"Japan The Golden Land," an essay by Ms. Anosha Wahidi

24 December 2008

Japan is a beautiful country with the population of 126 million from which 12 million people live in Tokyo (eastern capital) which was first called Edo and became the capital in 1868. The cities of Japan are busy with traffic and industry but old traditions still survive and deep-rooted appreciation of traditional arts flourishes throughout Japan from the tea ceremonies to sumo wrestling.

Two main religions that are practiced by people are Shinto and Buddhism but Japanese people celebrate other festivals too, such as Christmas. In this time of the year during night hours streets were decorated with lights and bulbs, but the most interesting was the decoration of Tokyo tower which looked like a lady with a skirt designed with diamonds.

Japanese people use two types of alphabets Katagana and Heragana but Katagana is used to write words and names of foreign languages. In order to read a Japanese newspaper one must know 5000 alphabetic characters.

In Japan one of the most beautiful scenery is cherry blossom which starts in March and lasts till the end of April but sometimes it only lasts for a couple of weeks. Japan is host to many tourists during the cherry blossom because the natural beauty of Japan is incredible this in time of the year. Even in schools when students are passed with high marks they are told sakura sako (cherry blossomed) and if they are failed they are told sakora chiko (cherry blossom finished).

In this trip total of eighty persons were invited from eight countries. Ten persons from each country, one teacher and nine students but unfortunately one student from our country couldn’t come because of security problems in his province. The following countries were invited: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

This trip was like a dream come true for each and every student and will bring positive change to the life of us all. We were very happy and the most important thing is that we learned a lot but without sitting in a classroom. On the first day of our visit we had a Japanese language class where we learned how to introduce ourselves in Japanese, how to say numbers and we also learned some other useful expressions.

We went to different places from high technological centers to very traditional temples and castles. This shows that Japan is a country of remarkable civilization but of cultural purity too. One of our visits to the high technological centers was to Tokyo stock exchange where we saw machines that were designed to tell us about the rates and standard of economy in Japan. We also learned that unlike other countries in Japan the red color is the sign of going up and the green color is the sign of going down.

Other technological place was Panasonic center where we saw many TVs, cameras and other equipment of latest technology which were all beyond our imagination and every thing was designed to decrease the pressure on electricity and water and to prevent them

from being over used and waste. In addition to these visits we went to Osaka science museum which was awesome because it was like a stadium situated in the sky we also played many games there, which were all connected to the science of our daily life.

Our visits to traditional places were including to Miyajima (Temple Island), Kinkakuji temple, Kiyomizo temple and Nijo castle in which Shogan lived it was very interesting to know about Shogan and the way he lived but the special thing about the castle was the nightingale floor which sounded like a nightingale if somebody walked over it. This floor was made to stop invaders to get inside the castle and worked as an alarm.

Through this visit we learned to make designs on Kimono (Japanese traditional dress) we also learned how to make chopsticks from Japanese high school students and we had rice cakes in their school from the rice that was grown in the school garden and was cooked by the students.

The fifth day of our visit was very interesting because we had a home stay with our Japanese host families. My host family was Waki family of four persons, parents and two children. They were very hospitable, friendly and polite and the children were very cute and smart. The daughter of the family Ayaka played excellent piano, I was very impressed. I cooked them Afghan food and I enjoyed my home stay very much. I think that each and every student did.

We also had two visits to recycling centers one was to central breakwater landfill site and the other was to the water recycling center. We had some sightseeing too, for example we went to imperial garden though the imperial palace is not open to the public but only once a year from many candidates one lucky person is selected to clean the imperial garden so that the emperor himself will thank him. After that we went to Tokyo tower which is a very tall tower and we could even see Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain from it. In addition to our sightseeing visits we had a chance to go to the Odaiba area where we saw a model of the statue of liberty.

The only day that all students were sad was our day in Hiroshima’s peace memorial museum and our lecture from Mr. Hosokawa one of the survivors of atomic bomb in1945. Unlike other students in this trip we Afghans have experienced war in our country so we could feel the loss and pain that war gives to people more than others. We felt very sorry for what happened to the people of Hiroshim and how they suffered from atomic bomb for many years even after the war.

This entire visit included four beautiful cities of Japan: Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Osaka. Through this trip we learned that Japanese people call Japan by the name of Nipon. One of the exciting events of our trip was our journey through the bullet train which is one of the world’s fastest train and is called Shinkansen in Japanese the train through which we went to Kyoto from Hiroshima was named Nozomi which means hope.

This trip was a very good experience for all of us south Asian high school students to be introduced with Japan and its rich culture. We are very thankful from the government of Japan for organizing this educational tour. We have always heard about the politeness,

hospitality, hard work and sense of responsibility of Japanese people and through this visit we witnessed them all. Our souls are touched by Japanese people and their behaviors. Although all of us were very far from our countries but the hospitality and friendliness of Japanese people made us all feel at home.

Kanako san and Yoko san, our escorts worked day and night and took care of us as if we were their own children. We are so grateful to them and we will never forget how well they treated us and cared for us.

Japanese people are very hard working people because though their country was destroyed during war but still without feeling any kind of tiredness they worked very hard and built their country once again. And today Japan is in a state that any country can hardly compete with. I think this is a very good example for us Afghans to learn from.

We are the ones who are responsible for the situation of our county. I don’t know why we Afghans have to suffer all the time? Why is there no sustainable peace and security in our country? Why do people specially children have to beg in Afghanistan? And why are we fighting with each other?

In the end I want to tell the people of my country that please have unity, build your country and respect the values of education, customs and culture of your country because we are the ones that have key to a brighter future of our country in our hands.