Article by Erin Katsura, the former participant of the invitation program

I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I applied for the 2010 Japanese American Invitation program for high school students. I had no idea that I would take the trip of a life time to alter my perspective about myself as well as my own culture. My knowledge of Japan and all its cultures, including the language, were completely foreign to me. The Consulate of Japan in San Francisco was so helpful informing me of what I needed to do for this great adventure.

For the two weeks I spent in Japan, I was taken such good care, not having to worry about anything. This aspect of the trip really helped me focus on Japan and soak in every piece of information I could. The other four candidates from all over the United Sates were great students, with whom I became very close with in the time we spent together. I was able to form bonds that I will never lose. Together we explored the great country of Japan by touring around Tokyo and Kyoto. We were exposed to the traditional side of Japan in Kyoto as we explored the thousand year old temples and experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. We were also able to learn about the very current, technologically advanced society within Tokyo like out visit and tour of the Panasonic center and the electronic district. I was amazed and overwhelmed at the same time as I walked through the huge city of down town Tokyo, and rode the complicated, while effective system of the subway.

One of the best, most memorable experiences I have from my time in Japan was the home stay I had with the Kondo family. I stayed with a family of four who graciously welcomed me into their home and worked with me to communicate through my lack of knowledge of Japanese. I was introduced to family rituals like the Japanese baths and all the aspects of family life. The whole experience overall really gave me a better view of how I live as an American. I realized my own cultures by seeing the drastic differences between here and there. This adventure also opened my eyes to my own possible future. I was inspired to major in International Relations to hopefully become a diplomat for the United States and Japan.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Friendship Association showed me Japan in a way that exceeded every expectation I could possibly have. This experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am so great full to have been a part of, and encourage anyone to explore their Japanese heritage if they have not yet had the chance to do so.

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