17 students took a life-changing journey across Japan on the Freeman Summer Study Tour this June as they visited Tokyo, Niigata, Nara, Kyoto, and Hiroshima.
Prior to departure, students pooled their collective research on Japan during a week-long orientation at the East-West Center, learning the basics of Japanese language, history, culture, and international relations. The orientation program was made possible with the support of community experts Dr. Nancy Stalker, Ms. Fumi Masuda, and Kumu Sean Nakayama and the trip’s teacher chaperones – Kumu Leihua Naeole of Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School, and Mr. Marcus Nakama of Campbell High School.
Once in Japan, the group learned about important issues in Japanese society. In Niigata, students stayed in a former elementary school converted to a lodging facility, located in the countryside of Joetsu city. The staff, who were all over the age of 50, taught our students how to make their own chopsticks and placemats out of bamboo and straw, as well as how to identify and cook edible mountain plants in the traditional Japanese way. As they enjoyed the peace and quiet of rural Japan, students reflected on how the country’s declining population was keenly felt in places like Niigata, where the perpetuation of local knowledge and skills was at risk of not being passed down.
In Tokyo, visits to the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park and the Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center conveyed the importance of disaster preparation and mitigation. In Hiroshima, they were asked by a survivor of the atomic bombing to consider how nuclear weapons, war, and propaganda impacted people’s lives during World War II, as well as their own lives today.
The more somber moments were balanced with fun activities, such as two school visits, a two-night homestay experience, a tea ceremony, and a visit to the teamLab Borderless digital art museum.
Thank you to the Freeman Foundation for providing generous scholarships for this study tour, making it possible for our local youth to experience the world outside of Hawai'i.
“This trip inspires and motivates me to keep learning the Japanese language, to dig deeper when it comes to history class and to try everything and learn everything that I possibly can while I'm in high school ... to build my character, my heart and my mind.”
“Throughout the trip, I understood the concept of not judging the situation based on what I was taught, because everyone has different backgrounds and is raised differently. Now I see how little I understand the world, and that there are many places for me to discover different cultures.”
Isabel Allen, Sacred Hearts Academy
John Allen IV, Wai'anae High
Noa Bauchman, Lahainaluna High
Kristen Brown, James Campbell High
Freya Buxton, Parker School
Bernadette Castillo, Farrington High
Jo Franzen Castro, Farrington High
Allyce Claypool, Waipahu High
Jerry Dulluog, Farrington High
Savanah Kim-Kaeo, Roosevelt High
Lastlyn Liemam, McKinley High
Kacie Okamoto, Aiea High
Richard Roos, Kaiser High
Rick Su, Kahuku High
Savannahri Tadeo, James Campbell High
Donna Telio, Kea'au High
Elimar Utera, Konawaena High