Bedford High School senior Domenic Giusti was in Japan for only three-and-a-half weeks this summer. But he gained enough insight and experience to confirm that he will continue his pursuit of information about the nation.
Indeed, he is considering attending college on the West Coast because many schools there have a larger number of students and staff from Japan. And he expects his area of studies will be “something related to Japan.”
Under the auspices of the Experiment in International Living, a venerable cross-cultural educational program for high-school kids, Giusti was immersed in activities, language, and everyday life in Tokyo and the surrounding area. The experience in Japan between July 7 and Aug. 2 exceeded his expectations, he said, and included some time staying with a host family.
“I’ve always had a passing interest in Japanese culture,” he explained. “When Covid hit I got into the more artistic side,” specifically the animated Japanese storytelling medium known as anime.
Giusti was the only Massachusetts participant in a delegation of close to 35. He found that there were others in the cohort who developed similar interests after “watching TV because of Covid.”
He was especially interested in the language, watching cartoons and videos set in Japan and finding “the culture and lifestyle expressed through those things so interesting. As it turned out, I was able to draw something very valuable from Covid.”
Giusti said his memories are of “so much stuff packed into one place.” Beautiful religious shrines set in both urban and rural areas are one feature of the landscape that left an impression.
“One of the main things I enjoyed about Japan was taking the trains,” he said. Rail transport is faster and cheaper than automobiles and “to me is more efficient and superior.” Giusti said the popularity of rail transport is representative of the society’s more collective approach than in the U.S. One outcome is “more people feel a need to assimilate,” and his experience was a more homogenous population.
There weren’t a lot of English speakers among the Japanese he encountered. “I have a decent grasp of the language, so there were definitely times when I wanted to say something,” he recounted.
He is working on his language skills through an online course from the University of Hawaii.
Summers are hot in Japan. “The average temperature was 93 every day and it was very humid,” said Giusti, adding, “I got used to it.” He noted that “the people were always wearing long pants,” reflecting an emphasis on manners and etiquette.
Among Giusti’s other impressions from the trip:
- “People were all extremely kind. They greatly appreciate visitors trying to learn about their culture. I spent some time in a high school with students and they were all interested in American culture.”
- Everything seems compressed – perhaps that’s because “so much of our space is taken up by highways and parking lots.” In Japan, he said, more people travel not only by rail, but also by bicycle or just walking.
- The trains are “expansive, efficient, amazing – and the train companies publicly apologize for being 30 seconds late,” Giusti noted.
- Asked if anything surprised him, Giusti said, “It was generally what I thought it would be – although they don’t have paper towels.”
Giusti noted that much of his trip was underwritten by donations.
“I’m extremely thankful to everyone who donated and made it possible for me to go, including people who don’t know me personally,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, I really appreciate it.”