The sky I looked up at Dulles Airport was high and wide-opened. This was my first impression of the U.S.. I had never been to foreign countries until I joined this CCC program. There were so many things I got in touch with for the first time, other than the sky and atmosphere of the U.S. and I was excited and impressed by all of them. In this journal, I would like to write about what I saw and thought in this program, including observations on the life in the U.S. and some difference from Japan.
The first point I was surprised was the meals. I thought I would eat “the American food” everyday but I had heard that it was a prejudiced idea that American foods and meals were very large in quantity. However, it turned out to be what I expected. My stomach had felt heavy for a few days, but I enjoyed big hamburgers, chips, sandwiches and so many kind of foods. Another point was there were few vending machines. It was a little inconvenient that there was no vending machine in the dorms. In Japan, there are vending machines everywhere, from stations to back streets. I heard in Williamsburg there were remnants of old buildings underground so that we could not locate ones. One of the most impressive points was the goods of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In Washington D.C., I saw many merchandises of the two candidates, including T shirts, caps, toys and so on in the souvenir stores, but in Japan there are few goods of the Prime Minister or other politicians.
I found that there are some good points I think are different from Japan in the life of American people. Firstly, people are very kind and friendly. In pharmacy or other shops, salesclerks at the counter said to customers “How are you doing?” and have a short conversation. In restaurant, they always asked us whether we could have a good time. I know it is a kind of common greetings, but I liked this and felt a little kindness. Also, I saw salesclerks talked and laughed with their customers many times. As for me, I had a chance to talk with them in the first day luckily. When I went to Target and took some CDs, a salesclerk talked to me because he liked the CDs too. It was very exciting experience for me because I was a little nervous of the two-week program in the place where I’m not familiar with. In addition, even those who happened to come along were very kind for us. Needless to say, people in Japan are of course kind and like to help others. However, I think there is surely difference in how people interact with others, and sometimes Japanese people tend to avoid interacting with who they do not know or foreign people, and even there are still a kind of discrimination against them. Another point is townscape. I had expected that Washington D.C. would be a great city. Actually it was, but a little different from what I had expected. Firstly, green grass was everywhere. In Japan, we seldom see grass in the center of Tokyo and other cities like Yokohama or Osaka, though there is shrubbery instead. However, in Washington D.C., we could see grass at the circles and the building sites. I was impressed how neatly it was manicured. Secondly, the buildings in Washington D.C. were not high, except for the Monument. After I came back to Japan, I researched why there were no high buildings. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the U.S., wanted to make Washington “Paris in America”, so he thought they must build low and convenient buildings and wide roads. In 1899, the Congress passed the Heights of Buildings Act and regulated the construction of high buildings to succeed Jefferson’s wish. I think it is very great that even now the city remains as Jefferson wished and looks good.
However, sadly everything I saw was not wonderful. In the metro, I saw a woman showing a cardboard written that she was pregnant but had no money, and asking people in the train something to eat. Also, there was a mother with her baby sitting down in the station and asking charity. It is true that there are homeless persons or people suffering from poverty in Tokyo or other cities, but it was surprising that poverty of the people, especially women, had become so apparent. I am afraid that poor women in Japan would fall into the same situation because poverty rate of Japanese women are increasing. In addition, I noticed that many black or Hispanic people were working as cleaners, bus drivers or guards, but there were few white people in the same jobs. For example, in McDonald’s near the campus, there were many Asian and black workers but few white people, as far as I could see. It is possible that my speculation is wrong and actually the case is different from what I thought, but I researched that in 2015 the poverty rate of the black people was 27.4% and the Hispanic people was 26.6%, and mainly lack of education and living styles like ghetto caused such high rates. I think these facts lead differentiation of jobs between black and white people.
My first step to overseas could not be better and perfect because not only through the lectures but with my own eyes I could learn many types of differences, mainly cultural difference. Even after coming back to Japan, I feel the difference between two cultures more strongly. Through this program, I got new perspectives to see and analyze the world, and of course many friends and precious memories.