The project was called “Kizuna” which translates to “bond/connection”.
The Japanese government was looking for cultural ambassadors, from many countries including USA, Philippines, Cambodia, New Zealand, etc., to visit areas of Japan effected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear melt-down and to see, first hand, the outcome had on the locals. It was then hoped that this knowledge would be taken back to the participants’ countries to correct false rumours and to attempt to increase tourism.
I learnt about the trip when my mother was searching the internet for exchange programs. I sent in applications to the ASF website, hoping to receive an interview. Most of us received interviews and met the ASF staff in the city a few weeks latter.
I was selected from 1,300 teenagers who applied. This was based on teacher references, past community work and my cultural awareness of Japan. The interview lasted for 30 minutes. I luckily secured one of the 20 spots offered to non-speaking Japanese kids. In total, about 600 kids made up the worldwide delegation .
I was the first Jewish person many of the other students had ever met. This often led to highly political debates in which I was often forced to defend against Israel’s horrible portrayal in the media.
I spent time in Ishikawa Prefecture, in a city called Kanazawa. The town was covered in a beautiful, peaceful blanket of snow. I went to school for a few days and was immersed in Japanese culture. I loved the outdoor hot tub in the freezing snow, and enjoyed bike riding with my host brother around the town. When talking to my host family, they were often very interested by the stories I told about my grandparents’ struggle in the Holocaust.
The weather was very cold in the earthquake region. The week I was there, another earthquake occurred – but I felt safe at all times in the highly protected buildings. I had lectures about the rebuilding efforts from people who were personally affected by the earthquake and gained a great insight into the struggle of the locals.
I was aware and proud knowing that Israel and Magen David Adom were one of the first to respond to the Tsunami..
When I got back I made it a priority to give my leftover spending money to the efforts of Magen David Adom in Fiji.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience I will remember forever.