Me at a shrine in Miyajima, Hiroshima
In the summer of 2006, I went to Japan for the first time via an extension program from UC Riverside and spent a month studying Japanese at Kyoto Sangyo University. After writing about and posting photos of my trip here on Anime Yume, I often wondered if I'd ever get another chance to go to Japan again. That chance finally came again three years later, in the summer of 2009. Thanks to a recommendation from one of my former Japanese teachers, I was chosen to participate in the Rainbow Student Exchange Program, a three-week long Japan sightseeing program from July 18th to August 9th. The program is sponsored by the non-profit Ashinaga organization and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California (JCCSC), which specializes in Japanese American social work, commerce, and industry. This program gives college students with particular family and financial hardships both in the U.S. and Japan the opportunity to travel around Japan for free. Ashinaga is a large organization that gives scholarships to Japanese students who can't afford higher education because of a missing parent, and they also do a lot of work helping orphans in Japan and other countries. The JCCSC is an LA-based organization that aides in welfare and businesses for Japanese Americans, as well as promotes a mutual understanding and cultural knowledge between Japan and America. Surprisingly, the JCCSC had a lot of trouble finding students to participate this year, so it was just me and one other girl, Stephanie, who got to go in 2009.
We weren't provided too much information about the program beforehand other than an itinerary, but by the end of the three weeks, we both agreed that it was a fantastic program and one of the best experiences of our lives. The JCCSC organized the program in LA, provided funding for our airfare and additional expenses, and made sure we safely left for and returned from Japan. EVA Airways, the airline service we used, works with the Rainbow Program and provided the JCCSC with two complimentary round trip tickets. Ashinaga provided the funding for our housing, meals, and travel in Japan, and even some extra money for gifts and souvenirs. In just three weeks we went to so many places in Kansai and Tokyo, and we even spent a day in Hiroshima and went to a summer camp at Yamanaka Lake. I had an awesome time, so of course I had to share my coverage of the trip here on the site. Although I took way too many photos and videos, and did way too many things to cover every little detail of the trip, I'm sure I posted enough here to give you a good idea of how it went! =D
I only posted a few of the videos I took, but you can see the rest on my YouTube channel here.
Week 1: Kansai sightseeing + Hiroshima: The first week of our trip, we stayed at the Ashinaga Rainbow House dorm in Kobe and did sightseeing in the Kansai area (Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe). After that, we moved to an inn in Hiroshima and spent one day and two nights there.
Week 2: Tokyo sightseeing: During the second week, we stayed at the Ashinaga Heart School dorm in Mogusaen, Tokyo, and spent that week going to all the places in Tokyo we wanted to go to.
Week 3: Yamanaka Lake summer camp + last days in Tokyo: The last week, we went to a summer camp at Yamanaka Lake with about 300 other Ashinaga students from all over Japan. And after that, we spent a few more days in Tokyo before finally returning home.
Feel free to leave comments and feedback about the trip on my blog post here ^_^
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