Things I learnt after spending nine days in Ottawa and Toronto through Kakashi Project
Year two student from the School of Culture, Media and Society
Earlier this year in March, I participated in the Kakashi Project, which is a Japan’s Friendship Ties Program promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. This program aims to promote friendly exchange between Japan and various countries from the Asia-Pacific, Europe and United States and encourage mutual understanding of Japan’s economic, social, historical, political and diplomatic interests.
When I was a still a year one student, I went on a short-term exchange program to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. This time, under the Kakashi Project, I was dispatched to Ottawa (capital of Canada on the east coast of the nation) and Toronto (the biggest city of Canada). Even though these three cities all belong to the same country, it is amazing to know that they each have their very own unique culture. In fact, the reason why I decided to sign up for the Kakashi Project is because I wanted to experience these different sides of Canada.
This year, 18 students from Waseda University participated in the Kakashi Project. The students came from different schools and graduate schools, and spent nine days in Canada visiting the Parliament Buildings, Global Affairs Canada and Japanese Embassy in Canada. We had the opportunity to speak with people working for the government organizations in Canada and learn about the fields in which the nation has been stepping up efforts. At the University of Ottawa, we were able to interact with Canadian students and gave presentations to them on Japanese universities and culture. We even did a performance on Soran Bushi, a traditional folk song and dance originally sung by fishermen of Hokkaido, in front of the local students. I felt very delighted when the Canadian students took out their camera and took videos of us. It seemed that they were really enjoying our performance.
In Toronto, we visited the Ontario Parliament where we met the minister of education and learnt about the history of Japanese Canadian at the Japanese Canadian Culture Centre. Thereafter, we visited even more places and it was a fruitful and fulfilling experience. The Kakashi Project has completely overridden the stereotypes I had on Canada. I used to think that most Canadians are Caucasians and Canada is a country full of nature. However, Canada is a nation that tolerates and welcomes immigrants, a country of diversity. In addition, it is also a high-tech country (I did not know that IMAX was a Canadian organization before). Having physically been to Canada gave me the opportunity to see other sides of the nation which I would not have been able to without stepping out of Japan. What impressed me the most was that all the Canadian ministers and bureaucrats seemed to treat the Kakashi Project with great importance, and were all willing to fork out their precious time just to meet us. I was deeply grateful.
Participating in this project not only gave me the opportunity to learn about Canada, but also the opportunity to reflect on my home country, Japan. For example, I started to appreciate and feel proud about the transportation infrastructure, quality customer services, culture and long history of Japan. Additionally, unlike Canada, Japan is still a highly homogeneous country and thus Japanese people tend to have many shared values and perceptions. I think that if Japan and Japanese people could utilize these traits, we could unite and turn them into strength when it come international negotiation.
Learning about Japan and Canada, I feel that my horizon and perspective have widened. I hope that by making use of my experiences and involvement in Kakashi Project and Canada, I could build an even better relationship between the two countries in future. I do not know exactly how I would be able to do that now as a student, but I will continue to think about it until I find an answer to it.