By TJ Gassaway
TJ is a student of Pleasant Valley High School. He visited Okinawa, Japan in January 2017 as part of the Kakehashi Project (Okinawa Program), a Japanese Government educational exchange program.
Ever since I was five years old and started practicing karate I have been in love with the Japanese culture. My parents have always supported me and allowed me to pursue this love, pushing me to learn Japanese and even hosting Japanese students so that I have a more intimate understanding of Japan. I have been lucky enough to travel to Okinawa twice with my dojo and do a homestay once in Okayama, however, the Kakehashi program was unlike anything I have ever experienced.
Throughout the week I managed to make new connections, learn new Japanese, and bring back amazing memories to share with my peers. I had an amazing time traveling around Japan, going to Tokyo and Okinawa, learning new things everywhere I went. Before I had traveled to Okinawa with the Kakehashi, I hosted a girl in America who would later be my host in Okinawa. The ability to make that type of connection and carry it out on a long term scale was very meaningful to me. The Otsuki family made sure I was always enjoying myself in Okinawa, I never felt alone or bored while I was with them. They always seemed to know what to do to make the trip exciting and memorable.