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November 29, 2012

Local Voices from Around the Globe: Respect is among the top things loved about Japan

By Sarah Cook
Cooperstown Crier

---- — So, to start, the wedding was amazing! The bride was stunning; she wore a traditional white wedding gown, but after the ceremony switched a multicolored flower wedding gown. 

My last host family was relatives of the groom, so before the wedding we went to the grooms’ house where I met most of the family. They were as nice and welcoming as most Japanese are. It was a great time. I didn’t know what to expect, so I enjoyed myself. The differences were the wedding ceremony was extremely short, but the after “party” was a good length with lots of good food. However, the “party” included no dancing! It was fun none the less.

So the day after I was switching host families. I was nervous, excited and sad. I soon found out how much I love my second family within the first couple of days. They are amazing. I have two host sisters, one who is 16 and in the same grade as I, and the other is 18 who is in her first year of college. 

I’ve become very close to my host sister who is my age. She is so sweet and has introduced me to a lot of her friends. The best part has been she introduced me to some of her guy friends that play soccer in the park next to the apartment building that we live in, and so now, I play soccer with them often. It tends to be at night when the air is nice, fresh and cool. I haven’t been this happy in a long time.

It has been getting cold, and everyone in my school has switched to their winter uniforms. School is going good. We went on a trip to a ballet and it was good, but when we left I was in utter astonishment that EVERYONE, the WHOLE SCHOOL was coming. We walked to where the ballet was and all I could see in front and behind me were the Kobe Yamate uniforms. I enjoyed the ballet a lot; the dancers did different dances from all over the world. 

Besides school events, I’ve been on a Rotary club trip to Awaji Island, which is a little island off of Kobe. We went to a National Art Museum, a traditional Japanese doll puppet show, went to a nice hotel that one of the Rotarians owns and a really nice Japanese restaurant. Before we entered the restaurant one of the Rotarians told me that this was going to be a very traditional meal. We were going for lunch, but were told dinner is usually the equivalent to 400 U.S. dollars, and lunches were equivalent to about 200 U.S. dollars. I was astounded to say the least. I was truly lucky and continue to be.

So I have contemplated the reason I love Japan so much. What is so different about Japan? Why do I love it so much more than the U.S.? When people asked me what surprised me the most I always replied how it was mostly one race and it surprised me but I figured out that, that wasn’t why I liked Japan. I have finally realized it’s the level of respect that everyone holds. Everyone is so very respectful. I didn’t realize before coming here how disrespectful a lot of people are. 

Here, if you run into someone, you apologize; you don’t just walk away. If there is an older person you get up and offer your seat to them, and if they don’t take it you don’t sit back down. Of course there are those people who won’t move, but for the most part they would. The respect that most people show is incredible. I wish everyone could experience this. I have truly fallen in LOVE with Japan and have started to think about what I could study that would bring me back. 

Being in Japan has always been a dream of mine. It’s hard to believe I’m fulfilling it. Many wouldn’t long to come to Japan. “It’s so far away! I’d rather go to Europe.” Japan is amazing though because of its history and how the culture has been kept almost untouched. The mini shrines in the houses, low tables, temples in the woods. All of that is part of the culture and I have learned I LOVE IT HERE!! 

Sarah Cook is a Rotary Exchange student from Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School. If you want to read more about her adventures check out her blog: www.sarahsjourneytojapan.blogspot.com.