A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity by Emily Isaraki

Experience of Former Participant

The Japanese expression “Ichi go ichi e” embodies the “once in a lifetime opportunity” that I was so fortunate to receive through the Shin Nikkei program. I was able to spend ten unforgettable days touring Japan that forever changed my view of my ancestral heritage. As a 4th generation American of Japanese descent, I do not have many ties to Japan; thus, I greatly appreciated this opportunity to visit Japan and learn the culture and language.

One of my most memorable experiences of the trip was the visit to the high school in Yokosuka. I had never been to a Japanese high school before and was a bit nervous about the language barrier. But my fears quickly evaporated after meeting my high school buddy Mai. As we shared similar tastes and interests, we quickly formed a bond that still exists today (thanks to Twitter and Facebook). I spent the day following Mai and her friends to class and after school club activities. One thing I was surprised by was how much the Yokosuka students cared about their school. I did not see anybody complaining about having to sweep the classrooms after school!

I also greatly enjoyed the experience of having a Japanese homestay. My host family, the Sugihara’s, treated me like a member of the family and I grew very close to them during my stay. They planned several fun activities including a Fuji TV station tour, and trips to the Ghibli Museum and Shibuya shopping districts. We even went to Karaoke together and I got to sing my favorite songs with all the members of the family. This homestay experience allowed me to experience the Japanese lifestyle first hand - something that I could never experience as a tourist.

I would like to thank the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Friendship Association for this once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Japan. Going forward, I hope to use my experiences to educate my Nikkei peers, who have little connection to Japan, and encourage them to get to know their ancestral heritage. I hope to also one day serve as a bridge between the Nikkei community and Japan in order to ensure that there is goodwill and mutual understanding between the countries. Kono program no omoide wa zutto wasuremasen. Domo arigatou gozaimashita.

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