A Student Perspective on the Tsuchiura Exchange: "This trip broadened my understanding of Japanese culture and gave me many new experiences that I will cherish for years to come"
Tsuchiura is a special place for me and my family. My dad was invited by Tsuchiura city to run the Kasumigaura Marathon back in 2013 so I got to visit Tsuchiura when I was 4. Unfortunately I don’t remember anything, but the photos show we had a great trip. My mom went to University of Tsukuba near Tsuchiura for college. So when I had the chance to go visit this summer through this program, it seemed like a great opportunity. I wasn’t sure of my choice initially, but after the trip, I was decidedly glad I had gone.
I have been to Japan many times before to visit my grandparents, but I was left with a completely new and different perspective after this trip. Not only did I get to experience new and exciting things traveling across the country, but I got to meet new people, try new types of food, and see new places. I got to visit the floating torii gate of Miyakojima (where they recently had the G7 Summit), visit the Hiroshima Peace museum, and try new foods like okonomiyaki.
Originally, I was nervous because I had recently become vegetarian, and because a lot of Japanese meals consist of meat and fish, I was worried that it would cause a lot of stress on my host family. However, when I arrived in Tsuchiura, they greeted me with a welcoming sign with my name and prepared delicious vegetarian meals for me. I enjoyed making tofu “burgers” with my host family, which were one of the many special meals they made to accommodate me.
I found the Japanese Junior High to be very orderly and structured. The family made sure I fit in by having a school uniform ready for me. I’d never been to a school where everyone wears uniforms. It does make mornings easier to not have to think about what to wear. When I did my introduction in Japanese to the class, students were welcoming and asked many questions about my dog. It seems like dogs are humans’ best friends in Japan as well. I was surprised to see students participating in preparing and serving nutritious hot lunches with multiple dishes, which is very different from my middle school where we simply line up to get a prepared lunch. My buddy and his sister were great hosts helping me navigate the school.
My host family was very friendly and helped make my experience memorable. For example, they took me to see Ushiku Daibutsu, a massive statue of the Amitabha Buddha, said to be the fifth tallest statue in the world. Pictures don’t do it justice, it was so huge! I also got to see my buddy run in the track meet at a big stadium. It was fun to be a spectator at a Japanese track meet, and watch my buddy run very fast.
This trip broadened my understanding of Japanese culture and gave me many new experiences that I will cherish for years to come. I am so grateful to my host family for their hospitality and generosity. I hope we stay in touch. I look forward to continuing my Japanese studies in high school. Finally, thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible for us. Arigato gozaimashita!