Today was the first full day of the Kakehashi Project. After a harrowing 15-hour journey, with little to no sleep, it was amazing that I could even function today. Well, OK, maybe not that amazing, since there was just so much to see and learn.
For the first half of our day, we were brought to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There, we were briefed on what the Kakehashi Project is, as well as how we should conduct ourselves while staying in Japan. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures while inside the Ministry.
After the briefing, Hideaki Yamaji, senior coordinator for the North American Affairs Division, talked about the political history of Japan, from the end of World War II to the present day. He explained the immediate post-war political climate of Japan in detail and explained how past events shaped Japan’s current political and foreign policies.
In summary, the Kakehashi Project is a part of Japan’s peace-promoting foreign policy, designed to build friendships between North America and Japan. During our stay, we were asked to look closely and find the beauty of Japan and its culture. We’ll be making a presentation of our findings at the end of the Project, as well as through our social media networks.
After the presentation and briefing, we were taken to Oto Oto, a restaurant in the Toranomon Business District, for lunch.
After lunch, we were taken to Asakusa Temple, home of the famous Kaminari (Thunder) Gate. There, we got a chance to explore and shop around. I’ve always seen pictures of the famous giant lantern, but actually seeing it in person was amazing. The entire temple was very beautiful to look at, and there were a lot of people visiting, offering prayers and wishes.
After exploring the temple area, my roommate, Cody, and I went off to explore the Asakusa shopping district. There we saw numerous curio shops, clothing stores, and other stalls selling food and knickknacks.
While at Asakusa, my roommate and I were approached by this gentleman (name withheld for his privacy), who asked us where were were from. When we said we were from the U.S., he was very happy, since he used to study English in the U.S. after he retired from the Japanese Naval Forces. He told us stories of his youth, and told us how he was so happy that foreigners like ourselves were interested in his home. He likes foreigners due to his interactions with them while in the Navy, and wished us an enjoyable stay in Japan. As I wrote earlier, the purpose of the Kakehashi Project is for us to find the beauty and good qualities of Japan, and I feel like I found all of that in this one conversation.
To end the day, we moved from Asakusa to Odaiba. We crossed the famous Rainbow Bridge to get there. We arrived at the Odaiba Aqua City shopping complex, where we would eat dinner at The Oven American Buffet. I did not expect to be fed this well on a government-sponsored trip.
The final highlight of my day was getting to see the 1/1 scale Gundam Unicorn in person. As a Gundam fan, I was just in awe of the sheer size and detail that went into creating the statue. We were in Odaiba at night, so the Unicorn had transformed from its usual solid white form into its glowing red NTD form.
Now I’m back here in the hotel writing this article before heading to bed. I had thought we wouldn’t be able to do much today since the orientation took up so much time, but we got more than what I expected today, and I felt so blessed to be able to experience it!
Tomorrow, we’ll be heading out to the Ghibli Museum, then taking the Nozomi Bullet Train on the Shinkansen as we make our way to Kyoto, where we’ll be staying for a few days to experience more of the historical, as well as visit the Kyoto Seika University, home of the Manga Masters Degree program! Look forward to it!