.
Another thing that surprised me was the cleanliness of Japan. Not only was there rarely any trash on the ground, but there were no garbage cans or recycle bins on the streets which made me question, how is it so clean here? There were times when I would hold trash in my hand for about an hour before I found a garbage can.
Although I can keep going on forever about my experience, the respectfulness, kindness, honesty, and hospitality of the Japanese people and culture stood out to me the most and that is something that I will never forget and is the reason why I plan to return to Japan. Since I’ve been back from the trip, I have already been an advocate of Japan by sharing my experiences with friends and family to let them know that this is a place that they must experience.
Lastly, I want to thank JICE because for making this all possible and giving students in America the opportunity to experience such rich and beautiful country. I also would like to thank our coordinators Eriko, Aaron Robertson and Professor Dukes for being patient with all of the students. This experience will last a lifetime!