February 28, 2012
文化祭 - Bunkasai Festival Recap

Bunkasai Festival - Face painting station

Megan, an American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP) with Japan participant, recently helped host a cultural festival at her high school. The event was part of a culminating project for the AYLP, which took 30 high school students and three teachers from across the U.S. to Tokyo and Niigata for three weeks in the summer of ‘11. 

Bunkasai Festival Photo Gallery
Oregonian Q&A about Festival
 

Below is Megan’s  recap from the festival… 

The Bunkasai Festival was a huge success! There were a total of about 350-400 people that attended, with tons of performances, food stalls, and carnival games. We had taiko performers from Salem, Oregon, a traditional dance group from Portland State University, a cosplay contest involving local Portlanders, and craft vendors from around the state.

I think it really made people realize how much Japanese culture is in our local area, you really don’t have to look very far. People really enjoyed the performances, especially the adults, while the young kids would go around with their carnival tickets and play lots of different Japanese carnival games~ they really liked the traditional goldfish scooping game, common in Japan, and the kimono photo booth :)

I loved having the opportunity to work with so many of my peers on something as involved as this festival, and really reach out to the community.

Bunkasai Festival - KamonoWe had people of all ages attend, and everyone seemed to be having a really fun time! At the end, the Japanese National Honor Society, who I worked with for the project, were really excited with the outcome, and plan on making it a yearly tradition at our school.

The American Youth Leadership Program with Japan inspired me to share my amazing experience with those in my community, encouraging a world perspective. In addition, the support of the teachers and administrators, and my fellow peers, gave me the support I needed to make my project a success.

The experiences I gained from AYLP mean the world to me, and I would encourage any other students that have an interest in Japan to apply, and take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

***

AYLP with Japan is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more about AYLP with Japan at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012.

Learn more about Cultural Vistas’ intercultural exchange programs at culturalvistas.org and by following us on Facebook and Twitter @CulturalVistas.

November 3, 2011
Student Reflections on AYLP:JAWS 2011

Tylor Jenson
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Most memorable part of your three weeks spent in Japan
The most memorable part of my experience was just being fully immersed in the Japanese culture. There is nothing like being in a completely new place with so many new exciting things to experience.

How has this experience changed your perspective on global issues?
I am a lot more open to the different views of other countries. Now, having been in a country other than the United States, I can see the perspectives of others better.

Describe the AYLP:JAWS experience in one or two words
Breathtaking.

Something unexpected you learned about…
*Yourself* 
I learned that I am capable of great things if I set my mind to it.

*Japanese culture* 
I learned that Japanese people are very kind and will help a complete stranger if they can in any way.

*Differences between U.S. and Japanese culture* 
I also learned that you have to pay to drive on Japanese highways, while in Oregon you don’t have to. In Japan, it is a lot more common to carry around paper money or coins, while in the U.S. we all use debit cards and credit cards. Also in Japan they have coins worth 500 yen that you can get anywhere, while in the U.S. we have $1 dollar coins, but they are not that common

This has been a difficult time for Japan, yet it did not deter you from participating. Why?
I have always wanted to travel to Japan. Also, I thought that being in Japan seemed like a great way to show my own support for the country.

As part of the AYLP:JAWS program, you are now taking what you learned and working toward applying it in your community. What do you hope to accomplish now that you are home?
I plan to work with the Japanese and multicultural clubs in my school to have a Japanese-style festival during our multicultural night. I also plan on doing a project to help remove invasive species in the Tryon Creek Wilderness area.


AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more about AYLP : JAWS at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012    

Learn more about Cultural Vistas’ intercultural exchange programs by following us on Facebook  and Twitter. 

October 28, 2011
Student Reflections on AYLP:JAWS 2011

Oregon native Nikita Gaurav was one of 30 high school student participants in the inaugural American Youth Leadership Program with Japan : Japan-America Watershed Stewardship project, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by Cultural Vistas (formerly known as AIPT-CDS).



The traffic light stationed above me blinks from a scarlet red to a brilliant green and suddenly I find myself submerged in a sea of people. Everywhere I look: people, people, people. Not even a square inch of sidewalk is visible. I quickly grasp the hands of my new friends and gaze upwards at the tall buildings towering over me. A variety of aromas fill my nose: fresh baked pastries, day old fish, cigarette smoke, and floral scented perfume. Gleaming, fluorescent signs display Japanese kanji and katakana in every bright, garish color imaginable. Men gather in crowded restaurants around laptops to drink and discuss business while fashionable women with outrageously high heels stroll the streets. A large truck featuring a blown up picture of a Japanese singing group rolls by blasting loud “J-Pop” music. I am standing in the middle of downtown Tokyo in a popular recreation district known as Shibuya.

My feet ache slightly from the busy day spent attending lectures at the University of Tokyo. I still cannot believe where I am. Everything seems so surreal, especially considering that just three days ago I was spending a mundane summer day at home which involved a driver’s ed class, SAT prep books, piano practice, and an evening run. Sensei Novinger, who is one of the great mentors in the AYLP:JAWS program, tells us that we have the next few hours to explore on our own. Questions that flood my mind include: what if we get lost? And is this safe? Sensei instructs us not to worry and to meet back at the train station around 11:00 pm. Still grasping my friends’ hands I walk out with them into the bustling streets, awaiting an adventure.

I spent the last month in Japan working on the AYLP:JAWS project. J.A.W.S serves as an acronym for Japan-America Watershed Stewardship. The AYLP:JAWS project was an incredible opportunity for me because it not only captured my interest, but also incorporated my knowledge of Japanese and passion for the environment. The stewardship aimed to further America’s public diplomacy effort with Japan and expose foreign methods of sustainability to America’s youth. The J.A.W.S project was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as part of its American Youth Leadership Program. I was selected as one of the thirty students from across the nation to participate in this project.


I considered every day spent in Japan a present that I couldn’t wait to open, because somehow I knew it would give me a wonderful new experience. I learned so much and had so many unforgettable experiences.

One huge aspect that makes Japan such an amazing country is the attitude and customs of its people. I noticed right away in Tokyo that everyone is kind, everything is clean, and almost everywhere is safe. Considering that Tokyo is the largest, most expensive city in the world, what I found surprising was Tokyo’s very low crime rate. In fact a friend of mine dropped his wallet and passport late at night while walking back from doing laundry. A half hour after he realized this he runs back to the exact same spot only to find his passport and wallet with all his money inside sitting right there on the cool cement sidewalk. Considering it was late at night and there were lots of people walking around, I find it amazing that no one bothered to steal the wallet or take the money inside. Crime, gangs, rebellion and even poverty is uncommon in Japan. Culturally, the Japanese people are used to working with each other to avoid conflict.

The devastating earthquake, nuclear disaster, and the global economic crisis hit Japan very hard. However, while running through one of Tokyo’s largest parks, Yoyogi Park, early morning I only noticed a few homeless people. Masanobu-san, an ex-financial investor and one of our admirable mentors, explained to us that Japanese tend to bind together to help people in their community who are suffering from financial woes. The Japanese also believe that simplicity is the key to living a comfortable life. They lack the thirst for possession and wealth that can often drives individuals into crime. Even those who are wealthy remain very humble and generous. I find it incredible that five months after the Sendai earthquake hit, more than 3.8 billion yen ($78 million) has been recovered from safes and returned to rightful owners.

Everywhere we turned we encountered random acts of kindness. People walked up to us attempting to practice their English skills, business owners offered us free food and gifts. I admired how clean Japan was. Hardly any litter was visible because the Japanese are used to carrying their trash with them in personal trash bags. Japan is also very convenient. Everywhere we traveled we found vending machines, and these vending machines contained everything from full meals to electronics to personal hygiene products like toothpaste and toothbrushes. After staying in Tokyo for a few days, I realized how easy it would be for me to live and work in Japan.



My first several days in Japan were spent attending lectures and demonstrations at the University of Tokyo, which is considered the Harvard of Japan. The University of Tokyo exposed to me new opportunities and also broadened my options for studying abroad in college. The professors at the university shared with us a new program that they are introducing in order to attract more foreigners to the university. It is known as the PE@K program where they plan on offering courses completely in English. I found the environmental science and engineering course in the PE@K program the most alluring. The course promises an interdisciplinary understanding of technology, history, policy, jurisprudence, and the environment.

I was also enlightened to hear that the acceptance rate for this program is predicted to be very high. The program is entirely in English, therefore many native Japanese students are not eligible because they lack the twelve consecutive years of English skills needed. The University of Tokyo decided to create this program in order to encourage more foreign students to come study in Japan. Throughout our stay in Tokyo, Niigata, and Sado, we attended several lectures on pressing environmental issues and new methods of sustainability.



A few of the interesting topics we learned about included flood control, snow air conditioning, and hydrogen power. At Niigata University, we learned how Japan annually handles flooding. Right after an earthquake or monsoon floods quickly encroach on the Japanese prefectures which are mostly constructed on lower land. The scarce flat land used for development and infrastructure floods the fastest because it is at the bottom of Japan’s giant mountain range while also being adjacent to the ocean.

The Japanese people built huge underground passageways three times the size of an average underground subway station. These large underground canals are connected to major rivers and the ocean so that watcher can drain into them during a monsoon or tsunami. Dams are often also built inside these large passageways so that energy can be generated while floods are being prevented during the monsoon season. While in Niigata, we visited a mountainous “green” town. Most of the buildings are equipped with green roofs, solar panels and snow air conditioning.

In this region approximately ten feet of snow accumulates every winter. They collect the snow and store it these gigantic insulated “snow barns”. During the summer months the melted water is pumped through pipes in buildings to be used as a means of air conditioning. The water is then pumped into the building’s grey water system where it is used to flush toilets, water plants, etc. The snow lasts in this insulated barn until late October. The cost for snow air conditioning in Niigata is one fifth of the estimated standard air conditioning cost. The Japanese certainly make use of every single resource available to them.

I particularly enjoyed learning about high temperature solar thermo-chemical hydrogen production at the University of Tokyo. Three methods are used to chemically separate hydrogen molecules from water and convert the hydrogen into an energy source: solar water splitting, solar gasification and solar reforming. This new form of sustainable energy is growing in Japan because it does not take up much space compared to the amount of land needed for other main sources of green energy like solar panels and windmills. How does this work? Solar heat systems use mirrors and a reflective or refractive lens to capture and focus sunlight to produce temperatures up to 2,000°C. This high-temperature heat can be used to drive chemical reactions that produce hydrogen. Chemicals like Zinc Oxide and Sulfur Iodine are used in the process creating a closed loop that consumes only water and produces hydrogen and oxygen. High-temperature water splitting is most suitable for large-scale, centralized production of hydrogen. This is a growing form of sustainable energy, Professor Tatsuya at the University of Tokyo explains to us that after the earthquake Japan realized they need to rely less on nuclear energy and more on other sustainable, everlasting forms. Overall, the environmental lectures at Tokyo University and Niigata University have been very captivating and educational.


Last November, excitement flooded my mind when I read a letter informing me that I was accepted into the Japanese-American Watershed Stewardship program. Then a tsunami devoured the coastal town of Sendai causing a nuclear plant disaster to occur. Watching the news and seeing all the destruction and devastation inflicted on the people of Sendai brought tears to my eyes. It obviously was not safe to travel to Japan with the radiation, power outages, and aftershock quakes. All my hopes of traveling to Japan that summer were crushed. I feel that because Japan is such an optimistic, technologically-advanced country they were able to clean up the nuclear reactor mess fast, and because of their excellent efficiency I was notified by the State Department that it was safe to visit Japan. The AYLP:JAWS group was the only American foreign exchange group in Japan at the time. Wherever we traveled we met people who told us to tell all Americans that Japan is recovering and safe again. 

Overall, I consider myself lucky to have been presented this amazing educational opportunity. I got an all-expense paid trip to Japan, I learned more about Japanese culture, I practiced my Japanese skills, I was educated on the environment, I learned how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and most importantly I built strong lasting relationships with peers, mentors, and host families. I owe thanks to Jesuit High School for motivating me to work harder and take initiative outside of school, education certainly does not stop once school does. Specifically, I owe thanks to my wonderful Japanese Sensei who presented this project to me, and to Jesuit’s kind principal Mrs. Satterberg for writing me a glowing recommendation. The American Youth Leadership Program was certainly a life changing experience.

 

To learn more about this program and others like it, visit culturalvistas.org and facebook.com/culturalvistas

October 27, 2011
AYLP:JAWS Photo Contest Winners

The inaugural AYLP:JAWS program sent 30 high school students and educators to Tokyo and Niigata for three weeks this past summer, where they were exposed to the life, culture, and ecology of Japan. Below are the winners of this year’s participant photo contest: 

Henry

Basin Boats of Sado Island (Taraibune)

A Ferry Ride with Friends

AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012

October 27, 2011
AYLP:JAWS Photo Contest Winners

The inaugural AYLP:JAWS program sent 30 high school students and educators to Tokyo and Niigata for three weeks this past summer, where they were exposed to the life, culture, and ecology of Japan. Below are the winners of this year’s participant photo contest: 

Megan

"A Teaching Moment"



"A Night in with Family" 

"Good Soba, Good Friends"

"Making New Friends"

"Nighttime at the Lantern Festival"

AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012

October 27, 2011
AYLP:JAWS Photo Contest Winners

The inaugural AYLP:JAWS program sent 30 high school students and educators to Tokyo and Niigata for three weeks this past summer, where they were exposed to the life, culture, and ecology of Japan. Below are the winners of this year’s participant photo contest: 

Kasey 

Ghibli Museum Robot



Karuizawa - Mt. Yatsuga

AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012

October 17, 2011
Student Reflections on AYLP:JAWS 2011


Aaron
Sugiyama
Beaverton, Oregon
                               

Most memorable part of your three weeks spent in Japan
The host family visits were perhaps the greatest moments in Japan. It was one of the best ways for me to observe a different culture, and practice my Japanese skills. My first host family took me to see fireflies, which I have never seen before. Both of my host families treated me so well, and fed me delicious food. The best part about the trip that didn’t relate to Japan was the closing ceremony. That was one of the most memorable nights of my life.

How has this experience changed your perspective on global issues?
I have had very little experience prior to this trip on global affairs. I have never ventured far from my home before, for such a long duration of time. When I was in Japan, I saw how the Japanese manage their country in areas such as energy and garbage disposal. I saw firsthand how Japan is different from America.

Describe the AYLP:JAWS experience in one or two words
Excelsior.
               

Something unexpected you learned:
I learned to bond with total strangers in a short amount of time. Even though I only knew these people for a few weeks, I now feel like I’ve known them for a long time.

What I learned about the differences between the U.S. and Japan was the regulations the government had in place in Japan. I learned that guns are outlawed, traffic control is rigorous, and energy conservation is both conservative and non-conservative.    

This has been a difficult time for Japan, yet it did not deter you from participating. Why?
I believe the hardships in Japan made me want to go on this trip even more. I was curious about how the country was coping with the hardships, and how they were able to adapt to them.

As part of the AYLP:JAWS program, you are now taking what you learned and working toward applying it in your community. What do you hope to accomplish now that you are home?
I hope to accomplish getting other high school students interested in applying for opportunities abroad. I also hope to implement new conservation systems in my community. 

 

AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more about AYLP : JAWS at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012    

Learn more about the global career opportunities with Cultural Vistas by following us on Facebook  and Twitter.

October 14, 2011
Student Reflections on AYLP:JAWS 2011



Brittney Guzzi
Gresham, Oregon 

Most memorable part of your three weeks spent in Japan
Every time I was baffled by the amount and extent to which we were all respected throughout the entire experience.  We were treated with so much kindness and hospitality by complete strangers at some points, and it amazed and inspired me how selfless the Japanese were to us.  It was so easy to enjoy meeting new people and trying new things.

How has this experience changed your perspective on global issues?
It made me realize just how innovative the nation of Japan is when it comes to environmental conflicts and conservation.  I learned about new techniques and mechanics that I never even knew existed, and the Japanese has been functioning and thriving off of these solutions for years.

Describe the AYLP:JAWS experience in one or two words
Exceptional.        
               

Something unexpected you learned about yourself:
I learned that I am fully capable and competent of watching out for myself as well as taking care of myself.  This was the first time I was given the opportunity to be independent, and I realized that I did just fine.         

This has been a difficult time for Japan, yet it did not deter you from participating. Why?
The people of Japan are such a strong and unwavering population in whatever they do.  They are competent and informed, yet humbly gracious at the same time.  They do not present their struggles to the world; they choose to persevere in all times of conflict and loss until they can find solutions and repair.  I have full faith in Japan, and that was only solidified further by the time I spent there.        

As part of the AYLP:JAWS program, you are now taking what you learned and working toward applying it in your community. What do you hope to accomplish now that you are home?
In the third week of October, I will begin volunteering with an after-school program at a local elementary school in which I will be teaching mini-lessons about different aspects of Japanese culture and art forms. 

AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012

October 11, 2011
Student Reflections on AYLP:JAWS 2011


Megan Rice
Beaverton, Oregon

Most memorable part of your three weeks spent in Japan 
The most memorable part of my three weeks in Japan was the time our group spent on Sado Island: eating meals made by locals every day, bathing in the onsen, having late-night Japanese lessons and going to sleep on a futon in a tatami room. It couldn’t have been better. I couldn’t believe we got to end such a fun part of the trip with a beach party either! 

How has this experience changed your perspective on global issues?
I realize now more than ever how connected we are. For example, America’s struggle with clean water and watersheds was something I also saw Japan struggle with. Once we realize how connected all our problems are, then we can work together to solve these problems more effectively.       

Describe the AYLP:JAWS experience in one or two words
Life-changing.
               

Something unexpected you learned about…    
Yourself
I learned that I can provide for myself more than I thought I could. I managed my own schedule and time, and was responsible for taking care of myself for a whole month (with some help, of course!). With college coming next year, I feel better knowing that I can do just fine on my own.

Japanese culture
I was surprised at how the agricultural and residential areas existed so close to each other. In the United States, the suburbs and farmland are kept very separate, but in Japan, neighborhoods would often exist right next to acres of rice paddies. That seems like a very good way for the public to stay in touch with the environment.

Differences between U.S. and Japanese culture
The Japanese people seem to use much more individualized ways of helping the environment than most Americans, such as bringing small towels everywhere so as to not use paper towels in bathrooms, or having water heaters that you have to turn on and off, and that do not continuously keep the water hot like the American ones do.        

This has been a difficult time for Japan, yet it did not deter you from participating. Why?
Now more than ever, Japan needs to know they have the support of the international community. I was so excited to be able to show the Japanese people that we, as a nation and a community, are there for them.   

As part of AYLP:JAWS, you are now beginning to take what you learned and apply it in your community. What do you hope to accomplish now that you are home?
First, I want organize a group within my school that takes trips out to the local rivers to clean them and remove invasive species. I am also participating in hosting my school’s first “Bunkasai” festival, a cultural festival in which I, along with my school’s JNHS club, will teach students about Japanese culture. I am very excited to share all the cultural experiences we had in Japan with my peers in such a fun and interactive setting.       

       

AYLP : JAWS is a virtual and international exchange experience supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Cultural Vistas. Learn more at culturalvistas.org/jaws2012