Mackenzie Boulton of Analy High School


Have you ever thought about what someone is doing in India, Paris or maybe Japan, or what their daily lives are like?
When I was 14 last February, I got the privilege to travel to Japan for 10 days. I strongly think that if you get the chance to travel, anywhere, definitely go; the experiences you’ll have are eye-opening.
The Japanese culture is so different from the United States. One aspect is how women are treated. In Japan, a woman’s life is typically to graduate from school, get a career, find a husband, quit her career, have kids and take care of the “at home” life. Some women take different paths, but rarely. In the States, women go to work and make a living, although some women do stay home. The mother in the family I stayed with worked but also cooked, cleaned and did much more.
Another culture shock is the food. In Japan, there’s not much fast food compared to the States, where on every street you see a McDonald’s or KFC. Therefore, in Japan there is not a lot of obesity. Another contribution to low obesity in Japan is that about 90percent of the people ride their bikes everywhere.
When I arrived in Japan, I promised myself that I would eat everything and try as many things as I could. The Japanese eat a good amount of raw meat, rice and vegetables. The family that I stayed with ate three big meals each day. Every meal tasted different. I had a lot of soups, noodles, rice, spinach and meat.
Some of the more interesting foods I tried were raw squid and sea urchin, fried octopus and even raw chicken. When I was eating the raw meat, I felt like I was chewing on rubber. I don’t know if any other families use all the left-over food and make them into other meals, but the family I stayed with did. The only desserts that I had were green tea, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Japanese candies. Besides all the uncooked food, I loved all the candies and green tea ice cream!
In many ways, schooling in Japan is different. One big difference is in how girls dress. A lot of teenage girls that I saw wore their school uniforms: skirts (tights are optional) and sweaters. They can’t wear jeans to school, which in the States is a typical style for girls of all ages. For older girls, all over Japan, they wore baggy shorts, tights, boots and a warm jacket because in winter it’s usually freezing. I liked the style of the older girls, but I was mystified by why jeans are a “man’s look” in Japan.
So, no matter the weather, girls going to school are forced to wear skirts six days a week for eight hours a day. Unlike the States, one of the school’s mandatory classes is a foreign language, English. I got to go to an English class and instead of English, the students taught us about their culture and I got to try on a kimono.
The one similarity between the States and Japan is sports. Japan has all the same sports, plus more including, pingpong, soccer, baseball, judo, basketball and track and field.
I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to go to Japan and experience a whole new way of life. I feel very fortunate to do something that not many people can do. I strongly urge anyone who has the chance to travel to take that chance. Experiences like far away trips can really open your mind and you see that there are any other ways of life in the world.