Japan - My Family Travels

I arrived in Japan on February 10, 2011.  I spent fourteen hour on a plane, had a three hour layover at Narita International Airport, and another three hours on a plane to Okinawa, but my excitement and anxiety about being in Japan overpowered all feelings of exhaustion.  This was my second trip to Japan with my school.  Although I had brought with me this time a wealth of experience from my previous trip and from my time studying in and out of the classroom, I still had so much to learn. We only spent a day in Okinawa during which time why friends, my teacher, and I visited various sites such as Shurijo castle and Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.

 After touring in Okinawa we went to Hiroshima where we would live with host families and shadow our host brother or sister throughout his or her day while attending Nagisa High School.  We went to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Wood Egg, Kamagari Elementary School, and an Okonomiyaki museum.  With my host family I visited Miyajima and I visited Hondori Street with my host sister, Sakurako, and a couple friends.  Miyajima is a very religious place.  There I saw a beautiful “floating” temple.  Hodori is a big social scene.  We took purikura (photos in a special photobooth) there.  Sakurako and I bonded a lot during this time.   

The people in Hiroshima speak a certain dialect called Hiroshima-ben.  For instance, instead of saying totemo for very they say bucchi or bari.  Hiroshima also has a distinct way of making okonomiyaki, a Japanese syle savory pancake.  The ingredients are layers one on top the other for Hiroshima style okonomiyaki as opposed to Osaka style okonomiyaki, the other famous style of okonomiyaki, in which the ingredients are mixed together.  I learned about how influential okonomiyaki is on Japanese culture while in Hiroshima.  Although okonomiyaki was created before World War II, it became very popular during and after the war.  Women would make it and sell it out of their own homes.  The second character in okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) even means women. 

I learned more about Hiroshima’s culture when we visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum or Heiwa Kouen.  My host sister came along with us on this trip.  It was nice to have her there because she took special care in ensuring that I gained as much as possible from that experience.  The most influential part of that trip was seeing Sadako’s statue.  Sadako was a girl who got radiation poisoning from the atomic bomb which ended up turning into cancer.  Sadako did not show any sign of being sick until six years after the bomb was dropped.  To maintain hope Sadako began folding paper cranes in accordance with the Japanese proverb “If you fold a thousand paper cranes you will be granted a wish”.  Sadako sadly died, but she had gained so much support that people around the world we folding and sending paper cranes to her.  Today in Heiwa Kouen not only is there a statue in her memory, but there are display cases of over a thousand paper cranes.  A week after I returned home a devastating earthquake hit Japan.  My friend and I appealed to our student council to help us create an event  called it 1,000 Paper Cranes for Japan Relief.  We got at least a hundred students to come together after school to fold paper cranes.  We raised over $3,000 for Japan.  I am very proud that we were able to keep Sadako’s legacy strong.





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