JASC 67 Day 10— August 10, 2015 by Katie Warmuth

We got to sleep in today!!! Whoooo! Well, we were only able
to sleep until around seven o’clock this morning, but it was something. At this
point, every second of sleep counts. #allsleepmatters

After
breakfast, we were separated by roundtables (RT) before boarding buses. It was
a twenty minute drive to Izumo Taisha, one of the most influential and
prominent Shinto shrines in Japan. On the way the religion RT, fondly called
“Rem Rem,” gave a presentation on Shinto religious characteristics and told us how
the world was created according to Shinto philosophy. The story is quite
interesting, so I’ll share it here on the blog. Before the world existed there
were two gods named Izanami, a female deity, and Izanagi, her male counterpart.
When these gods used a tool to stir the ocean, several drops of water dripped
off their utensil and formed several of the island of Japan. Although Izanami
and Izanagi saw that the newly created landmass was good, they were still not
content, so they took to their marriage bed. Izanami later gave birth to the
rest of the islands one by one. This story is just one of the grand bits of
Japanese mythology that we learned about today. We also heard the story about
how the gates of hell were sealed with a stone and about how the one of the
gods added land to Japan by stealing it from the Korean Peninsula. Shimane
prefecture is bursting with ancient stories passed down from generation to
generation. There is a deep relationship between religion, history, and life
here, resulting in a sense of mystery and intrigue. I, personally, (and I’m
sure many others share this feeling) believe that this connection with the
local culture and its past is very important and inspiring. We were lucky to be
able to learn about this all in person.

In addition to being a
famous shrine, Izumo Taisha has a long history and many interesting features.
It’s official name is Izumo Oyashiro, and it houses Okuninishi-no-kami, the god
of relationship building and interpersonal relationships between humans. Because
of this god’s area of expertise, girls often come to this shrine to pray for
marriage or their relationship status. This is prefect for all the
JASC-love/relationships.

Since JASC is one of the best programs in the world (…maybe I’m biased…),we
were given special access to parts of the shrine that few people aside from the
monks ever see. We were privileged enough to be invited to observe a worship
ceremony. The entire event, though nearly thirty minutes long, included only
one priest, a priestess, and two drummers, all in long traditional robes. After
a few moments of Taiko style drumming, the priest chanted a gorgeous melody
from a scroll and systematically waved a specially designed flag towards the
alter. Then a brightly dressed priestess walked in a tight circle multiple time
while holding a rattle composed of a cone shape with bells hanging off of it
and a handle draped with long, sweeping ribbons in bold colors. At certain
points in her circle, the woman would twist her wrist, sending the shrill sound
of bells throughout the large worship hall. After walking in many circles, she
shook the rattle in our direction, which I assume was either a purification
ritual or a way of blessing us.

After attending the ceremonial event, we were invited behind another special
gate. Before we could enter, our leaders had to offer a tribute to
Okuninishi-no-kami. This is a very special process that deviates from the norm.
Our leaders wore white robes and held a small branch in their hands. We all
bowed twice, clapped our hands four times, prayed, and then bowed once more.
This process is unusual because the normal process to pray at a Shinto shrine
in Japan involves one bow, two claps, and then another single bow. We also
received a bit of sake to drink once we entered through the gate. A monk later
gave us an informational tour regarding some of the unique characteristics of
Izumo Taisha. This included explaining how the roof is made with bark and an
overview on the complexities of the shrine’s architectural designs. Once the
tour ended, we all headed to a restaurant to eat Shimane’s special soba!! It
was so good. It was also wonderfully cool on such a hot day. Many of us treated
ourselves to some refreshing ice cream in an attempt to find further relief
from the heat.  

We then returned to our lodgings and began the American culture presentation.
This was done by a few people who had volunteered long before JASC officially
started. The presenters talked to us about certain aspects of racism and then
organized us all into smaller groups and mediated discussions. Because JASC has
a large amount of diversity amongst its delegates, it was interesting and
sometimes saddening to hear people’s experiences with prejudice and
discrimination. We were also prompted to talk about other race/sexuality
related issues such as America’s Affirmative Action legislation and the line
between harmless jokes and micro-aggression. While it was all engaging, the
portion I found especially interesting was the conversation about the relationship
between one’s personal identity and social labeling. I learned more about the
labeling that takes place everywhere, even in the U.S. census, and the sheer
amount of labels that Japan and the America have, whether they are meant in an
innocent or derogatory manner. Though it was a sensitive issue, all of the
delegates worked hard to create a non-judgmental and caring atmosphere, which
enabled depth in the conversation because no one felt it was necessary to
withhold their opinions.

Once the culture segment ended, the delegates formed their separate RTs and
began topic specific discussions like normal. RT time sped by, and soon it was
time for dinner. While we typically savor each bite of our meals (food is
wonderful), tonight we rushed each bite. The difference between tonight and
every other night was the impending talent show!!! We raced through dinner in
record time in order to find a spare moment to perfect our skills. It was well
worth it too. Everyone spent the evening in awe. Delegates and RTs preformed
standup comedy and dance routines. Groups also sang and played incredible
musical numbers. Each segment was so creative and skillful, and now the extent
of JASC talent has been revealed.  

From learning about Japanese mythology, attending a Shinto worship ceremony,
engaging in deep discussions, and participating in the talent show (not to
mention everything else in between), it was a long and exhausting day. Every
day in JASC is a new adventure. Tomorrow will be no exception. So with that in
mind, I’m heading to bed. Over and out!  

JASC 67 Day 8— August 8, 2015 by Camille Nguyen

To be honest, I was very nervous to participate in home stay. With my incredibly limited knowledge of Japanese and worrying about violating proper etiquette in a Japanese home, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate or would come off as a rude American 😅 Luckily my 岡さん and かちょさん were very patient and understanding of the minor difficulties I had the first few hours of meeting me.  I’m also super fortunate to have ミドリさん as a roommate/translator! Supposedly we’re all going to 温泉 tonight. I’m anxious again – but if JASC or my homestay experience has taught me anything, it’s that my anxieties are usually far worse than reality.

JASC 67 Day 7— August 7, 2015 by Emi Okikawa

I started the day bleary-eyed, dressed in Business Formal, and a raisin bun in both hands. At 8:00, morning announcements were read, and we filed out of the Bunka Koryu Kaikan, each pulling out our fans in an effort to offset the Hiroshima heat. I have since been informed that I have not yet experienced real Japanese heat because Kyoto is next on our itinerary.

After a brief stint on the train, all 71 delegates of JASC were soon gathered outside of the Wendy Hito Machi Plaza. The day’s programming started with scheduled RT time. My fellow GEARS (Global Eco-hazard and Resource Sustainability) delegates were soon discussing our plans for promoting a more sustainable lifestyle in Tokyo. We focused on the wasteful abundance of vending machines, which adds to the consumption of plastic, and negates all efforts to use reusable water bottles. Next, we brainstormed ideas on how to slowly phase out the use of plastic bags in stores throughout Japan.

Lunch was served quickly, but personally, I was too excited for the Hiroshima Forum to eat. The first guest speaker was Mr. Sadao Yamamoto, a hibakusha (survivor of an A-bomb attack) who recounted his story for us. On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m, 3 B-29 bombers flew overhead as he worked in the field picking sweet potatoes. “We didn’t believe they would drop the bomb,” he told us, “We thought they were only reconnaissance planes.” Within seconds, the bomb exploded in a blast of heat and fire. The huge fireball burned at the temperature of almost 4,000º Farenheit. Although his face was badly burned, there was no medicine on hand to treat his injuries. Like many victims, tempura oil was applied instead. In addition, they were denied water due to the belief that burn victims should not drink water, as it dilutes the body’s natural water storage and prevents quick recovery. Mr. Yamamoto’s family was fortunate enough to survive, but he explained how his uncle—although seemingly in perfect physical condition after the attack, died a few days later due to the residual radiation. After his presentation, Mr. Yamamoto said a few short words which really struck a chord with me. “I have no grudge against the Americans,” he said, “Let’s work together to create a nuclear free world. Let’s join hands to prevent another Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” I believe that it takes a person of incredible strength to see past the hardships of one’s own life and look to the betterment of all human kind. His message of peace and the need for strong action towards the cause of nonproliferation is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The second part of the Forum was an active discussion between Mr. Kazumi Mizumoto (the Vice-President of Hiroshima Peace Institute) and Mrs. Mihoko Kumamoto (the President of UNITAR, Hiroshima Office). Among the topics discussed was Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development. As an Environmental Studies major at Franklin & Marshall University, I found both topics within my area of study and learned much from the two experts. It was very enlightening to hear their opinions and thoughts on issues I am very interested in, such as the roles of economic development and social aspects on the sustainable development of nations.

Lastly, the third part of the forum focused on Group Discussions. In Room C, we talked about the contentious issue of U.S forces being stationed in Japan. Although Okinawa accounts for less that 1% of landmass in Japan, it houses more than half of the U.S forces in Japan. U.S forces place an incredible burden on the people of Okinawa, and some hope to see the U.S forces move elsewhere.

Our last stop was at Hotel Sunroute, where we were greeted by many JASC supporters and alumni. I had the pleasure of talking to a prominent hibakusha who told us all about her travels. I was impressed that out of 20,000 applicants, she was selected as one of three women in a group of 35 Fullbright scholars. Many of us struck up conversations around the room, even coming away with a few business cards. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the lives of JASC alumni.

There are times when JASC can be overwhelming. Some days you can’t wait to change out of your business formal clothes, rub your tired feet, and lay in your bed for years! But then, there are days like this, when you realize how lucky you are to be a part of JASC. Every day, I learn so much about Japanese culture, American culture, and myself. I get to meet prominent members of Japanese society, visit historical sites, and explore all Japan has to offer. Today was an experience I will never forget. I am sure that the lessons I have learned from the city of Hiroshima and its inhabitants, will stay with me forever.

JASC 67 Day 5— August 5, 2015 by Jason Yang

AAAAAAND OFF WE GO! On the third day of JASC, we visited
Otafuku and Miyajima.

Otafuku

Otafuku is the company that makes okonomiyaki sauce.  Arriving at the shop, we split up into 4
groups (we had 71 people in total).

For my group, we began by watching an introductory video on
the origin of the okonomiyaki sauce.
Following the video we toured the museum introduced us to the history of
okonomiyaki sauce.  What I found most
interesting was that the okonomiyaki sauce was developed for okonomiyaki in the
recent century.  I have always thought
that okonomiyaki was a traditional Japanese food, but surprisingly, the
delicacy was only recently developed post-World War 2.  Accordingly, the okonomiyaki sauce was
developed for okonomiyaki.  At first, Worcester
was used, but it turned out to be too “runny.”
Following the advice and requests of okonomiyaki shops, a sauce was
created to compliment okonomiyaki.  That
sauce was the okonomiyaki sauce of Otafuku.

Throughout the tour, Isshu (Eco-hazard coordinator)
translated amazingly!

At the end of the tour, we were each given a fresh bottle of
okonomiyaki sauce.  Since the bottle just
came off the production line, it was HOT!
As you can see in the picture above. We were thoroughly surprised at how
hot it was!  It was too hot to hold.

Following the tour, we were invited into a kitchen to cook
and eat our own okonimiyakis!

After the Otafuku museum, we took a short ferry ride from
Hiroshima to Miyajima.

Miyajima is famous for its Itsukushima shrine and deer.  After dropping our luggage off at our hotel,
we split up into random groups of 10 to explore the island. Our first stop was
the famous tori gate that floats on the ocean during high tide (it doesn’t
actually float, but you get what mean).  

On the way, we ran into many deer.  Unlike the deer in Nara, we were not allowed
to feed them.  The “wild” deer were much
less aggressive than those in Nara; perhaps, because they don’t see us as a
source of food. O.o

It took 300 yen to enter the Itsukushima shrine.  For many American delegates, it was their
first time visiting a Japanese shrine.
Before entering, you must wash your hands and mouth with the shrine
water (as shown below).

It’s very popular to get fortune told by omikuji (fortune
paper).  Unlike the fortune cookies that
we get in the states, there are bad fortunes within those slips!  If you get a good fortune, you take the
blessing slip with you, but if you get a bad fortune, then you tie those slips
in the shrine to ward off the evil. (Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of
the tied bad fortune slips!)

Following the shrine, we toured the streets of Miyajima,
eating local treats such as momiji manju. We eventually ended up at a
restaurant for dinner.  Shops close
really early on Miyajima so we had dinner at 5PM!

After dinner, we regrouped back at our hotel for RoundTable
discussion.  At 7PM, I ran out to get
this picture of the sunset at the tori gate.

That night we slept early (lights out at 11PM) because the
following day was extremely packed (waking up at 4AM to go back to Hiroshima
for the Peace Memorial Ceremony).

JASC 67 Day 4— August 4, 2015 by Kyle Schiller

The Mazda exec puts a graph up on the screen.

On one axis, there’s price, on the other, quality. Most people, he explains, think that you have to sacrifice one for the other. This is visualized by a line that looks like this: \

Mazda doesn’t believe in that kind of exchange. At Mazda, you can have both. At Mazda, you can breakthrough.

Their insight feels a lot like marketing, but I think there’s a great deal of truth to it. More abstractly, presenting a dichotomy as an exclusive choice tends to promote myopia rather than logical clarity. It’s easy to pick out two contrasting ideals and begin to think that you can only have one, but that just isn’t true. This kind of thinking is important for JASC.

There’s a similar perception that you have to choose between helping other people and personal happiness. In some ways this makes sense. If you think of value as a limited thing that can either be held on to or given away, the more you give to others, the less you have for yourself. In practice, that just isn’t true. Just as teaching is the best way to learn, giving is often the best way to gain.

My thoughts here are even more radical. As Joanna mentioned in our reflection, peacekeeping starts on the individual level. In other words, the very framework of me/others creates a false dichotomy that prevents any real resolution. Inevitably, seeing selfishness as a sacrifice only leads to burnout and moral indulgence.

After Mazda, we head to the opening ceremony. After watching a video about JASC I’ve started to realize just how important this conference really is. This doesn’t come from the words of distinguished alumni nearly as much as it does from the historical context. It’s easy to see the U.S. government as an immense and all-powerful monolith that somehow exerts immeasurable control. The truth is that the entirety of U.S. Japan relations are managed by a large handful of foreign service agents who tend to move from country to country every few years. JASC is important because so little else is.

We also met the governor.

JASC 67 Day 3— August 1, 2015 by Nikki Oka

Today marked the last day of American Orientation for the Amedeles at Cal Poly Pomona. Our delegates rose early (and to the occasion) by breaking off into RT groups after breakfast and morning announcements to engage in meaningful discussion. For me, that discussion consisted of the points we wanted to discuss with our Japanese counterparts and the questions we wanted to ask.

After RT time, we were given time to pack for the journey ahead (LAX->SFO, SFO->Haneda, Haneda->Hiroshima). We also had time to work on the American Culture skit we plan to present to the Japadeles upon arrival in Hiroshima. This time was put to good use and we went through several run-throughs of the script, including one for the EC board. I wouldn’t want to give anything away in this post, but just know that working on this skit really helped us all to bond. Humor really is a great way to break the ice (even further.)

We also did a lot of traveling today. It took a while to get to LAX and to SFO due to some uncontrollable mishaps, but the EC did their best to mitigate the situation. I think today was a particularly stressful day for the EC, but I want to take the time to thank each of them for doing their part to keep us organized and on time for our flights. I know it’s not easy to coordinate travel plans, especially with a large group of people, and there were times when I noticed their frustration, but each of them did their best to rectify the situation.

I’m writing this from SFO, where we have a four-hour layover. I hope everyone sleeps well on our flight to Haneda and I can’t wait to get to Hiroshima!

JASC 67 Day 2— July 31, 2015 by Emma Woodyard

Here we are: first full day of JASC that graciously does not include any flying or running around to various quarters of the globe.  That will come in time, but for now, I take liberty to say we are content being mostly stationary.

Admittedly, this morning came a wee bit early.  Collectively we reacted with bafflement and quiet tears when we learned that we would be breakfasting at the hellish hour of 7:00 am.  Nonetheless, we looked f-i-n-e and in the height of fashion as we dined on coffee and bacon – because the world is a brighter and cheerier place with both – and then filed into the conference room for a talk by Peter Beck, in which we learned about various issues facing Japan at the moment, such at the US military presence in Okinawa.

Afterwards we were dispersed to our respective Round Tables for discussions of our topics.  For a group of people who have known each other scarcely more than 24 hours (and hardly that since thank God we were sleeping for some of them), our conversations are über deep.  As a wise man once said:

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    Anyway,

Photoshoots followed.  We were fierce, fiery, and highly attractive.  Naturally.  Little else need be said.

Lunch was a very pleasant, picnic-type affair on the lawn, and then we retired to the conference room again for a culture information session.  Much was learned, but especially this fun tid-bit: apparently it is instrumental to listen for the click of a phone camera on subways and not to step over people’s backpacks because they might be secretly documenting delicate body parts.  Moving on.  An extra part of the cultural information session was the proper distribution techniques of business cards, which is NOT (thank you, Kevin and Jackie), “making them rain”.  That is not proper.  And it is probably frowned upon.  Instead, one should formally hand one’s card over, and then receive the incoming card with due care and doting attention.

A favorite part of the day was the Special Topics session, where we discussed normally sensitive issues like “Does God Exist?” and “What is the American Dream to You?” and that type of thing.  Happily, this went so smoothly and civilly as to make us very cozy and comfortable, and was a perfect transition into our next scheduled event: The Planning of The Skit.  Now, from what I hear, we are at a great disadvantage, relative to our Japanese counterparts who, by all accounts, have been preparing their act for a great amount of time, and are probably at this moment going over an elaborate dance routine or dramatic scene yet one more time for good measure.  Well, I proudly announce that in a mere 50 minutes, we had a theme, scenes, characters, and part of a script.  So there.  It’s fine.  We will make this epic yet.

I’d like to end this day by touching on our American Orientation Reflection Session. While I cannot delve into details (what happens in the Reflective Session stays in the Reflective Session), I will say that in one day’s acquaintanceship, the overwhelming consensus is that we are very happy with the prospects of this conference, and the prospects of our company.

JASC 67 Day 1— July 30, 2015 by Caitlin Hoppel

I hopped off the plane at L.A.X. with a dream and a cardigan…

Hi everyone! My name is Caitlin Hoppel. I am a rising junior marketing major at Villanova University and an American delegate of the Power and Responsibility in the Business World RT. I am incredibly excited to be a part of the 67th JASC and cannot wait to see what these next few weeks hold!

The first day of JASC was a whirlwind of smiling new faces and never-ending introductions. Just yesterday afternoon, the American delegates met at the Tom Bradley International terminal. As the delegates slowly filtered into the small seating area, we passed the time sharing stories and getting to know each other. Nothing says bonding like sitting on a linoleum floor for three hours! But truthfully, it was wonderful meeting everyone and winding down after a long flight. Although we were caught in LA traffic, the bus ride to Cal Poly Pomona was another opportunity to find out more about each other.

After a much anticipated bento box dinner (for the record, I’m awful with chopsticks), we all gathered together to break the ice. Now usually icebreakers make participants want to crawl and hide, but this group was different. JASC is different. Everyone here is so warm and welcoming, and by the end of the exercises many of us already felt like old friends. Personally, my favorite activity was two truths and a lie; I love listening to all the incredible experiences and stories the American delegates have to share. Although I have not been here 24 hours, I know that this conference is going to be absolutely life-changing. I am so grateful to be surrounded by such amazing and open-minded people. The 67th Japan-America Student Conference is certainly going to be one for the books! Stay tuned!

Trilateral Symposium Day 1 (by Lisa Kanai, 67th American Executive Committee)

After the reunion with fellow JASC ECs and an introduction to KASC ECs last night, I feel that we were able to quickly form a strong bond with each other. The connection was partially due to the weekly meetings that the ECs have been conducting for the last five months, as well as some ice break activities we did after breakfast today, but mostly because of the shared character amongst us: the passion to strive for trilateral understanding, and curiosity to learn from each other.

Most of the day was spent on roundtable discussions, and our immigration roundtable discussed and narrowed immigration issues that pertain to the three countries. We decided to focus on the legal and social issues immigrant children face today in each countries. Although I do not have an academic background on immigration, I consciously contributed my views, experiences, and knowledge to the group. During the 66th JASC, I became aware of my tendency to sit back and listen to others. Although my preference to be a flexible and patient member worked out well with the team dynamics of our RT in the past conference, I wished to become a more confident, active contributor in the group. The connections we had developed with each other enabled myself to reach out of my comfort zone that I was never quite able to cross during the 66th JASC. I consider this a huge accomplishment, a great confidence builder, and a promising start to the symposium and 67th JASC. As our guest speaker Lieutenant Dianna Dietrich noted, being a peer leader requires passion, confidence, and humility among many other traits—and I believe our RT discussions and team building for symposium create an effective and exciting package that deepens trilateral understanding and prepare us for the conference this summer.

—Lisa Kanai, 67th JASC American Executive Committee

Immigration Roundtable members for the Trilateral Symposium

Trilateral Symposium – Takeshi Hidaka (AEC Vice-Chair)

It’s amazing how quickly you can get accustomed to your surrounding environment. Although it’s only been a day since we arrived in DC and enjoyed a reunion with our fellow JASCers for the first time after the end of the conference, I already find myself taking it for granted how I get to hang out and have discussions with other JASCers in person, rather than over Skype. It feels as though no time has passed since we said bye to each other in late August.

We got started with our RT discussions today, and Urban Future and Its Challenges Roundtable met with Dr. Bertrand Renaud, an expert on urban development issues and real estate finance. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of information presented at the table, I remembered how I struggled as a delegate to keep up with RT discussions during JASC. Sleep deprivation, frustration of feeling stuck in discussion, and pressure to come up with a presentation in a limited amount of time… it was just like JASC all over again. But at the same time, there was something different about the mindset I had this time. After having gone through an intense month-long discussion during JASC and given a successful presentation at the final forum, I was feeling somewhat more optimistic. Even though I may be feeling lost and confused right now, we will be able to make progress as long as we keep at it (fingers crossed that it will actually work out. I suppose we will find out at the symposium on Thursday). After 66th JASC ended, I wondered how I would be able to maintain what I learned during JASC. The trilateral symposium has provided me an opportunity to see my growth since the end of the conference, and it has been reassuring to learn that my JASC experience still continues to impact me.