Kurashiki Student Ambassador Essay: Luke Daniel
a 2017 student ambassador of Kurashiki, it is hard to explain in
words how thankful I am to the Heart of America Japan-America Society
for giving me this amazing and exhilarating opportunity. Even though
I went to Kurashiki last year with my school, this trip gave me the
additional experience of traveling alone and independently along with
allowing me to understand the Japanese language and culture in
greater depth. In particular, I would like to thank Fran Lemery,
Patty Woods, Jan Conard, Hideko Schackmann, and the rest of the HAJAS
members for preparing us well, giving great advice for the trip. I
would also like to thank James Benson and Koji Shirakawa for taking
us all around Japan and especially for taking me to the doctor for my
infected piercing. That meant so much to me and they truly made me
we arrived at the Kansai airport, we were exhausted and tired, yet so
excited. After we left customs, we were greeted by Koji Shirakawa, a
friendly face in the crowded airport. He took us to the train station
where we waited for the train in the hot and humid Osaka weather. We
then got onto the train and headed for a different station where we
would take a shinkansen to Okayama. It was amazing watching the
buildings fly by the window of the shinkansen. We then arrived at the
Okayama station where we took one last train headed for Kurashiki.
During the last train ride, I was nervous to meet my host family, but
also very excited. When we arrived at the station, we were greeted by
all of our host families. I was greeted by my host Dad, Takeshi
Nishiguchi, and my host Mom, Tomoka Nishiguchi. I knew, right when I
met my host family, that I was going to enjoy my time with them. Both
my host dad and mom were fluent in English but I did not let that
stop me from speaking Japanese with them.
then headed home and arrived at a huge beautiful house perched on a
steep hill. It had a great view of all of Kurashiki. They had 2 Shiba
Inus. Their names were Kotetsu and Nanako. My host Mom showed me to
my room which was a traditional Japanese style room. It had the
tatami floor mats and sliding doors. I was so surprised when I saw
it. I then met my host brother Ryo. He loved playing video games and
we both played the new Splatoon 2 game together. I wasn’t nearly as
good as he was.
next morning I went to the school and made a lot of friends there. We
went to the many different classes like English and Music. It was a
memorable day and I was sad to leave the school. My host mom then
picked me up and we headed off to 7-Eleven which was completely
different from 7-Elevens in America. They actually had good food
there. My host mom introduced me to the convenience-store soba. When
I tasted it, I was surprised of how good it was. From then on, when
we would go to 7-Eleven, I would always choose the soba. In the
morning my family always made the best breakfast. They served me a
plate of fruit consisting of sliced white peaches, apples, and my
favorite of all, Kyoho grapes. They were the best grapes I have ever
tasted. I keep hoping I’ll find them here in Kansas City!
through the stay of my first host family, Nanako passed away. She was
only 2 years old. My host family decided to dig a grave for Nanako in
their backyard. Ryo and I grabbed 2 shovels and started digging the
hole. It was a really sad because even though I only knew Nanako for
4 days, it felt like I knew her forever. I also appreciated that they
let me take part in her burial. They really included me as a family
host mom made some of the best food I have ever tasted. She made
okonomiyaki, sushi, miso soup, ramen, and curry and rice. My favorite
out of all were the curry rice and ramen. On my last night with my
first host family, we went to a yakiniku restaurant. I hope to go
back there again on a future visit to Japan – amazing food.
next day I started packing all of my things and getting my suitcase
ready to ship to the airport. I put on my dress clothes and got in
the car. When we arrived my host Dad dropped me off and I headed to
the room where we all would meet. I met the Japanese students that
were heading off to Kansas City. They did a performance for us and we
did our dance for them. Afterwards we got time to talk to them and
got some time to get acquainted. We then walked to the Kurashiki City
Hall where we listened to the Mayor speak. We then introduced
ourselves in Japanese. We even met a group that was going to New
it was finished, we walked out where our new host families were
waiting for us. My host mom Saeko, my host brother Koma (12 years
old), and my host sister Yuki (8 years old) were waiting for me. We
walked out of the City Hall and got in the car with my new host
family. A sad feeling came over me when I left my first host family.
I didn’t realize how much I would miss them until I had already
left them, but I also knew that I was going to really learn to love
this host family. On the way home, my host mom told me a funny story.
She said that when she and Yuki were at Starbucks at Aeon, Yuki
thought she saw me there and asked her mom, but my host mom didn’t
think it was me. It turned out they actually saw me earlier in the
week! That really surprised me hearing that story. It really shows
just how small the world is.
we arrived home I met my host father Katsuya. We talked and got to
know each other. Koma, Yuki, and I started playing Mario. After we
played for awhile, we decided to go out to eat. There was a ramen
shop close by so we decided to go by foot. When we arrived we ate
some delicious ramen with pork, bean sprouts, and a hard boiled egg.
After that we walked back home, I took a shower and went to bed.
host sister Yuki always played the piano which was so relaxing to
listen to. She would play “It’s A Small World After All” and
many songs from the Studio Ghibli films like “Itsumo Nando Demo”
from Spirited Away
and “Cat Bus” from My
Every time I listen to those songs now, they remind me of her and the
day I even went to Kumon with Koma and Yuki where they studied
English. I had the opportunity to learn Japanese in the class. This
was a great experience for me to learn the Japanese teaching style. I
also went to Koma and Yuki’s calligraphy class. They taught me how
to correctly use the brush and paint the kanji smoothly. It took many
tries for me to get used to it. Once I became good enough, we took
the best calligraphy I did and glued it to a fan. They even showed me
how I write my name in calligraphy form.
second host family took me to many places throughout Kurashiki and
Okayama. They took me to the Okayama castle, the Kurashiki Bridge,
and took me out shopping many times. They also took me to the Tenryo
festival, a summer festival in Kurashiki. They gave me a jinbei
to wear which is a traditional Japanese style of clothing worn to
summer festivals. We walked around a bit and watched part of the
parade. We started getting hungry and started looking for a place to
eat. We ate at a delicious yakitori
restaurant. We didn’t eat at home as much as my first family, but
the one time we did, Saeko made the most delicious unadon .
the last day with my last host family, we drove to the mall where all
our host families met up, along with all four of us exchange
students. We had a whole room rented out where our first and second
host families met together. It made me so happy to see my old host
family. I also got to know all the other host families too. I was so
nervous for the dance performance we had to do, but when we started
dancing, I became so much more comfortable. Everyone was laughing and
we were all having a great time even though we knew these were our
last hours. We made the best of the time we had left.
all the fun, it was time to leave and head off to the train station.
We hugged our families and waved them goodbye. I still remember their
faces when I left. It hurt so much to leave. I just remember the huge
empty feeling that filled up inside of me when I left. We got on the
Shinkansen and headed to Kyoto. When we arrived, we switched to a
train which got us closer to the hotel. Finally, when we arrived at
the hotel, I was so surprised to see how small it was. Everything was
confined into such a small space. I wasn’t complaining though; I
actually thought it was nice.
next morning, we got up, ate breakfast and headed out the door where
our driver was waiting for us. He took us to many different temples
and shrines throughout Kyoto including the Kinkakuji Temple and the
Yasaka Shrine. He even brought us to a little maid cafe where I drank
some ginger ale and had a bowl of ice cream. We also had lunch at a
restaurant right next to the cafe where we ate some tempura soba.
After that we headed back to the hotel and had a good night sleep for
the next day was the sad, long plane ride back to America.