JENESYS Exchange Program 2018

Written by Sheryl Leong (Student/ECDE) and Keith Zheng (Student/GEM)

The whole trip was a very fulfilling experience. Although we were far away from home - we felt really comfortable and at ease. This is especially so during our homestay experience, where we lived with a traditional Japanese family for a few days. We did everything Japanese style - from sitting down to sleeping, to eating and even to making food! This experience has allowed me to fully experience another culture and to fully appreciate the culture as it is. Japan is a really beautiful country, and I think much of these can be attributed to the lifestyle and culture of the Japanese people. It is through their respect for nature and other people. 

The trip has taught us a lot about the Japanese people, and one aspect is the respect Japanese have for nature. This can be seen from their harmony with nature. For example, almost all of the dustbins in Japan are recycling bins. They are trained from young to recycle and respect the environment itself. In fact, Japanese people even show their respect when eating. For example, before a meal, Japanese people will say “itadakimasu”. This practice is a form of respect for the food - the vegetables, pork, or whatever that is being served or consumed. It is respect for all living things and thanking the animals that died for us so that we have food.

In Japan, it is also really common to see people wearing face masks. The officer-in-charge accompanying us explained that this was to prevent the spread of germs, especially if they are ill. People also wear it to protect themselves from pollen allergies, which lasts almost all year round. Another quirk that we observed was that it was very difficult to find trash cans along the streets! Even though there are little to zero trash cans, Japanese don’t conveniently litter. Instead, they keep their trash with them until they find a trash can. This is done so well that the street is spick and span. These examples of cultural quirks reveal basic Japanese etiquette – how most Japanese were brought up. In public, they are considerate towards others by refraining from doing things that will unnecessarily affect others. Other examples include keeping quiet in the lift or train, so as not to disturb other users. We truly respect the Japanese for being able to keep to the morals that they were brought up with, as it really isn’t easy to do so. We believe that this is something positive that we all can learn from, a valuable trait that we should inculcate in ourselves. 

Prior to this trip, we had certain expectations of what we were going to experience there from the briefing session. One activity that most of us were excited about was the homestay experience with the locals! It was also what really made our trip such a memorable one. Throughout our stay with the host, we received so much more than we expected and truly experienced the Japanese lifestyle. We had the opportunity to hand make Japanese dishes like mochi, explore Asakura-shi, and also tried out their famous onsens. Our host family brought us around the city to observe the damage caused by a recent torrential rainfall, which has been labelled a natural disaster. Hence, we are now more aware of various events in Japan. Definitely, it was not easy to communicate with the hosts due to the language barrier. However, that did not stop us from interacting with them. We even resorted to using Google translate, to communicate with the Japanese!