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On July 17, 2008, I left Huntsville, Alabama for Osaka, Japan. As a senior in high school, I had the honor of being one of thirteen ambassadors for Daikin America. Flying a total of seventeen hours, I traveled to Japan for ten days as a cultural exchange with a real Japanese family.
Before we arrived at Daikin headquarters, we toured Osaka. Afterward we met our host families. I was to stay with a family of four: my father, Hiroshi; my mother, Midori; and my two sisters, Haruna and Marina. I was greeted by Hiroshi and Haruna. Haruna was the only family member fluent in English. My Japanese is limited, so communication was challenging, but with the help of gestures and Haruna’s imperfect English, we communicated well. By the end of the two weeks, my Japanese improved.
We spent several days touring Japan with our host families. We toured the World Trade Center, Osaka MariTime Museum, Osaka Castle, and Floating Garden Observatory. For dinner one night, we ate at a bar and grill. The waiters gave us forks and knives instead of chopsticks. When our food was served, I looked at my host family, and they were having difficulty using the silverware. It was funny, because they had been laughing about how badly I used chopsticks, so I showed them how to use the silverware; it was pretty cool. We tried Kendo, the Japanese martial art of sword fighting. We also traveled to Kyoto to visit the magnificent Bamboo Forest, Golden Temple, and Heian Shrine. I visited Doshisha High School where I was able to sit and talk with Japanese students. On our last day, we drove to Nara to see the wild deer and the temples. On Sunday we said our tearful goodbyes. As we were flying from the Kansai Airport to America, I literally traveled through time. The flight was only eleven hours, and when we arrived in Alabama, we were greeted by our families and friends. We all loved Japan, but were happy to be home.
Japan is an amazing country. You can study a culture and its people and grow from that knowledge, but when you actually visit, it becomes personal. The knowledge becomes real, and emotions surface. I saw how traditions and family are important in life, and I found that this trip gave me insight into the culture and people of Japan. My parents and grandparents have always told me that people are the same all over the world. I found this to be true with the Japanese. Although there are differences between us, there are also many similarities. We each have goals in life, things that we want, music that we love, individuality among our peers, a love of eating, and a zest for life. Each country has traditions, holidays, and historical places that mean special things based on its history and culture. Each has a belief in a higher being, even if the name is different.
This trip has allowed me to see and experience some of the differences and similarities between my life and my host family’s. It allowed me to share my surroundings and experiences from home with them. They enjoyed my pictures and the new knowledge of my life. Each side learned and grew. Sightseeing, shopping, and eating were great ways to communicate. I had such a great time with my host family, and I had a great time being a Daikin Homestay Ambassador. The trip to Japan was a very rewarding event in my life; I will never forget it.