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U.S. West Coast Tour begins this week!

Catch us on the west coast soon at these locations:

STANFORD 11/28 | Old Union Room 200 from 4 - 6PM

UC BERKELEY 11/29 | Barrows Hall 78, from 4 - 6PM

UCLA 12/1 Bunche 10383, from 4:30 - 6:30PM

Stay tuned for photos, videos, and updates throughout the week!

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College Tour: Week 1

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This week we visited Johns Hopkins, UPenn, Duke, Michigan, Northwestern, Chicago, NYU, Columbia, and Duke. Check out our November newsletter below to see where we're off to next!

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U.S. College Tour 2017 Coming Soon!

Are you interested in talking to us in person about Come on Out and other opportunities in Japan? A month from now we will begin our annual U.S. college tour. 

We also love to reconnect with past interns. Check out some pictures from last year's East Coast College Tour below. 

  "12 Schools. 14 Days. 27 Interns. 2000 Miles. 1 Unforgettable East Coast College Tour!"

 

"12 Schools. 14 Days. 27 Interns. 2000 Miles. 1 Unforgettable East Coast College Tour!"

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終わり・The End

English Camp 2017 is officially over, but the friendships and memories that were made will never be!

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"Today marks the end of the greatest trip of my life so far. The dream I've had for a decade finally came true. I am so happy to have met so many amazing people on my journey through Japan. I'll never forget the experiences I had here and ones who made it special."
- Kavi (NYU)

I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to share such an amazing experience with. Thanks for the incredible six weeks.

- Joon (Duke University)

These 6 weeks were amazing. Thank you Come on Out- Japan for giving me the opportunity to work with such wonderful kids and fantastic interns!
- Ning (Duke University)
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I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have gone to Japan and teach English with Come on Out- Japan this summer! Despite the 90 minute commutes on week 1, endless applications, and my inability to speak Japanese, it was everything I could have wanted. I met some truly awesome people, saw great sights, and had excellent food - not to mention having the best homestay family I could have asked for.
- Shehan (UC Berkeley)
My homestay brother unearthed my inner 厨二病!

My homestay brother unearthed my inner 厨二病!

This opportunity teaching/mentoring for Come on Out has been one of the best things I've ever done, and I am so grateful to everyone who made my time in Japan so incredible! So to everyone I meet in this program, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you!!
- Rebecca (UCLA)
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Mt. Fuji Adventure

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Mt. Fuji Adventure

Today I did something that I can only describe as "terribly worth it." I have been pretty much awake for the past 40 hours because I went and climbed Mount Fuji. 8 hours up overnight, 4 hours down after sunrise, and a lot of cursing myself for choosing to even do the hike in the first place.

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I and my friends really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into, even WITH all the stories and advice we heard from others that did the climb earlier this month. But, while there was no way we could have been fully prepared for the challenge, there was also no way of knowing truly how beautiful the sunrise would be.

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The pictures I managed to take aren't even close to capturing the full grand nature of it all, but I tried. And now, I lay in bed, ready to sleep, only to have to leave this wonderful and amazing country tomorrow evening. It's a bittersweet ending to an unforgettable experience and opportunity to meet such bright Japanese high school students and be their guides as they explore the fun that can come out of speaking a language they've only really studied vocabulary and grammar for. Thank you Japan, thank you Come On Out, thank you Come On Up, thank you Toshin, and most of all thank you to all of my fellow interns who I was able to get to know for the past 5 weeks. I will miss all of you, so let's please meet again!

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- Zohair

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Miura Beach

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Miura Beach

WEEKEND TRIP TIME!

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This weekend, interns raced to Tokyo from all parts of Japan (Tokushima, Ehime, Nara, Okinawa, Osaka, Kyoto, and more!) to make the 10:27AM train to Miura Beach in the Tokyo Bay of Kanagawa. On our way to the beach house we were staying at, we stopped at a lava rock beach.

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Afterward we took a small boat ride to a seafood and vegetable market. 

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Buying food at the market is always an exciting experience. They’re all locals from who don’t understand any English, so we can only use Japanese with them! We never know what food we’re buying, but it’s okay because the food is always delicious.

Watermelon on the pier.

Watermelon on the pier.

Later that night, we returned to the beach house and had a big barbecue. Tofu, vegetables, tuna, sashimi, kimchi, chicken wings—we had it all! 

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Week 4: Osaka

Osaka is famous for okonomiyaki - a savory pancake stuffed with whatever you like. Literally. Okonomi means “how you like,” and yaki means grilled. Sounds perfect, right? So I was pumped to go to Osaka this week. 

My students took me to an okonomiyaki restaurant near our classroom. LOOK AT THIS.

My students took me to an okonomiyaki restaurant near our classroom. LOOK AT THIS.

In Japan, tables at restaurants sometimes have a grill that's built into your table. Usually the food is made by the staff. Other times you make the food yourself! This is something I'll miss when I go back to America.

Osaka had so many exciting things to do - shopping, ferris wheels, lines of restaurants, and even a British Pub. 

Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan, so we never ran out of new things to try.

The view from our classroom.

The view from our classroom.

Some of the crew - a mix of Japanese students, US interns, and Japanese university staff. 

Some of the crew - a mix of Japanese students, US interns, and Japanese university staff. 

Group photo!

Group photo!

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Week 3: Matsuyama, Ehime

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googlemaps.com

When I first heard that I was going to Ehime, I thought I would be stranded in a boring 田舎, or countryside, but I was surprised by how lively the city is! After classes, we went to Matsuyama Castle, Dogo Onsen, and Baishinji Beach.

Monday night late dinner!

Monday night late dinner!

We also did fireworks and celebrated an intern’s birthday with cake and a barbecue. Just like Hokkaido, the Japanese staff were so welcoming and wanted to show us everything Matsuyama has to offer.

Dogo Onsen is one of the world’s oldest hot springs, and we went there!

Dogo Onsen is one of the world’s oldest hot springs, and we went there!

Millie (the birthday girl!)

Millie (the birthday girl!)

Matsuyama Castle with Rikuto and Ichiro

Matsuyama Castle with Rikuto and Ichiro

Climbing was so hard. But worth it!

Climbing was so hard. But worth it!

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Week 2: Hokkaido: Asahikawa

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Week 2: Hokkaido: Asahikawa

Three interns and myself flew to Hokkaido this week to teach at a welcoming school called Toshin Eisei Yobiko Asahikawa Ekimaekou. My week wasn’t just the best experience of English Camp 2017 so far—it was probably one of the best experiences of my entire life

On the first day, we were met at the airport by three Japanese staff, taken out to dinner (which was completely paid for by the school!), and shown around the venue.

 

When we walked into the venue, we were shocked by the clumps of balloons and leis decorating the walls. Welcome to English Camp at Asahikawa! was written in bubble letters on the white board. 

Over the course of the teaching week, students were happy and engaged. We made hats out of paper, played telephone charades, and genuinely became good friends with each other. The Japanese staff also bought everyone Hokkaido Fighters baseball jerseys. 

We even played heavy metal music to make students speak louder during their speeches. Best part: a Japanese staff member brought the heavy metal CD.

The day we had our flight back to Tokyo, the Japanese staff took us around Asahikawa.

(http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6826.html)

(http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6826.html)

These are some of the places we went to, but we also went sake tasting in the morning and got dinner before our flight back to Tokyo (which were also all covered by the staff!) The Japanese staff cried when they dropped us off at the airport. I did too.

Flower Land in KamiFurano

Flower Land in KamiFurano

So pretty!

So pretty!

Aoiike (Blue Pond)

Aoiike (Blue Pond)

I also had an amazing homestay this week. My host dad loved to make soba from scratch, so he made me some for dinner one night. Watching him make it, cut it, and cook it was such a unique experience. They also took me to karaoke, a fireworks festival, kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi), onsen, and a fancy restaurant. The grandpa lived across the street, and he often came by and took pictures of my host sister and I. He had a really nice camera because his hobby was photography. He attempted to teach the camera to me one evening via Google translate by using speak to text which was hilarious.

He made the soba so fast too! Probably took him 40 minutes.

He made the soba so fast too! Probably took him 40 minutes.

I can't wait to come back next year and see my friends again!

Paige

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Suzukien Asakusa: "the strongest matcha flavor in the world"

Hello!

My name is Natasha and I have a major confession: I have a sweet tooth. No, not just a simple, little sweet tooth. I like to think of it as a monster sugar craving. 

You’re probably thinking: what does this have to do with Japan?

During my travels here, I’ve seen wonderful places and participated in incredible events. However, none of these activities address my problem of needing sugar 24/7. Luckily, a konbini is never too far away and I can quickly purchase an ice cream bar. I definitely recommend a Meiji orange cream bar that tastes like a creamsicle dipped in white chocolate, or a monaka that’s basically a waffle ice cream sandwich. However, none of these delicious treats could satisfy my sugar monster for very long.

In addition to loving sugar, I absolutely adore anything matcha flavored. It could be matcha soap and I’d probably try to eat it. So, when I read about a place in Tokyo with the self-proclaimed, “strongest matcha flavored gelato in the world,” I had to eat it for myself. 

The shop is located in Asakusa, only a few minutes’ walk from Senso-ji temple. It’s called Suzukien Asakusa and you may have seen videos of it on various forms of social media. Suzukien has six more matcha flavors as well, with each gradually increasing in intensity until reaching the premium “strongest matcha flavor.” Besides matcha, the shop has other tea themed flavors, like black sesame seed, roasted black tea, and azuki bean.

The shop is so popular, that the line used to snake down the sidewalk. Now, there is a waiting room a five-minute walk away, because the community members didn’t like the aesthetic of eager Instagrammers blocking the neighborhood. I don’t blame them. 

When I arrived at the waiting room, the kind worker took my name. It was a great opportunity to awkwardly stumble through the few phrases of Japanese that I know! I was lucky enough to only wait for 20 minutes, whereas people on the internet have reported waiting up to an hour and a half on really busy days. Once the worker called my name, I received a laminated pass and walked to the shop. This pass is really important because the shop will not serve you gelato until you hand it to the cashier. The only way to get the pass is by going to the waiting room.

Finally, I reached the front of the line. I decided to get one scoop each of black sesame seed and premium no. 7 matcha (a.k.a. the strongest possible), as seen in the photo below.

I can’t say it’s the most intense in the world, as I need to have more matcha ice cream before coming to that conclusion. However, the gelato was indeed the richest matcha flavor I have tasted thus far. It had a very earthy flavor, even more so than a mouthful of grass and dirt. Yet, the subtle, nutty taste of the black sesame balanced out the bitter bite of matcha. I was in ice cream heaven!

While the gelato was a little expensive for an every day excursion, I think Suzukien is a great place to satiate one’s sweet tooth. If you love matcha or being adventurous with food, then I recommend you give it a try too!

Safe travels,

Natasha

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Week 1: Teaching Story

 

Hi everyone! I'm Shehan. I wanted to share my experience with the program in the first week.

It was tough! I've been commuting from Katakuracho to Shinjuku for the past week, which ends up being a 90 minute commute one way. Additionally, I'm pretty sure that my group was one of the weaker English speakers in the program. It was very difficult to get them to talk, and they were more likely to open up a pocket dictionary rather than ask us their question - and I can't imagine how tough this trial-by-fire is.

But I learned a lot. I learned about perspective, and to be creative in moving the group along, in communicating my words with simpler words, and occasionally with pictures. I've tried to explain to students the meaning of "passion" as "burning the midnight oil and trying very hard to get the future you want". I think my students in particular gained confidence and became friends with one another, even though I didn't feel as close as did others by the closing ceremony. However, I wrote them good letters and they gave me an awesome letter in return!

I wanted to talk about one student in particular and his life mission speech. Working with him was a challenge. He didn't have any particular passions. After nearly forty minutes of back and forth in English, I realized that he didn't particularly enjoy any subject. He most valued money, being "the boss", and living a comfortable life. At one point, Yuuki-san jumped in to guide his thinking, and they spoke in Japanese for a while (while I tended to other students). I jumped back into the conversation to feel out a few subjects - namely starting up a business, or being a consultant. 

The gears really started turning when we revisited his "Issues Around Us" speech, where he wrote on the pervasive NEET/hikikomori issue in Japan, where adolescents/adults are social shut-ins that have forgone further education or employment. I suggested making a presentation that seeks to remedy the NEET problem. This is where I stopped, and he began. His presentation was on making a hypothetical company to reach out to Japanese hikikomori and induct them into the workforce. I thought it was awesome because it addressed a very real Japanese problem and presented a potential solution. He only started writing a speech after the 11:30 mark, so I was really impressed to see that he had accomplished a unique and thoughtful presentation, despite his limited English. 

I was afraid that my student would have nothing to say, but I was proven wrong. Yuuki-san can attest to him being a tough case, but I think that experience really showed me that these students can still be very intelligent and aware of the world, even if their English skills may not reflect that. I heard many cool presentations about visiting the world or studying chemistry (I'm a chem major!), but my experience with him was on a different level. I am a lot more confident in my ability to tease out ideas from students and help them develop a passion. Whether or not my student actually makes his startup is a different question altogether, but he pulled through to make a presentation despite his weaker English and time crunch.

That was a lot, but I wanted to share this experience with someone! Yuuki-san is awesome and really helped me out. Thanks for hearing me out. Looking forward to the next few weeks!

 

Cheers,

Shehan

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Retreat Weekend at Hakone

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Retreat Weekend at Hakone

HAKONE WAS A BLAST!

Hakone is a mountainous town west of Tokyo. The town is known for its hot springs and views of Mount Fuji. Lake Ashi is also nearby, but don’t go swimming in the water. According to many of the locals, if you go swimming in Lake Ashi, you will die!

Some people went to onsen. Most people rode on a pirate ship. A few people went up in cable cars. But EVERYONE had a great time.

The hiking crew.

The hiking crew.

Pirate ship ride.

Pirate ship ride.

Stocking up on essential konbini food.

Stocking up on essential konbini food.

Cable car time with the leaders!

Cable car time with the leaders!

Teaching has just started for interns this week. We'll keep you updated with classroom pictures and stories soon!

 

By Paige Goetz

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Cooking Night in Shinjuku, Tokyo

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Cooking Night in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Come on Out had its first cooking night yesterday! Ohki-san and others taught us how to make thick wheat flour noodles (udon) and homemade rice balls (onigiri). We made our onigiri with spam and pickled plum and wrapped them in seaweed.

Onigiri can have many different types of the food inside of them. At konbini, you’ll find onigiri filled with tuna (They call it sea chicken!), fish roe, salmon, kelp, turnip wasabi, chicken, and even straight mayonnaise.

Udon is served hot and in a broth made from soy sauce, dashi, and mirin.

Pouring out the udon.

Pouring out the udon.

In Japan, you’re supposed to slurp your noodles to show that you’re enjoying the food. Some people were almost too good at it!

In Japan, you’re supposed to slurp your noodles to show that you’re enjoying the food. Some people were almost too good at it!

Group photo. The kids helped us out—they were adorable!

Group photo. The kids helped us out—they were adorable!

By Paige Goetz

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Akihabara

Disclaimer: I am a girl who, upon accepting this position as an English teacher in Tokyo, knew absolutely nothing about the culture I was quickly going to immerse myself in. Like, really nothing, except maybe the food. Anyway, the point is that I was as clueless as I could possibly be about Japanese culture! So, as many people do, I turned to books in an attempt to be a little less lost and ignorant and, dare I say, stereotypically American.

The book that intrigued me the most was Modern Romance: An Investigation by American actor and comedian Aziz Ansari and NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg. This book is essentially an ethnographic study on the dating and sex culture across many places and many times, and present-day Tokyo is one of the areas this study chose to focus on. So, how does this relate to my trip to Akihabara, or the anime capital of Japan? I’m getting there! I promise, just bear with me a little longer. So, the findings of this book revealed that Japan is a country of mostly “herbivorous men,” or guys who are fairly shy and reserved around women and typically do not even date until their late twenties or early thirties. According to Ansari, “approximately 60% of single Japanese males in their 20s and 30s identify themselves as herbivores, and apparently show zero interest in having sex.” Now here’s where things get interesting: Japan is also known for having a very low stigma attached to things that would absolutely not fly in America, like sex robots, love hotels, and even pay-for-intimacy relationships. Instead of pursuing a romantic relationship with a woman, herbivore men turn to relationship replacements for their sexual and intimacy fixes.

These findings were verified, in my very not educated opinion, upon coming to Japan. In the training seminars and Q&A sessions with Bill Gear, a man (I don’t know what Bill does!!) who has lived in Japan for the last 23 years, the theme of conservative Japanese culture is strong: schools are mostly segregated based on gender; women’s clothing, for the most part, are not revealing; and the culture on the whole is very respectful and polite. This was why, despite the preparation I underwent in reading Modern Romance, I was shocked at the stores in Akihabara. Yes! I finally got to my trip! Our first stop in Akihabara was a 6-story anime store, with each floor focused on a different facet of anime. Not very different from the stores found in the United States, apart from the fact that it was significantly larger than anything you would find there and that one floor was dedicated entirely to slightly pornographic figurines, models, and playing cards of women. This is to say that you could theoretically enter this store and walk out 20 minutes later and 4000 yen poorer with a foot-tall figure of an anime character with larger-than-life breasts, a barely-there thong, and even a dildo.

Likewise, across the street from this store sat a 5-story sex shop, complete with two floors that only men could enter. Being the ever-curious anthropologist that I am, I wandered through the 3-floors I was allowed to view and surveyed the items for sale. The first floor was pretty tame and included much of what you could find in an American sex shop, but the fetish floor and couple’s floor came with consumer goods unlike anything I had ever seen or heard of before, including an entire section dedicated to animal dildos (like a dildo based off a whale penis! Trust me, I tried to figure what this looked like (since it was boxed) and I still cannot for the life of me figure out what it is).

It really baffles me that a culture that, from the outside, seems so conservative, put-together, and polite can also have such a booming industry based on sex, which is anything but those qualities. It seems paradoxical that Japan would even have a market for this, let alone a thriving one. Even in the United States, a country known for the widespread use of Tinder and our now shifting cultural emphasis on sex positivity, things like sex shops and relationship replacements are incredibly taboo. The juxtaposition between the conservative social culture and the overtly sexual consumer culture begs questions like why and how and what does this say about Japanese culture, or any other culture for that matter? In the next 5 weeks that I have remaining here, I hope to gain more clarity on this perplexing cultural contradiction.

By Annie Pinto

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Kawagoe Day Trip

This past weekend, we had a program sponsored trip to Kawagoe, a town about an hour train ride from Ikebukuro Station in northern Tokyo. Once we got there, we got to experience a traditional tea ceremony and meditation at an 1200 year old temple, and explore a traditional alley specializing in candy! 

Outside the temple. 

Outside the temple. 

The tea ceremony was beautiful. Even though there were so many of us interns there, the ceremony still felt incredibly intimate. The best part was that we could ask the monk leading the tea ceremony as many questions as we wanted! Lots of interns asked about the history of tea ceremony, how long it usually lasts, when it is performed, etc. The room the tea ceremony was performed in in the temple was a traditional room with a tatami floor, and there was a beautiful flower arrangement that was the focus of the room- apparently, the arrangement is changed every day to reflect the new day. We each received a delicious cup of fresh matcha tea, and also a Japanese traditional sweet- a type of rice gelatin with bean paste wrapped in a leaf. 

Various faces made while waiting for tea! :)

Various faces made while waiting for tea! :)

The Japanese sweet they served us. 

The Japanese sweet they served us. 

After the tea ceremony, we learned about meditation. For fifteen minutes, we experienced the ritual that monks complete for up to two or three hours everyday! We learned the correct position and correct breathing patterns (legs crossed, with one leg on top of the other, arms folded neatly, breathing slow and steady, and looking at a point about 2 meters ahead of you). We all sat in a line and meditated in the temple, watched carefully by the head monk who tapped us if our breathing was unsteady, our positions changed, or we became unfocused or distracted. All in all, an incredibly calming experience.

Lastly in the temple was a calligraphy class! We learned some history of calligraphy and were taught how to create one character on paper that we got to take home with us. Mine was incredibly messy and looked nothing like the example character we were given, but it was super fun to practice.

Teaching us calligraphy. 

Teaching us calligraphy. 

My practice sheet. 

My practice sheet. 

Kawagoe is a beautiful town to explore because there was so much to do and so much energy. The stores were very touristy but had all kinds of souvenirs and snacks to try. I got a sweet potato soft serve ice cream cone which was a lot more delicious than it sounds! We finally made it to the candy alley, famous for its different kinds of Japanese sweets (including a massive sweet soy breadstick that looked a lot like a charred French baguette, a strange pounded mountain root on a stick, and my favorite dango, or rice dumplings, smothered in sweet sauce). Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the candy alley, many of the stores were closing, but I could still pick up a snack or two.

A quick look at some of the Edo-style buildings in Kawagoe. 

A quick look at some of the Edo-style buildings in Kawagoe. 

All in all, a great day trip. I love Tokyo so much, but it was nice to spend a calm day away from the city but know that I was close enough to return whenever I wanted. 

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Week 2 of the Program

Interns and students play a guessing game. 

Interns and students play a guessing game. 

The second week of the program brought a few surprises and many tears. I had two new Japanese high schools students, Shu and Souto. Shu came in with an amazing wealth of English vocabulary but no way to connect the words into sentences- even by the end of the first day, it was astounding to see how much progress he had made in terms of speaking and how much he had already grown to love asking questions. Souto was a bit shyer and very nervous about speaking at first, but as he warmed up to speaking with the other two interns and me, he quickly got more comfortable and loved sharing ideas and talking about his daily life. Together, I think the two of them encouraged each other as well.

We kept a running vocabulary list throughout the week, teaching the students words like “combine” or “residual” and having them repeat the words and use them in sentences during class when they wanted to explain something to us. I believe this really helped them not only with skills in explaining concepts in English, but also helped them practice sounding out unfamiliar words and encouraged them to continue growing their English vocabularies!

Throughout the week, we covered complicated topics like ideas for helping the Tokyo 2020 Olympics be a success and ways to help the world use more clean energy. Our group found simple ways for every Japanese person to save more energy, whether it was turning off the lights when not in the room or not using as much water when you shower. In addition, my students were fascinated by the idea of AI (Artificial Intelligence) being used in electric cars, and wanted to find a way to combine both ideas into one energy saving vehicle. 

We quickly found that giving presentations was going to be the biggest challenge for these two- both were incredibly nervous onstage and had not yet gained the confidence to speak English in front of a larger group of people. The first presentation was rocky; however, the next day, they worked even harder to ask us questions on how they could improve. After we watched (via youtube) Steve Jobs and Malala Yousafzai give speeches, our group reviewed how to give a great speech and hold the audience’s attention. For their final speeches on their life missions, Souto and Shu borrowed things like Steve Job’s confidence and Malala’s repetition of important phrases to enhance their own speeches.

I also gave a presentation in front of the class this week- on my major at University of Chicago and on how it connects to my life mission. I think my presentation went okay- I definitely need to find a better way to explain how economics and my other major, Law Letters and Society, work together to form my life mission, but I think the students had fun with the economics logic puzzle I introduced to them. I hoped that my being on stage would help my students become more excited about getting on the stage themselves.

The Life Mission speeches Friday afternoon were a stark and amazing contrast to my student’s behavior during presentations earlier in the week. They had transformed from shy and nervous to excited and eager to share their missions with the class. Shu volunteered to be one of the first students to present, bounded onto the stage to present, spoke clearly and thoughtfully, and as he sat back down in his seat, asked us if he could present to the class again! He wanted to create a nonprofit to help send wasted resources in countries like Japan and America to war-torn countries. Souto did his presentation on his life mission using math and science- to make a more practical and easy way for people to listen to music. His idea, using audio waves on different frequencies for different people, was something I could barely explain myself in English, yet he excitedly shared his ideas with the class, giving examples until all of the interns and students were nodding along with his enthusiasm. 

Drawing out an explanation. 

Drawing out an explanation. 

All in all, we were so incredibly proud of these two for not only conquering their stage fright, but improving so rapidly in English in under a week. These students have once again shown me that I need to be a better teacher in order to keep up with how fast they can learn. 

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Week 1 of the Program: Part 2

Thursday and Friday classes showed just how much improvement our students had made over the course of only five days! Thursday was largely centered around on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, where our group chose to focus on how global education policy can be improved to provide access to education for all students. Kayato and Miyu suggested reforms from tons of research on education initiatives they had done the night before, and we interns kept them digging deeper into how the reforms they found could be applied to not only their lives but in places around the globe lacking strong educational systems.

Miyu had focused her research on the adoption of technology in classrooms, and suggested that schools in developing countries offer classes for parents as well, to start a conversation about what education can do for their children. Kayato thought that Japan should send more educational aid to developing countries, and decided that he would like to be part of his initiative and go abroad to teach. He had seen examples of organizations like UNESCO building private schools in Cambodia and Vietnam and the corresponding rise in income for people attending those schools, and talked to the group about those initiatives and how we can apply many of the same tactics around the globe. All in all, a fascinating discussion, not just because we could hear them talk so well in English about such important and difficult topics.

Students describing what they researched the night before. 

Students describing what they researched the night before. 

We also focused a bit on correct speech format, and taught Miyu and Kayato the proper way to form an introduction, body, and conclusion of a speech. (Apparently, speeches or even talking in front of the class is incredibly rare in Japanese schools, so the practice here was much needed.) We prepared them for a speech on their UN Sustainable Development Goal (all of which went incredibly well), which also served as preparation for their big speech Friday on the Life Mission they think will suit their talents and interests. 

Friday afternoon, the students all came to the front of the classroom and presented their Life Missions. Before these speeches, I had of course seen the rapid improvement in my own students’ English skills and had noticed it in others, but I hadn’t realized the impact that a full week of speaking nothing but English could have on these students. Some sounded nearly fluent, and the ones that weren’t quite there yet had gained so much confidence in their speaking and were eager to keep learning.

Life Mission Presentations!

Life Mission Presentations!

Also fascinating and amazing was hearing the life missions themselves- the students were a diverse group and wanted to do everything from flight surgery (be a surgeon to astronauts) to work as a translator in Haneda Airport in Tokyo- but they all had one thing in common. Every single student wanted to have a job that connected them beyond Japan and to the international community. They wanted to continue learning English and go on to learn more languages, and they wanted to study abroad, go to college in the US, or spend time traveling and working abroad. Many of them hadn’t thought much about what they wanted to do specifically before this week, and the majority had no idea they would enjoy English so much or that they would want to have a more internationally focused career. Hearing the impact our talks about our American universities, our majors, and our hopeful future careers had on these kids really astounded me. Inever in a million years would have thought that I could have so much of an impact on formulating these kids’ lives, and I was so proud of the ways they have found to give their talents back to the world. 

Our closing ceremony with the kids was full of tears, from both interns and students. A few interns gave speeches in Japanese (with the funniest reactions from the students who hadn’t realized any of us could actually speak anything other than English), and we all took photos together and talked in small groups to say goodbye to the kids. 

I’m looking forward to my next round of students, and if they are anything like the past week’s bunch, there will be a lot of tears (again) at the closing ceremony Friday afternoon. 

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Week 1 of the Program: Part 1

Halfway through our first week with our Japanese students, we already seem to be making some progress! My group consists of six interns and two incredibly bright Japanese high school students, named Miyu and Kayato. Both started out a bit quiet on Monday, but throughout the week have gotten more confident with asking questions and reading. 

To encourage the students towards a global mindset, we’ve been discussing culture, the American and Japanese educational systems, and ways that our students can apply the subjects they love in school now to college, study abroad, and future life goals. To engage the students with speaking and listening to English, we have played games like telephone and story-creating, talked about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and given presentations on college majors and career paths for certain academic interests.

For the Olympics (Tuesday afternoon), we spent time having the students think of ways they personally could assist in making the Games a success. Responses included teaching foreigners about Japanese culture and language, opening up their homes to visitors from all over the world, and encouraging the government to introduce a large-scale free wifi program around Tokyo. They gave their responses a ton of thought and didn't hesitate to ask our opinions as well! We finished the discussion by creating posters and having the Japanese students in each group present their ideas to the entire program- probably a stressful experience for all of them, but it made our students really put the English phrases they had been learning for the past few days to work. 

Japanese students present alongside their intern mentors. 

Japanese students present alongside their intern mentors. 

The intern presentations on the universities we attend and our majors have hopefully sparked some interest in the students. My group has a good mixture of economics, math, and Japanese majors, and we all have other interests that came out in our presentations! Kayato asked a lot of questions during intern Lynda’s math major presentation, and Miyu seemed eager to gather as much information as possible on American universities overall. She and Kayato were also both interested in the focus on sports in college- Miyu loves to dance, while Kayato plays basketball, and both were wondering how to continue those interests at an American university. We ended up speaking about not only our academic interests, but on how we and other American students enjoy our time outside the classroom as well. 

On Tuesday, my students began asking questions about life in America versus Japan, and we spent a while (very interestingly) discussing Kayato’s question about why he thinks Americans are more creative than Japanese. The interns and students alike got very into the discussion while we thought of possible reasons, eventually finding some aspects of Japanese culture are even more creative than in America! 

The interns in my group have also been doing daily vocabulary lists for our students- just to keep track of useful words they’ve had trouble with and can practice more. Every morning when the students come in, we’ve been starting off the session by reviewing hard words from the day before. We’ve taught them the definitions of cooperate, unjust, and nuanced, just to name a few. The interns will keep building on our list as the week goes on, and give the students the final list at the end of the week for them to keep practicing. 

So far, the English level these students not only come into the program with but also the speed at which they pick up speaking is amazing to me. I hope that every week starts out as smoothly as this one. 

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Enter: Sharehouses!

Sharehouses are common across Tokyo for both foreigners and Japanese alike. They are homes in the city, housing anywhere from three or four to over ten people, with separate bedrooms and shared cooking, living, and bathroom facilities. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and language but don’t want to live with a host family, a sharehouse provides you with an immediate community of like-minded (and similar-aged) university students, workers, and foreign visitors! 

All of the Come on Out interns are living in sharehouses (and a few with host families for part of their stay in Japan). I’m ecstatic to have a room in a sharehouse for the six weeks I am here- I have stayed with host families before and absolutely loved the experience, but I also wanted to try living on my own in Japan and cooking my own meals! I think that figuring out Japanese grocery stores is a learning experience about Japanese culture in and of itself. (Post coming later about Japanese grocery stores).

My sharehouse is in Jiyugaoka, a fantastic neighborhood filled with a mixture of boutique stores, custom coffee shops, bakeries, beautiful residential areas, and amazingly stylish residents. In my plain, untailored American clothes, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Beautiful square in Jiyugaoka, surrounded by designer stores and cafes. 

Beautiful square in Jiyugaoka, surrounded by designer stores and cafes. 

My house is located in a much quieter residential section, surrounded on all sides by other homes. It’s only a 30 second walk to a nearby konbini where I plan to get breakfast every morning, and only another minute to my train station, Midorigaoka Station. I live right next to the train tracks, and it’s fascinating to see the gates come down over the tracks whenever a train is passing by, momentarily stopping traffic on the thin roads of my area. 

Lots of tangled telephone wires around the train tracks. 

Lots of tangled telephone wires around the train tracks. 

Rows of homes along tree-lined streets. 

Rows of homes along tree-lined streets. 

Five minutes west on foot is Okayama, a more bustling area around Tokyo Institute of Technology. Small restaurants and snack stores abound in the thin alleyway of the area.

Bustling alley near Okayama Station.

Bustling alley near Okayama Station.

I stopped at a Kaldi Coffee last night, an upscale coffee and specialty foods store chain common across Tokyo, and got a free cup of iced coffee and a great look into Japanese home coffee culture (so many different types of fancy coffee beans you can have ground for you!). They also carry a lot of foreign products like American chocolates and peanut butter, impossible to find in Japan elsewhere, imported cheeses, as well as many different wines. It’s the kind of store you would stop at before heading to a picnic in one of Tokyo’s many parks! Half an hour on foot (or one train stop) is the bustling center of Jiyugaoka. Either way, I have plenty in my area to explore (and eat)! 

 

 

 

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Orientation Weekend

Saturday morning, orientation programs started! Just as exciting, I finally got the melon pan I had been looking forward to. Two other interns and I woke up early to explore a konbini (Japanese version of a convenience store) near the hotel. A konbini, though it shares some similarities to the American version of a convenience store, is honestly a completely different experience. A konbini sells everything from shampoo to fully cooked, ready to eat meals, and are everywhere in Tokyo- at least on every corner. It’s hard to walk two minutes without seeing one of the brightly lit signs. The melon pan I bought there is a cross between a cheap bread and a sugar cookie, shaped like a tortoise shell, and not tasting at all like melon. I also got a CC Lemon Vitamin C drink- fizzy and lemony, it was just what I needed to wake myself up a bit. 

An example of a konbini. 

An example of a konbini. 

After breakfast, we had some free time to explore Asakusa. A festival was going on at the shrine at Senso-ji, the main temple complex in Asakusa that forms its largest tourist attraction. The temple was beautiful and people dressed in beautiful yukata (traditional Japanese casual summer dress) were everywhere!

Some of the beautiful yukata (along with the amazing umbrellas) seen during the festival.

Some of the beautiful yukata (along with the amazing umbrellas) seen during the festival.

The temple in the daylight. 

The temple in the daylight. 

However, my favorite part of the festival was the amazing variety of food stalls all around the temple. You could buy every street food from yakitori (grilled meat on a stick) to takoyaki (fried octopus bread balls) to sweets like manju and dango (sticky rice balls with sweet sauces or filled with bean paste). 

Sounds delicious, right? One of the many food stands outside the temple. 

Sounds delicious, right? One of the many food stands outside the temple. 

Saturday continued with a walk past Tokyo Skytree (the largest structure in Tokyo) to arrive at the Disaster Training Center. We went through four simulations in smaller groups, being trained on how to brave the force of a tsunami, how to extinguish a fire (with practice fire extinguishers), how to survive a level 7 earthquake, and how to escape a smoke-filled room during a fire. All the simulations were completely safe, but were great practice should disaster strike! We also watched a harrowing video depicting the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami, and the aftereffects around Japan. 

After the disaster training came a short boat ride to Hamamatsucho (floating past famous areas like Tsukiji Fish Market on the water) and a ride on the Yamanote Train Line to dinner in Akihabara. Dinner was at an izakaya (traditional Japanese pub) where we had our own private room! The meal included nabe (a stewpot of vegetables and meat cooked at the table on a small stove) and amazing appetizers of meat gelatin, potatoes, salads, and tuna sashimi.

Floating past other boats in the rain. 

Floating past other boats in the rain. 

The three hour long dinner was accompanied by loud conversations between the interns and program heads, who came to join us for long periods of time at our tables. Even though we were a bit exhausted after the day, a few interns and I ended up walking back from the dinner to the hostel (about 45 minute walk) to see more of the city before we left for our share houses the next day! The walk was the perfect ending to the day, and we passed through areas of Tokyo that we will likely not have time to come back to.  

Another boat picture: View down the boat path.

Another boat picture: View down the boat path.

One last picture- a view of Tokyo Skytree from a shopping center in Asakusa!

One last picture- a view of Tokyo Skytree from a shopping center in Asakusa!

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