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Northsiders go to Japan on the Kakehashi Bridge Program

Northsiders go to Japan on the Kakehashi Bridge Program

By Lukas Hoffman

This past summer, 20 Northside students had the opportunity to visit Japan for free as part of the Kakehashi Program. Kakehashi, meaning “bridge” in Japanese, has the goal of building stronger connections between the United States and Japan, and is funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project takes over 1,100 students per year on a ten day trip to Japan where they are able to experience various cultural events and attend seminars with government officials. Before being accepted, each student is required to write an essay and fill out an application.

On July 23, 20 of Northside’s students involved in a Japanese class left Chicago on a direct flight to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. They were accompanied by four chaperones, including Ms. Jeung-Hee Park-Sensei, World Language department, and Mr. Jeffrey Mallon, Social Science department. Michael Tang, Adv. 008, said, “The flight was really long, and I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. When we finally touched down in Tokyo, I was exhausted but ready for a great trip.”

The group stayed for three days in Tokyo, where it explored local sights and listened to a lecture on Japan’s history and economy by Strategic International Management Associates’ Executive Managing Director, Hideo Kimura. John Tang, Adv. 906, said “The lecture was very insightful and informative. I never realized just how fascinating Japanese economics were; I thought the presentation would be boring, but it ended up being a really interesting experience.” Northsiders also visited the Edo Tokyo Museum, where the Edo Period of Japanese history is recreated in both life-size replicas and highly detailed dioramas, providing a window into the Japanese life of the past. Rouschelle Diaz, Adv. 902, said, “The models they had on display at the Edo-Tokyo Museum were amazing. It really made me feel like I was there.” After this day of exploring Tokyo, the group packed up to go to Hokkaido.

On the morning of July 26, the students took a regional flight to Hokkaido’s Shin-Chitose Airport. Here, the group explored the historic village of Hokkaido. “It was my favorite moment of the trip,” said M. Tang. “It was a beautiful way to experience the unique culture of Hokkaido, and see the natural beauty of Japan as well.” The Historical Village exhibits over 60 typical buildings from the past 150 years of Hokkaido, including a mountain town, fishing village, and farm area. The next day, students visited Tokai University Sapporo Senior High School, where they were able to meet with other students their age and talk with them in Japanese. For students like Andrea Reyes, Adv. 909, the experience had a deep impact. “I had a chance to meet kids just like me, and an opportunity to meet friends that will last a lifetime.” This was an experience shared by other Northsiders, many of whom are still in contact with their pals abroad.

For their last day, each student was paired with a host family, in order to have the chance to see what life with a Japanese family is really like. J. Tang believed this to be his favorite part of the trip, saying, “It was a very humbling experience, especially because my host family were an older couple, so while everyone else visited places and did various activities with their families, I got to learn how real Japanese people live day-to-day.” After staying a night with their new families, everyone said goodbye and headed back to Tokyo.

For everyone on the trip, leaving was the most difficult part. “Even worse than the long flight back was leaving Japan behind,” said M. Tang. “It was tough to board the plane and say goodbye.” However, with the new connections and friends made, the group knows where to return to and what to see again, and all have gained an unforgettable experience.


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