My first impression of Japan was how clean the airport was; I didn’t see a single speck of dust anywhere. I also couldn’t believe that there were English subtitles underneath the Japanese signs, which really helped me get to the places where I needed to go. What was also intriguing was that there were diagonal and horizontal crosswalks and they drive on the left side of the road instead of the right.
In Hawaii, there are no diagonal crosswalks and we drive on the right side of the road instead of the left. Also, we have a lot of homeless so the airport and most public bathrooms are very dirty.
My host family consists of two people named Ms. Chikako and Mahiru. Ms. Chikako is very nice woman and always asks if I’m okay. She doesn’t speak fluent English, but whenever she can, she tries to translate for me. Since I’m a picky eater (as my mom calls me) she asks me what foods I can and cannot eat and tries to adjust to my liking. She also allows me to hang out with my friends, so I can enjoy my three week stay here as much as possible.
Mahiru is younger than me, but we are born in the same year. He has helped me greatly for the first couple of days by helping me learn the rules around the house as well as helping me communicate better with Ms. Chikako. He speaks fluent English as well as Japanese which helps me be able to understand our conversation. He even has helped me with my Japanese homework whenever I’m confused.
I really am grateful for them for everything they have done to help me settle in as well as with my school homework. They are a very nice family and they remind me of my own family at home.
The most challenging experience that I had on this trip so far was finding my way to school on my first day. Even though I got directions from my host family as well as from Greenheart Travel, I was still very lost. I kept on asking people around me to help me find certain places to help me navigate my way to the subway. I didn’t know how to get a ticket to the subway and thankfully a nice, kind lady helped me get a ticket to the nearest station (Hakata Station) to my school.
The subway however was very unexpected. My original image of a subway was that it would have little to no people on it, just like how the anime movies I watch show it. However, I was completely incorrect.
When I got there, it was packed with people to the point where it was body to body squished into the subway car. I thought I was going to pass out from all the body heat around me. Thankfully I found a place where there were not that many people near me and was able to survive my very first subway ride. After getting off the subway, I had to ask a lot of people where I could find my school, and luckily a nice Japanese student helped me find my way.
The most rewarding experience I had was meeting new friends from all over the world. I met Kat who also is a scholarship student from Greenheart Travel and we are also in the same class with each other. She lives in California which is one of the places my family visits a lot which was very cool. I also met Megan who is from Australia who loves anime as much as I do which was a cool coincidence.
My other friends who I have met are from Turkey, Sweden, Australia, England and China. It’s so amazing to see all these people from all over the world and to be able to meet them in one place. I thought I would be learning about only Japan, but with the wealth of experiences from my new friends, I am learning about places from all over the world!
Duke Takeno is 16 years old and lives in Oahu, Hawaii. His goal during his language program in Fukuoka, Japan is to “learn the language, connect with the other students in the program as well as my host family, and to enjoy what Japan has to offer. I can’t wait to begin my adventure!” Follow Duke’s adventures in Japan on his weekly blog post updates.