In March, twelve eighth graders from Brookhaven Innovation Academy took a nine-day trip to Japan as part of the Kakehashi Project. The Kakehashi Project is a youth exchange program that seeks to promote mutual understanding between the U.S., Canada and Japan. The program also aims to heighten interest and bring additional overseas visitors to the country. The Kakehashi Project is sponsored through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In exchange for participation, students are asked to synthesize and share their experiences once they return home.
Brookhaven Innovation Academy decided to take part in the Kakehashi Project after the Consulate-General of Japan approached the school this past fall. As part of the selection process, all eighth graders at Brookhaven Innovation Academy were given the opportunity to apply for a spot on the trip. The twelve participants were chosen after completing a lengthy application, providing teacher recommendations and composing a persuasive essay. Students who were selected for the program spent the six months prior to the trip attending mandatory group meetings and becoming familiar with Japanese culture.
During the nine-day trip, students were partnered with another group of students from St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Brookhaven. The two schools quickly bonded after meeting at the airport prior to flying to Japan. On the nine-day journey, students visited Tokyo and the Wakayama Province in central Japan.
Students had the opportunity to visit historical sites, taste authentic Japanese cuisine and develop personal relationships with other students and community members.
Some of the trip highlights included:
- Suginami Animation Museum, Tokyo, as well as a lecture on Japanese popular culture and content tourism at Yokohama National University
- Tokyo shopping destinations: Asakusa and Harajuku
- Yoyogi Park and the Meiji-jingu Shrine, Tokyo
- Sensoji Temple, Toyko
- Wakayama Castle, Wakayama
- The Wakayama Manufacturing Facility and Museum of the Kao Company
- Wakayama Prefectural Hidaka Senior High School – student cultural exchange
- Dojoji Buddhist Temple, Hidakagawa, in Wakayama Prefecture.
- Yuasa Soy Sauce Factory and Historic Town Tour, Yuasa
- Tsunami Education Center, Yuasa
- Home stay with a Japanese Family, Wakayama Prefecture
- Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Tokyo
Students returned to the U.S. with a deeper appreciation of Japanese culture and an eagerness to share their experiences and insights with family, peers and the Atlanta community. Since arriving back in Atlanta, participants have shared what they learned informally with peers and through daily school-wide Japanese cultural broadcasts to the entire student body. A Brookhaven Innovation Academy “Kakehashi Night” is scheduled for later this month. Next month, students plan to present a summary of their trip to members of the Brookhaven City Council.
Participants have also reached out to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Economic Development to highlight the importance and impact of the Kakehashi Project and other student exchange programs. Brookhaven Innovation Academy is hopeful that the post-trip efforts and the high-level of engagement among the inaugural program participants will result in a continued invitation to participate in asked to the Kakehashi Project as well as additional exchange opportunities for students and members of the community.