Following is a list of all essays, organized alphabetically by  title, along with a short summary of the essay.

District 2, Block 22, House Number 4

By: Hannah Perry
Dartmouth College, IES Tokyo (Kanda University of International Studies), Fall 2013

Chiba Prefecture, Narashino City, Yatsu.  District 2, block 22, house number 4.  My home for the next four months.  A narrow, cement-brick building three stories high, with each room distinguishable from the outside by a sliding door providing access to a small balcony protected by short iron railing from which laundry could be hung to dry.  The downstairs was occupied by a family of four, a mother and father and their two young sons, who oversaw the operations of the dorm and directed the adjacent “Kids’ Club,” a children’s English learning center.  The ... Read More »

A Monument to All Our Sins: An American in Hiroshima

By: Dustin Nguyen, Bridging Scholar

As a student studying abroad, I spent four of the most breathtaking and profound months of my life in Japan. I left that country filled with unforgettable memories of awe-inspiring places and bonds with people that will last me a lifetime. Though I have more to talk about here than can be contained in such a short response, I do want to focus on one particularly inspiring experience: my trip to Hiroshima.
Hiroshima is an awe-inspiring city with an effective blend of natural beauty and urban delights. To think that a city could be devastated by a force as powerful as an atomic bomb and rise from ... Read More »

An Accidental Diplomat

by Kurt Tong
Ambassador Kurt Tong is Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo

Kurt Tong with members of the 1982 ICU Soccer Team

Study abroad completely set the direction for my life and career.  In 1981, just as I graduated from high school, I had an opportunity (due to my father’s sabbatical leave) to defer college in the United States and instead come to Japan and study at International Christian University for a year.  The result was threefold:  my soccer game improved; I learned elementary and intermediate Japanese; and the world was spared a mediocre physician as my academic interests shifted from pre-medicine ... Read More »

An American Experience

By: Minoru “Ben” Makihara
Minoru “Ben” Makihara is Chair, Japan CULCON Panel and former CEO of Mitsubishi Corporation.

Minoru “Ben” Makihara with classmates at Harvard

I arrived in the US via Panama Canal in the fall of 1949 to spend a year at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and then on to Harvard College for another four years.

This was a period right after WWII when Japan was still at its lowest point, but I was deeply impressed by the kindness and generosity of the people in the US.I never had a bad experience because I was Japanese, which in retrospect I think was remarkable.

In ... Read More »

Educating the Educator through Study Abroad

by Yusuke Matsuda

In my role as a teacher at a Japanese High School, I have developed a great desire to instigate change and reform in the archaic Japanese education system. I have come up with two unpleasant conclusions through my teaching career. One, most of what is taught in school is increasingly irrelevant. Students see no relevance or practical applications in what they are forced to learn. This process rewards students who can perform effectively while completely bored, while other students are penalized for individualism and excessive creative thinking. The Japanese education was designed to create corporate soldiers and puts great emphasis on ... Read More »

If you don’t speak, you won’t learn

By: Joelle Metcalfe

My name is Joelle Metcalfe and I was a Bridging Scholar in 2009 – 2010 at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Since my time in Kyoto, I graduated and returned to Japan to obtain a Master’s degree in East Asia foreign policy at Waseda University, focusing on Japan’s diplomatic relations with North Korea during the Koizumi administration. I interned for a number of organizations related to Japan’s foreign policy, including a Washington DC think tank, the US government, the United Nations, freelance for the Japan National Tourism Organization, and the Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo bureau. After graduating from Waseda, I now work at my ... Read More »

My Study Abroad Adventures

By: Patricia Maclachlan

As a restless teen growing up in a quiet suburb of Vancouver, Canada, I looked to study abroad not so much to expand my intellectual horizons as a ticket to adventure. Since I would have gone just about anywhere in those days, I jumped at the first interesting offer that came my way: a two-week study tour of France.  Organized by the French program at my high school, the tour included visits to places that were connected to Canadian history, like Saint-Malo, the birthplace of the explorer Jacques Cartier, and the Normandy beaches where Canadian troops landed on D-Day.  To a 16-year-old who’d ... Read More »

Sophia and Sugamo

By: Sheila A. Smith


Senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

 As a college student, I spent more than a year at Sophia University’s Comparative Cultures Department, studying intensive Japanese language and taking courses in Japanese culture. My language learning began at Sophia, starting from scratch as a child would to master this opaque and easily deconstructed language. I loved the kanji, the ideographs that told their own story, and I found the sound of Japanese soothing… Unlike English, it seemed absent of edges and elbows, until of course I ran into the abruptness of masculine form and delivery.

Sophia was a wondrous place, ... Read More »

Study Abroad and the Art of Kimono

by Ashley Hayes
Ashley Hayes was a Bridging Scholar and JET Programme participant. She currently works for Google.

Kimono, literally, “thing that you wear,” is a simple word for a vast cultural institution. I first became fascinated with kimono during my self-initiated exploration of Japanese history and culture during my teenage years. Right around that time, Arthur Golden’s acclaimed novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, graced the New York Times bestseller list. The book’s thoughtful descriptions of these ornate robes, with their intricate embroidery,  silky textures, and myriad of parts left a deep impression on me. It wasn’t long before I had the opportunity to don a ... Read More »

The Lasting Impact of Study Abroad

by Masako Notoji
Masako Notoji is a retired professor of American Studies from Tokyo University.  She served on the Japan CULCON Panel for six years.

Masako Notoji is a retired professor of American Studies from Tokyo University. She served on the Japan CULCON Panel for six years.

The very first Japanese individual who experienced a home-stay in America was perhaps the young fisherman Nakahama “John” Manjiro (1827–1898), who had been rescued from his drifting ship by Captain William Whitfield to spend three years from age 16 with the captain’s family in Fair Haven, Massachusetts. There Manjiro learned English, Math, navigation, and ship-building skills before he returned to ... Read More »

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