By Apanuba Mahmood
Apanuba is a graduate of Monta Vista High School. She visited Hiroshima, Japan in August 2016 as part of the Kakehashi Project, a Japanese Government educational exchange program.
From a young age, I have always loved Japanese culture and its people; growing up I had many kind Japanese friends, and I loved many popular anime and games, which further helped me develop my interest in the country. In high school, I started studying Japanese, and since then I’ve made many new friends, all sharing the same common interest. Learning Japanese helped introduce me to a new way of looking at the world, and immersed me in a culture that was very welcoming and certainly vibrant in its history and heritage.
Though I graduated high school in June, this August I was given the opportunity to go to Japan with some of my school friends as part of the Kakehashi Project, which sponsored a small delegation of students who had participated in the National Japan Bowl competition earlier that year. We went to Tokyo and Hiroshima, doing a short homestay in the latter - my host family, the Matsuwaki family, was so kind and hospitable, and truly made me feel like a part of their home in the short time I was with them.
I had been to Tokyo before, two years previously, and was happy to be back there again, however, this time, the true highlight of the trip were the days I spent in Hiroshima. Visiting the World Heritage site, Itsukushima-jinja and Miyajima was a very fulfilling experience for me, especially since before this, I had only seen pictures of the landmark online, or as scenery recreations in some of the video games I had played. Just like the Japanese expression, hyakubun wa ikken ni shikazu, I truly experienced that “seeing is believing” - I would have never thought that upon arriving on the island, I make friends with many of the cute wild deer! (Though, one of them did try to eat one of my bags of souvenirs that I bought.)