Kakehashi 2019: Reflections from Benson Ompoc

Upon receiving news that I would be travelling to Japan for the Kakehashi Project, I knew the experience would prove deeply memorable and life-changing. I’m certain I speak for many of my peers in noting how keen we are to return to Japan because of our participation in the Kakehashi Project. I wish to take this opportunity to make special mention of the representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE), who immediately made us feel very welcome and comfortable. From beginning to end, the entire JICE team was attentive to all our questions. Their support is one of the many aspects of the trip I am tremendously grateful for.

On the first official day of the program, Professor Akira Nakamura (Meiji University) spoke in a way that set the tone for the Kakehashi Project experience. He made it clear that Japan is a unique country with distinctive social and cultural practices, including a passionate and dedicated people. His introductory lecture aligned with my first impressions and observations of Japan. When after our first few days in Japan, one of my peers asked me to encapsulate Japan in one word, I thought carefully and replied, “precise.”  I chose this word because in my first few days in Japan, I found that attention to detail was given to virtually everything I saw. From the meticulously built infrastructure of the Tokyo Metropolis, to the delicately prepared home-cooked meals in Hino, extreme care and attention to detail is seemingly ubiquitous in Japan.

The most memorable segments of the Kakehashi Project were the ones in which I engaged with Japanese culture on a deeper and more personal level. For me, the most impactful experience was the homestay in Hino. To be able to catch a glimpse of Japanese culture outside the metropolitan setting was a powerful experience. Despite our evident language barrier, the Doutsu family very clearly communicated their warm hospitality, respect, and care. Since my stay in Hino, I remain fascinated with rural lifestyle and culture, particularly how rural life and society fit into overarching international and domestic goals of the Japanese government. I plan to keep in contact with Mr. and Mrs. Doutsu, or Otou-san and Okaa-san and hope we may be reacquainted in the future.

I wish to end this short reflection with one last statement of appreciation. Thank you again to the Government of Japan, the Japan International Cooperation Center, the Centre for the Study of Global Japan, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada as well as the families of Hino town and anyone else that contributed to the unforgettable experience the Kakehashi Project provides. I would also like to express my gratitude to our coordinator, Ichihashi-san, for being so patient, adding immensely to our overall experience. I cannot articulate in words how humbled and grateful I am to have participated in the Kakehashi Project with the other Canadian delegates. The Kakehashi Project has profoundly impacted me, providing a first step towards my own deeper and more substantive immersion in Japanese culture, history, and politics.