2015 Kurashiki Student Ambassador Essay: Hope Diamond
To think I was actually able to go to Japan and to come back safe and sound is astounding to me when I think about it. Recounting tales and looking at my souvenirs that have become part of my life, these are the nice things. Thus I'd like to thank everyone for this opportunity before I go into details. I'd like to thank HAJAS, namely Dianne Daugherty and Patty Woods, for everything they've done, including planning the trip and helping us prepare for it, the Kansas City Committee in Japan who also helped us, our guides, Mr. Benson and Mr. Fujii, for showing us around and making our lives easier, and my two host families who accommodated me, the Matsushita's and the Fujikawa's. I'd also like to thank my mom for giving me the push to try for this trip again when I had failed last year.
After the long while of getting through customs, we finally met up with Mr. Benson, but not after passing by him first. We traded in our money, sent off our bags, and then began our journey to our hotel. Boarding a train, we were able to see some interesting sights and also rest up from all the walking. After a bit of getting lost, we arrived at our hotel with meat buns in hand. We ate and rested up a bit and headed back out to walk around. We had dinner with a friend of Mr. Benson's in a large department store and then headed back to our hotel.
The next day we finally met up with our host families. I met my host grandmother and grandfather; they were very nice and very helpful. We left the Kurashiki train station and drove our way to the Matsushita house, where I met my host mother and father, Tomomi and Kousei, and shy little brother, Yamato. When Tomomi and Kousei were finished with their chiropractic work, we had our first meal together, which was somen. For the time being I was left to my own devices while Kousei went back to work and Tomomi left to drop Yamato off at cram school. And during that short time alone, the older brother Tenfuu had arrived home from school and tennis club practice. With a hello he went upstairs to rest.
Though I wasn't able to spend time with everyone, I still had loads of fun doing so many different things: going to stores, arcades and the park, seeing the sea and going up the mountain to see the Seto Oohashi, and even visiting Tenfuu's high school and joining in on a local camp-out with Yamato and other little kids! I had many great experiences with the Matsushita's and I cannot be more grateful for a better first host family.
During my stay with the Matsushita's, I visited other places with everyone and Mr. Benson. We visited Hiroshima and Miyajima! I wouldn't exactly call Hiroshima fun but it was interesting to see the museum and all the stories and pieces from that time preserved and set on display. But Miyajima was the most enjoyable place we had gone to on this trip. Seeing and petting all the deer felt relaxing and just looking through the tourist shops felt like a breath of fresh air.
We didn't meet with the mayor, due to a typhoon warning, so my remaining days I had with my first host family truly felt like they were dwindling. On the last day with them, Tomomi and I visited Okayama-jou and climbed all the way to the top, and went to find an Animate store Tenfuu goes to often. After that we went home to have dinner, then took a few silly pictures as commemoration.
My second host family was the Fujikawa's. I met with the mother, Mami, during the luncheon in which we performed our dance after the students coming to KC did their own performance. I then went to the Fujikawa's home and I met the father, Kazunori, who introduced himself saying "Hello, my name is Daddy" in English, and one of the grandmothers named Yasuko. In the evening, I met the youngest sister, Minori, and proceeded to have dinner with all of them. Afterwards I spent quality time with Minori, watching her color-guard performances and a drama that just started airing on TV. Sadly I wasn't able to meet the other grandmother, because she was in the hospital, and the two older sisters, who were at university and were very busy at the time.
I had some interesting experiences while staying with the Fujikawa's. I read to elementary school children at a school in English while Mami read the same book in Japanese, and even went to an amusement park. Lastly, we went to a large festival that was next to the Kurashiki train station. I wore a Minnie Mouse yukata and went with Minori, who also wore a yukata, and were also accompanied by one of the elder sister's friend and her mother. I wasn't able to fit into the geta so I wore some dress shoes I brought instead.
At around this time we visited two high schools, Kurasho and Seiryo. We did interesting activities at Kurasho and we saw more of the clubs at Seiryo. On another day we went with members of the Kansas City Committee to tour a temple, had lunch together, rode on a yacht, and even visited a small beach. Even though the day was cloudy, we still managed to have a good time.
During my last day with my second host family, we went to Aeon Mall to go to a buffet with Allie's host family, which apparently they call buffet "biking." We also went to a bookstore and to the arcade. I managed to get something out of a UFO catcher and had sushi for the first time in Japan for dinner.
The next day we all met at the train station, took a big picture together, and tried not to cry, and took the train to Kyoto. With Mr. Fujii as our guide, we visited three temples, namely Kiyomizu-dera, and ran into shops when it started to rain heavily. Having a dinner of soba, we did karaoke very late and somehow managed to get back to our hotel. The next day we had more free time and visited an area with a lot of shops, and also an Animate which I went straight for. We took purikura altogether and began to leave, though it started raining again. We picked up our bags from the hotel and went to the airport, and said our goodbyes to Mr. Fujii.
The plane ride was easier this time. Maybe it was because I had a lot more fun? I immensely enjoyed my time in Japan and I wish to go back there again. I thank everyone again for this wonderful opportunity! Thank you!