When Japan Meets America

My mom, my dad, and my three brothers are obsessed with the Asian culture. My parents lived in Japan for a year, two of my brothers visited Japan and study the language, and my twin is studying in China. I, on the other hand, had no knowledge of Asia or the culture. My family’s fascination sparked the decision to host a foreign exchange student from Japan.

On a humid night in August, my parents dragged me to the airport to pick up the girl that would be living with us for the next year. The six of us stood in the airport waiting to see the face of Sayaka, my new host sister. We stood there with enormous pink balloons in a cluster of people; the foreign exchange students arrived. My brothers held up a sign with Sayaka’s name on it in obnoxious, bold letters. She immediately ran over to us; I stood there examining the crowd. After all, being five-nine, I did hover over many of them.

During the car ride home, I learned lesson 101 of Japanese culture. I viewed the experience of having a host sister as a burden, but I could learn as much from Sayaka as the United States was about to teach her. This thought turned my attitude from being annoyed, to realizing the importance of sharing culture.

The minute we pulled into my driveway her face lit up. It was as if we were arriving at the White House. Her small frame stepped in the house with the one piece of luggage she brought along for twelve months. Since my brother would be at college that year, his room was hers. Having her own queen-size bed, desk and closet were beyond her. I learned later on that it was a luxury in Japan. The first meal she ate of traditional American food was eaten with chopsticks. She picked at the orange mac ‘n’ cheese perplexed at what she was about to eat. Learning how to use a fork and knife would arrive later during her stay.

The rest of the time I shared with Sayaka was like follow up lessons of the first one she shared in the car. She taught us what they eat, how they cook, even little details on how they go on dates. She increased my knowledge on the culture of Japan. Not only did I learn culture from her, but I taught her American culture as well. She saw what it was like to attend a two thousand-person high school. She also stood on the bleachers, shoulder to shoulder, with her crazy American classmates cheering on their team.

The culture that Sayaka and I shared with each other will never be forgotten. She expanded my mind to the Japanese lifestyle. No longer am I the one person in my family who knows nothing about Asia. I hope one day I will go to Japan and interact with Sayaka’s culture first hand. I believe in sharing culture, and hope to continue sharing in my future.

Jessica Nelson

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