When I signed up to go on the Tsugaru Exchange Program I knew I was going to have an adventure, I had no idea of just how big of one I was going to have.
I was very nervous getting off the plane because I knew that for the first time in my life I would be in an environment where I couldn’t read anything and no one would understand me. But as I quickly learned, the Japanese are a very patient and very kind society of people, plus pointing to things and hand gestures get you very far in foreign countries. I was very lucky in that I knew one of my host sisters Yume, because she had come to Bath last August and stayed with my family.
It was quite fun getting to spend time with my host family, they were a lot of fun to be around and didn’t seem to different from my own family once the language barrier was overlooked. They took me around to Hirosaki Castle with its beautiful grounds, I saw amazing art made in giant fields of rice, I walked around a reconstructed village from Japan’s prehistoric Jomon era, and I tried out some karaoke! And this was all done in just two of the days I stayed in Japan. Looking back, I really cannot seem to make a choice as to which day was my favorite because just getting to experience all that a different culture has to offer is what was the most important and the best part of the entire trip. I learned all sorts of interesting things about the culture. Making soba noodles and senbe (which are both delicious but hard to make!), learning some of the steps to the traditional tea ceremony, dressing up for Nebuta, and performing Buddhist and Shinto rituals are a few of the many things I got to participate in. I am still in awe of all that went on and especially the kindness and generosity that the Narita family showed me. I will always consider them my second family.
The most important part of the entire trip was the Cheseborough Cup and visiting the memorial. In Bath, most people have no idea that the Cheseborough shipwreck is the whole reason the program even began, but in Japan it is something that they never forget. For 25 years the Cheseborough Cup has been held at Shariki Beach, where they told us they hope that the race not only adds up the miles between us, but that it also deepens the friendship between Bath and Tsugaru. Practically everyone in Tsugaru City is so excited and happy to see and meet all of the people from Maine each summer, and it saddens me that here in their sister city, no one understands what a wonderful experience going to Japan can be. I encourage anyone and everyone to at least learn about the program and the lasting bonds and memories you can make!