2014 Kurashiki Student Ambassador Essay: Nanae Urano
After many layovers, a 13-hour plane ride and hopping from train to train, we four student ambassadors arrived in Kurashiki, Japan. Once we had flown overseas and stepped off the plane, I felt the culture shock. Going from living the
Japanese culture in America to actually experiencing it in Japan was a whole new experience. Having Japanese as my only option of communication was difficult since at home, I have always been able to reply back in English. From eating Ramen noodles that would be prepared in a microwave to physically going to a noodle shop gave my taste buds a whole new sensation.
I was very nervous when we stepped off the train and went to meet our host families. I wondered if they would be able to understand my Japanese or if we would be able to converse well. Once I met my host mother though, the thoughts left my mind. Mrs. Nakahara was very welcoming and it felt as if we had already met. Once I had arrived to what would be my new home for the next week, I met the rest of my host family. My host sisters and I spoke about pop culture in America. My host father and I talked about sports. Since they had lived in America for three years, we talked about the many cultural differences. We rode bikes throughout the city, ate the most refreshing shaved ice and I tried not to embarrass myself too much when they took me to karaoke. Every day was an adventure and I could not wait for what was to come next. That is why when the last day with my first family came I felt as if it was not enough time. I will never forget the memorable time I had with the Nakahara family.
Before I knew it, it was time to switch host families. There was a lunch that was held which was where I met the Ueno family. I had thought the transition to a different family would be difficult and hard to get used to. However, the Ueno family made the transition easier than ever. They were also very welcoming and had new things planned for us to do. We saw wild animals at the circus, rode roller coasters at an amusement park, and I even helped my brother with his homework. Just like how I felt with the Nakahara family, there was not enough time spent with the Ueno family either. The bond and memories that were created with both families motivate me to improve my Japanese and visit them again.
The city of Kurashiki also organized many day trips for the student ambassadors. We went to Hiroshima and visited the Peace Memorial Museum where we learned about the consequences of the atomic bombs. They took us on a yacht where we had the chance to view the scenery of the ocean. There were also many instances where they bought us ice cream in order to cool down in the blistering heat. One of my favorite events they held for us was visiting the high schools. It was interesting to compare my own high school with theirs and discuss the differences with them. The program was also gracious enough to organize a night for us in Kyoto. There, we toured many shrines, walked through old and new parts of the city, and even fed monkeys after climbing a small mountain.
I would like to thank the Heart of America Japan-American Society and the city of Kurashiki for making this trip a reality. It opened my eyes and completely changed my perspective on my future. Not relying on anyone to translate something for me forced me to speak more Japanese and I enjoyed this challenge greatly. My conversational speech has improved and I am excited to go back soon to learn more, meet new people and eat real Ramen once again.