The delegates (front row, L-R) Daniel Tan (TX), Omar Saracevic (VA), Kaitlyn Nicholls (TN), and Akansha Ravishanker (CA) with Prime Minister Abe (center back). (Photo courtesy of the 2016 Junior Summit Secretariat)
From April 19 to 29, four high school students from different regions of the United States visited Japan. Akansha Ravishanker, Omara Saracevic, Daniel Tan and Kaitlyn Nicholl represented the United States at the Junior 7 Summit, an international gathering that mirrors the upcoming G7 summit in Japan's Mie prefecture this month. They were chosen through a nationally competitive application process, and were selected from more than 550 students. They met each other for the first time at Denver International Airport, where USJC Council Leader Eric Hiraga gave the students a quick cultural presentation of Japan based on his recent Japanese American Leadership Delegation trip. Airport staff also hosted the students during their layover with lunch and an escort to their departure gate.
The delegates with Mr. Hiraga (second from left)
Upon arriving in Mie, the students worked with high school delegations from the other G7 countries, including Japan. They collaborated on a proposal paper that was later presented in person to Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the government of Mie, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In addition to learning about international cooperation and global issues facing G7 countries, the students enjoyed learning about Japanese culture, cuisine and local industries through daily excursions and sightseeing visits. A highlight of the trip was participating in the local Ishidori festival, which is said to be "the loudest festival in Japan." Community members taught students how to hit drums and gongs. The students were then treated to a private tour of the Nabana no Sato garden, which featured topiaries trimmed into the shape of the flags of G7 countries.
The delegates enjoy the Ishidori Festival
The delegates also traveled to Tokyo, where they visited a local Super Global High School and planted a tree in commemoration of the summit. They were also hosted by students and their families for an overnight homestay.
"I was able to get closer to the Japanese culture [by doing the homestay] . . . I will continue to keep in touch with the family and my host brother to help expand their English language capabilities and continue this lifelong relationship that has been created as a result of this Summit," said Omar Saracevic, the U.S. delegate from Virginia.
The summit concluded with an official visit to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, where the delegates shared their thoughts and proposals with Ambassador Kennedy. Delegates also had a chance to explore Tokyo and even took a trip to Tokyo Disneyland before departing Japan.
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