Learning from cultural diversity and cross-cultural communication

The culture of Hawaii is based on Polynesian cultural values with western and eastern world influences, which makes it a place with a uniquely integrated culture. Hawaii is made up of many different ethnicities, where each of the cultures and traditions coexist with each other. By visiting Hawaii, you will open the door to foreign cultural exchange. The world has rapidly changed from internalization to globalization. Hawaii is in itself a “small earth,” and by experiencing Hawaii, you will learn the importance of cultural exchange.
  • I went to the science camp in March. It was about two weeks, and we learned about volcanology, but I was most impressed with the world where English was the main language. The street signs and conversation of people passing by were of course all in English, even when we got to the airport, it was all English. Everything was in English in the world there and so I was really worried, but at the same time excited. When using English as a second language, I believe I was filled with some kind of hope of improvement.

    The bulk of our English practice was at homestay. My host family was a married couple, and I believe this homestay life was where I learned the most in Hawaii. Before meeting the couple, I had decided to be proactive and speak to them a lot, but when I met them, it might have been because I wasn’t really used to speaking English, but I wasn’t able to hold a conversation with them at all. Even when we got to their house, I couldn’t really talk to them. I was really worried if I could do alright if this was to continue. From the second day, in order to overcome my mistakes from the previous day, I went and kept talking to them. But alas! I was met with a problem! My pronunciation was bad, and my nuance wasn’t understood. So, there were times where I thought I was clearly conveying my thoughts, but my message wasn’t understood. Also, since English was their first language, their pronunciation was really good, which made it difficult for me to understand what they were saying in many occasions.  So, when I would hear a simple word that I knew within their conversation, I would be able to take a good guess at what they were talking about, so I found that knowing the simple words were important. After going through all of our troubles, we got to know each other, and they even made us home-made dinner. I really owe my thanks to my host family who tried their hardest to understand our broken English. In the end, we took pictures, and they gave us a gift and hugged us goodbye, it was a week full of adventure.


    Yoshitoshi Kuwajima, Tezukayama Junior High School (Nara Prefecture)

  • The point I alluded to during the science camp was to find where my strengths and weakness were from my 3 years of English study and to find where I needed to put the most effort into improving.

    At the English study program in Hawaii, communication with peers was more difficult than I had imagined. I found that my personality played a role in making it hard for me to hold a smooth conversation. I tried to translate my message perfectly into English, but it did not work as planned. When learning English in Japan, it was important to create precise sentences, however, when trying to communicate, I found that simple words would do the job just fine. I should have used more gestures and simple words, since the person I was talking to wanted to understand what I was saying.

    I also discovered the importance of simple words. When trying to get a message across, I didn’t know enough simple words that there were many times when I had trouble voicing my thoughts.

    When being talked to in English, I found that I needed to be able to see the whole picture of what was said. I would be trying to understand each word that were thrown at me in sequential order, so when I was hit with a word I didn’t know, I would lose the meaning of the whole sentence. I think this skill can be improved through personal training programs, so I would like to further improve this skill in high school.

    I also had my discoveries as well. I believe this is true for Japan, but I found that when trying to convey something, putting your emotions into the message made it easier for the message to be understood. This was something I felt during homestay, but when my host families would talk amongst each other, I couldn’t understand anything, but when they would talk to me, even though the speed of them talking was the same, I could make out the gist of what they were trying to say. When I thought why this was, I found that it was the difference between putting in the emotion into trying to be understood, and to not put any emotion at all.

    I probably can use this skill in Japan as well, when I would have to make a speech. When participating in a debate, I would like to keep the emotion when I express my opinion to the audience.

    Norihiro Yoshikawa, Tezukayama Junior High School (Nara Prefecture)

  • I learned about many things that I didn’t know about before going to the 12-day science camp. I would like to talk about the three things that I felt during the camp.

    1. English

    Before our departure, I didn’t know how good my English was, so I was really worried. I couldn’t memorize the spelling of words, so I just didn’t know what to do. When I started speaking in English in Hawaii, I found that my English was actually understood. However, I couldn’t understand the words that people would say to me, so I had them explain to me what they meant, and I couldn’t get the Japanese nuance over to them. Even in Japanese, it’s difficult to 3get something specifically across. From now on, I would like to improve to be able to get my message across in English.

    1. Education

    I was surprised that the marine science and astronomy facilities we visited used so many iPads for their display booths. We don’t see many tablets installed in our science museums. From this observation, I thought that the difference came from different display and educational methods. When I went to my homestay, I found that the homework in America are uploaded online, and you turn it in online as well. I was really surprised at this, since there aren’t many schools in our country that have this type of educational tools. Both learning on paper and using the computer have their pros and cons, so I don’t know which one is better. However, I was amazed at their stance of challenging new things. In America, they seem to be able to use a calculator for algebra. I thought that this was a way to prepare for future education standards for the people. However, I thought that it would be faster to solve the problem without a calculator.

    1. Proactiveness

    I was happy that many kids came to our booth and made origami with us during STEM Night. In Japan, not many people would gather around to just make origami… I was teaching them how to make a ninja star, but other than that, I had some kids come and ask me how to make a crane, so I felt a positive stance from them.

    Yukihiro Nishioka, Tezukayama Junior High School (Nara Prefecture)

  • I felt that I was able to gain a different kind of experience from my previous science camp six months ago in Seattle. I was freed from being anxious and nervous since it was the second time, so I was able to participate in this science camp without worry. Although one thing that I was worried about was the homestay, and the living environment there. I will address this in the latter part of my essay, and first, I would like to touch upon two of my topics.

    The first topic is about how many immigrants in Hawaii, so there were all kinds of people there. For example, I felt that there were many Japanese-Americans and Filipinos. There were of course pure Caucasians as well. At the Mililani Middle School, I met a half Japanese person who was fluent in Japanese and then I met a person who was pure Japanese but couldn’t speak any Japanese. So, I was surprised that there were all kinds of people there.

    The second topic would be that people around us were really nice, even though it might have been because we came from another country. When we were lost, people came and helped us out. I felt this most during homestay, when we went shopping and they taught me how to count the money and when we would eat, they would ask me if I wanted to eat more. Also, the local coordinators and the students were really nice to us. I thought there weren’t any people that were like this back in Japan.

    These were the things that I had felt in Hawaii. I felt that the first topic was specific to Hawaii. I really hope that the next group from our school will get to go through a similar experience.

    Yusuke Mori, Tezukayama Junior High School (Nara Prefecture)

  • I found during the science camp that the most important things was to be proactive and be the one to start a conversation. I realized this at the Pacific Aviation Museum during the culture exchange with the American middle school students from the mainland. This was something our teacher and the interpreter kept reminding us about. However, when it came time to speak, I started getting nervous and feeling what if my words wouldn’t be understood or what should I even talk about, so I didn’t dare to speak in the beginning. Then the middle school teacher came in and used Google translator to interpret what we were trying to say. The moment I knew what the other person was trying to say, I borrowed the questionnaire sheet to talk with the student and I was really happy that my English was understood.

    At that moment something came to mind, I found that the words that I just used were really simple English, and it was something we learn in the first and second year of junior high school, but those simple words were understood by the people. This meant that I could just use a simple sentence structure to get my message across, instead of thinking about all the complicated subjective words or emphatic sentence constructions. I also used third year English as well as first and second year. These were somethings that the teacher told us at the lecture before going to Hawaii, but now I know by heart that this is true.


    Taichi Suzuki, Tezukayama Junior High School (Nara Prefecture)

  • I experienced so many things in Hawaii.

    I had imagined that the people of Hawaii were friendly and would come and talk to you, however what I found was that they wouldn’t talk to you unless you go and talk to them. I found this to be true during homestay and when we met with the Mililani Middle School students. When I talked with my other classmates, I found that there were all kinds of host families. My host family would do nothing for us, unless we went and asked to do something, sort of like a hotel where they would only feed you food. This was why I thought that I needed to communicate with them to get an actual homestay experience.

    Therefore, I was able to talk a lot, my hoist family would smile and respond even when I would go off on a weird tangent, and even though my approach to this problem was wild, I was surprised that they understood me. In the end, we were able to go to all kinds of places, and it was a fulfilling and fun homestay. During the culture exchange with Mililani Middle School, we easily got to know each other and become friends because we were the same age. I was glad that our presentation was a success. The STEM Night was like a festival, and I got to speak with the local kids and assist people in English, so it was good practice for improving my English.

    Hawaii was rich in nature as I had imagined while I was in Japan. The waterfall, volcano and ocean that we saw in Hawaii were different from Japan. I was glad we stayed at a really good hotel too. On Oahu, beaches were nice, and I will never forget that I was able to swim around coral reefs. During the peace study, I was glad that I was able to learn the American way of thinking instead of the Japanese, which is a textbook reliant way of thinking.

    Masatoshi Uno, Tezukayama Junior High School (Nara Prefecture)

  • Whenever I said “aloha” or “mahalo”, everyone responded with a smile. The word “aloha” means love to one another, and you can use it at any time of the day in many situations. “Mahalo nui loa” means thank you very much.

    In Japan, not many people respond when someone says “arigato,” but people in Hawaii respond when someone says mahalo to them. It’s a magical word that makes people happy by showing appreciation toward each other.

    There are no specific honorific forms that are used in English like in Japan, so whether you are a boss or president, people call each other by their first names. It seems as if they are close friends unlike the formal Japanese. Also, there are no sonant marks in Hawaiian with only 12 alphabets and 23 sounds, so Hawaiian sounds very soft.

    Sakura Iijima, Nagaoka High School 2nd year

  • During my homestay, both my host family and myself tried to make ourselves understood. By wanting to know each other, our conversations kept flowing, thus we could overcome any language barrier. I learned during my homestay experience that I should state what I want to do and how I feel about things. It’s important that we are assertive. I also think how they didn’t keep silent by always responding to my “thank you” with “you’re welcome” and “it’s OK” helped me act more assertively. I think it was a unique experience that I could only have through homestay and the short stay at Mililani Middle School.

    Miyabi Yotsui, Ekisen Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • I was able to experience life in Hawaii during my homestay and learned that making the effort to understand each other through conversation with our same generational counterpart in another country, is the first step in building a better international relationship.

    Misaki Hida, Ekisen Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • I felt the connection between people during my stay in Hawaii. I thought neither country, skin color, nor language can come in the way of people’s real connection. Many people from all over the globe live in Hawaii, and there are no conflicts and people live in peace. I would like to cherish what I learned about the connection between people when I return to Japan.

    Moe Murakami, Nagasu Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • What I learned from my homestay experience is that no matter how different our cultures are, we can get our thoughts across if we have the will and appreciation. We can fill the gaps between us, even with the language barrier, if we have the will to convey and listen. I would like to make full use of what I learned during my three days of homestay experience in my everyday school life.

    Nozomi Matsumoto, Nagasu Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • Thanks to the kindness and smiles of Mililani Middle School students and my host family, I laughed a lot and feel less shy speaking English. I made many new friends too. I was very happy when one of the girls hugged me and said, “I miss you.” It made me feel that I didn’t want to leave. It was hard to say goodbye to my host family too.

    Tomomi Honda, Seibu Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • I learned about the importance of English. Many students asked me about school life and everyday life in Japan during recess and in class, but I couldn’t understand what they were asking most of the time. My partner was very kind and used simple words and gestures to help me understand. I could communicate with my host family through game playing with them. I think games and animation are great tools of communication even if we cannot understand words. I was motivated to study English further for communication skills. I realized that even if I cannot speak English fluently, I can communicate if I challenge myself.

    Keigo Nobata, Seibu Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • I was able to learn about cultural differences during my home stay experience. We take baths in Japan, but they only take showers in Hawaii. I was a little cold not taking a bath. It was also difficult that I had to take a quick shower since the toilet was in the same room as the shower. The meals were different too; we use small individual plates in Japan, but in Hawaii they have one big plate to serve everything on it. My host mother made ahi poke. I am not fond of tuna, but ahi poke was delicious and easy to eat. I had a great experience learning a foreign culture during my homestay.

    Nodoka Hara, Hokubu Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • I attended Mililani Middle School. Overall, the presentation that we prepared and practiced in Japan went well. When many of the Mililani students asked questions after the presentation, I clearly saw the difference between shy Japanese students and them. I felt bad because my English skill was low, and it was hard to have a conversation with my buddy during my stay. Nevertheless, whenever we understood each other, I felt that we got closer and it made me glad. There were more times that I couldn’t understand the conversation I was having than when I did. This gave me motivation to study English further, so I can have this challenge in Hawaii again in the future, and that is a great memory for me.

    Kanoko Nishida, Hokubu Jr. High School (Oita Prefecture) 3rd year (9th grade)

  • Through this study program, I have felt the need to improve my English. With my goal being on the improvement of “communication skill,” and with the phrase “positive attitude” that I learned during the study session in Japan, I believe I was able to think ahead of things and was able to put others before me. Also, I believe this word will be helpful in the future, so I will do my best to improve.

    Kakeru Maeomichi, Sera West Junior High School (Hiroshima Prefecture) 2nd year (8th grade)

  • The first goal I set for the study program was “to become proactive.” I have a shy personality and I hesitate to speak to anyone I have never met before, so I decided to overcome this part of me. A huge turning point came to me when I went to homestay.

    The host families came to pick me up on the first day of homestay. I couldn’t figure out what to say to them at first, but after thinking for some time, I built up my courage and said “Hello! Nice to meet you.” Then I was returned with a smile and a warm “Hello! Nice to meet you too.” When I heard those words, something inside of me sparked, then I felt something snap into place. All of a sudden, I wanted to speak some more.

    From this experience, I have learned to not be afraid of making mistakes, and the importance of being the one to start a conversation. I feel I was the one creating a wall, since I would always be pondering about ways to not mess up, and only wonder about what they would think when I would say something. I also learned that by being determined to learn about another, I found that even if I didn’t know how I wanted to convey the message word for word, the feeling would always get across to them.

    Hideaki Kato, Sera Junior High School (Hiroshima Prefecture) 2nd year (8th grade)

  • Another thing that I thought was good about Hawaii was that there were so many people with different ethnicities, and they seemed to get along with each other. During my homestay, I was given the opportunity to go to a church, and there were a bunch of people with different ethnicities. At the church, there was something called Sunday School. It was from 10:00am to 11:00am and 11:00am to 12:00pm, so a total of 2 hours, and I think they were talking about the words of Jesus Christ. I could not understand all of what was being said, but I learned one line from his words “Live life to the fullest.” So, I decided to put the words into practice. I found that to “Live life to the fullest” meant to be grateful of where you stand today, so I felt a great deal of sympathy to these words.

    Also, at the church, there were two girls who came up to me to talk. One of the girls could understand a little Japanese, so we tried real hard to hold a conversation while mixing English and Japanese. The way that they tried to talk to me made me really happy. I was warmed by their spirit of not thinking that I wouldn’t understand English because I was Japanese. It was great how the people in Hawaii don’t discriminate against anyone, and they keep a really positive attitude towards the people they meet. So, I would like to learn from this as well.

    Mayuki Uekawa, Sera Junior High School (Hirohsima Prefecture) 2nd year (8th grade)

  • I was touched to see the people in Hawaii wait patiently for us while we struggled to somehow get the message across to them, and they also would try really hard to understand what we were trying to say. For one of the goals that I had chosen before the study program, “to actively participate in a conversation without fear” was not something I had perfectly accomplished, but I think I gained some confidence.

    Fumika Ishigatsubo, Sera Junior High School (Hiroshima Prefecture) 2nd year (8th grade)

  • When I told my host family my thoughts, they listened carefully and agreed to what I had to say.

    From this experience, I learned that by clearly stating your words, the person displaying the message and the person receiving the message both start to cherish the feelings of each other. So, after learning this, I will try to always be able to describe myself whenever and wherever I am.

    My next goal is to learn more about my country, town and region that I live in. I was able to experience a lot of different cultures in Hawaii. So, from this experience, I started to think “how are my home town and country like?” So, from now on, I want to learn about the good things about my town, and take in the good things about Hawaii, to make Sera Town a more active town where the young and the old come together to create a better, brighter place to live in.

    Soyo Miyamoto, Kouzan Junior High School (Aichi Prefecture) 2nd year (8th grade)

  • This was when we visited the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and learned about Japanese immigrants. There were many Japanese people who immigrated to Hawaii to find work. I believe moving somewhere that they knew nothing about, with a different climate, culture and language must have been really difficult. I probably would have not been able to do something like this. I was really impressed that they were able to integrate the Japanese culture and the Hawaii culture to survive in a new land. I can only image that there were tons of obstacles that they needed to overcome. I believe the Japanese spirit of hard work and to keep improving helped people not to give up. So, I thought that these honest ways of living was why the people of Hawaii accepted them, and leads to how they are looked upon today. I believe I learned a lot from them.

    Mayuki Uekawa, Sera Junior High School (Hiroshima Prefecture) 2nd year (8th grade)

  • “I learned how strong these Japanese American immigrants were, when they managed to live through hardship in a foreign land where they could not even understand the language. I was also surprised that the Japanese culture had made their way into Hawaii, because there are Japanese shrines and bon dances there.”

    “I learned that the people from many different ethnicities who wore their own unique clothes would all go to school together. I thought it was very Hawaii-like for all the different people to come together and happily live with each other.”

    Sera Town Junior High School (Hiroshima Prefecture) Selected from student essays

  • The most important thing I learned from this program is how I got to interact with many people, including my host family. This was the first time I’ve experienced a homestay overseas. The homestay program, meeting with the college students, and Kenjin Kai members was one of the reasons why I took interest in this trip. However, as time drew near, I became worried “what if I can’t speak properly?” or “I’ll be embarrassed if they don’t understand me.” When we got to Hawaii, the first people we interacted with was the Hawaii Fukuoka Kenjin Kai members, who warmly smiled to us when saying their hellos and introducing themselves. Even when we were holding a conversation while we ate, we were still nervous, and we stumbled on the words that we spoke. They still heard us, though very patiently, while always smiling. Their great hospitality gave me confidence and I was able to think “just keep talking who cares if I mess up!”

    It was the first-time Mr. and Mrs. Anderson took anyone in for a homestay. Also, the previous Japanese-American host families understood basic Japanese (greetings, etc.), but Mr. Anderson didn’t understand any Japanese, and he didn’t know much about Japan either. The other Japanese-Americans would keep a conversation going even if I stumbled on my sentences, but whenever Mr. Anderson didn’t know what I was saying, he would clearly say to me “pardon?” or “what?” so that I was a little afraid of him at first.

    However, I decided to think that this meant he was seriously listening to what I had to say! So, I tried enunciating better, and if it this didn’t work, I tried saying it in a different way, and I kept trying until my message got across to them. As I tried more and more, I started to have fun talking to people. I’m not sure if this feeling got across to them, but they started to talk to us more and it seemed like they enjoyed talking to us.

    Yukiho Baba, Fukuoka Jo Gakuin University – Faculty of International Career Development 1st year