A heartfelt ‘Arigato’

During the winter of 2010, I found out I was selected as a winner for the Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition.  There were nine winners in all. We are all college students, all journalists, and all ready to ready for an adventure. So, the nine of us made sure to use our nine days in Japan to do as much as we could — meet people, learn about the culture, see the sights, try all the food, and find a new foundation for our dreams.

I am currently sitting in the airport in Denver, Colorado after returning from this trip. Japan was one of the most wonderful places I have ever been. It’s a culture where people thank you for letting you help them. It is a place that really makes you appreciate the kindness found in people. It is fitting that one word is heard throughout the country, arigato, or thank you.

I learned way too many things to write here right now. But mainly I learned that I want to continue to travel and experience the world. I learned that I want to go back to Asia, specifically Japan, as soon as possible. The country is a complete dichotomy. It is


new and old. It is a modern city and a classical marketplace. It is youthful and wild, and it is old-fashioned and structured. Around every corner was a new marvel, and the people were truly willing to share their stories, their homes, their lives. During this trip all nine of us were able to interview a survivor from Hiroshima. Her story was obviously heart breaking, but it was also inspiring. She just had so much joy, so much love. Many of the Japanese people that I met were so animated— they felt things from their head to their toe, and you could see it in their faces, their hand movements, their very essence.

I also learned how much I carry around the American dream with me. In Japan they do not all go to schools where they learn skills for their careers, students do

This is a bad fortune tied up at a shrine to keep the bad luck with God.

not typically study journalism in school. They learn the skills after they get the job. While some Japanese children do grow up with a dream job in mind, many just grow up dreaming of having a job, filling their place in society. In America we grow up with specific dreams, we see ourselves as presidents of companies and we turn down jobs to chase a better opportunity. At first I thought the Japanese style made no sense. But honestly, by simply being a well educated individual, you are helping society. I am glad I got to make my own path, to take my goals and career in my hands. But I have come to appreciate the low unemployment rates and the collective good that Japan strives for.

I also made many wonderful friends. Many of my new friends were left behind in Japan. Friends that  I hope  continue to challenge and inspire me. But I also have

Some of the amazing people I met while in Japan

eight new friends spread across the country. All of the other winners were intelligent, passionate, genuine and caring people. It was great to be surrounded by people who cared about the world, cared about journalism, and cared about all the stories surrounding us. It really was a life changing experience. I don’t know what to say to show my gratitude for everyone who made it possible, everyone I met, everyone that shaped my time in Japan, so I guess arigato will do.

This is the website that describes our experience in Japan: Roy Howard


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