One Year Later (Me waiting for this trip to happen)

Looking back from what has happened over the past year or so, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am now. I remember during the same time last year, I was sobbing in my hospital bed as I broke the news to Ebony over the phone about how I couldn’t go on the GIEU Japan trip. Now I’m finally here and the trip is about to end. Although I’m sad that I wasn’t able to go with my last group, the past couple of weeks have been time filled with amazing adventures and memories that have changed me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Honestly though, it kinda sucks being the last one to post on the blog because it’s difficult to pick just one memory. However, the first time I really felt at home in Ishinomaki was a few hours before we took over Fukko Bar. We were still adjusting to being in this new town, but the people welcomed us with warm arms right when we entered Hashi-Dori Commons. The local pops was there again from the night before (as some of you have read in previous blogs) and would constantly just buy us food. Not only that, we met some mothers and their kids who were absolutely fascinated with us. They were learning English and were insistent on practicing with us. The kids were a bit shy, but by the end of the night, we were all laughing and playing games with them. The most heartfelt thing was that one of the younger girls stole my camera (bless that she didn’t drop it). Not only did she leave one of my favorite picture of all time, but a night that I never felt so at home in a country that was oh so foreign. Although I’ve been to places such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka beforehand, Ishinomaki made a place in my heart that I’ll never forget.

It made me realize that it’s not the place that makes it special, it’s about the people you meet. On our free day, I was able to head to Sendai where I didn’t know what to expect. I met up with a lovely boy who was determined to make my day in Sendai something I wouldn’t forget. From the awes at the pet shop, kicking his butt in Mario Kart, and getting dinner at McDonald’s, it made Sendai feel a bit smaller and more at home. Even the journey back was a wild ride from thinking I missed the last train to getting off a stop that was not even close to the hotel. However, a man sensed my fear and lack of knowledge of the area and called up a taxi for me. He even waited for the taxi to come before he parted ways with me.

Last year, I was in a rather dark place and couldn’t even imagine how I was going to get out of it. Although the anticipation killed me, I’m so happy I was given the opportunity to do this all over again and maybe breaking my pelvis in the end was a good thing.


The Country of Mountains

I had always known that Japan was a mountainous country, but I had never really been conscious of that fact until I was climbing them and reflecting at their peaks. At the top of the tallest hill in Sanriku Fukko National Park, I was wondering how I got here. A year ago, if you asked me if I wanted to study abroad, I probably would’ve said it was too expensive and left it at that. But one day I opened a random email that I would usually delete and ended up here. My thoughts were racing, so the unimaginably wide ocean opened itself to me and I to it. A year ago, I was having the worst summer of my life. I was struggling with a bad breakup, a roommate I didn’t get along with, and a rough freshman year. I woke up, ate, and went back to sleep for what seemed like forever, but this year I’m in Japan admiring the beauty of the ocean, listening to the quiet hum of a small boat, and the sound of nature. I have been through the deepest valleys and found myself in a country of mountains with people I actually love spending time with.

Before I went on my flight, I told my mom I was afraid I’d be uncomfortable traveling with strangers and that the discomfort would ruin my trip. She told me to just let go of everything and focus on enjoying myself since these moments with these people in this place will only happen once. She was right, and I had no reason to be afraid. I’m usually very withdrawn until I’m comfortable with people, but I got comfortable with people on this trip, bonded, and found common interests almost immediately. I’ve tried sea pineapple, seen the Shibuya crossing, carried a freakin shrine, bonded with Japanese people who have seen tsunamis, been to a maid cafe, woodworked, had the most fun I’ve ever had on some random playground in a National Park, and so much more. I have never felt freer from responsibility, from fears and worries as I did when we were running around like children asking for 5 more minutes on the playground and another ride on the zipline. I can barely believe I can call any of these experiences or memories, mine.

College has shown me the bitterest moments and the sweetest moments, and it was in that park that I realized how happy I am here, on this program, in this country of peaks. I wish this mountain would never end.

Moriumius Day 1

Moriumius was revitalized, but all its current structure is from the original, nothing but the floor was changed. The community and volunteers from all over helped rebuild this school.
They had a small farm that consisted of chicken, pigs, and goats. That’s Rachel with the mama goat and her 2 kids.
The lounge, originally the principals office.

We arrived at Moriumius around 5 o’clock. Moriumius is a type of nature school also located within Ishinomaki. It is located within the mountains and nearby is a small fishing village. The center has a few farm animals like chickens, goats, and pigs. They also have rice paddies and are surrounded by forest. They use these to teach children. There were also 3 other Univeristy of Michigan students at Moriumius who are interning there for the summer.

Once we got inside we first had to make our beds as we were using traditional Japanese style bedding. We got a brief introduction to the layout of the building as it used to be an old school that was renovated into a retreat type center after it was severely damaged by the tsunami. We then had dinner where we were served a variety of traditional Japanese food.

After dinner we were given a brief introduction to what Moriumius is and how they got to where they are today post tsunami. The project aims to teach children about sustainability and nature in a summer camp type setting where they cut down trees in the forest, play at the beach, and learn how to work in the rice paddies.

After the presentation  we had some free time where many students hung out in the upstairs lounge that used to be the school’s principal’s office. It was an early night for the group as we had to be up and ready to go by 6:30am the next morning!

Hulk’s Story

My real name is Kai Yoshida, but my nickname here at ITNAV is Hulk. I’m currently a 3rd year student at Ishinomaki University. I’m interning here at ITNAV. I first heard about ITNAV from a seminar at my university. My teacher, Fish, suggested I come work here. My main job is to develop android apps. So far I’ve created a memo application and an android engineer sample application. After graduating from university, I want to work as an android app engineer or simply a programmer, possibly in Tokyo, America, or China.

I think Ishinomaki is a really peaceful town; it’s very relaxing. And there’s really good food here! I’m from a smaller rural town in Miyagi that’s about 30 minutes away from Ishinomaki by train. I commute from home to go to school here and work at ITNAV.

I was a 2nd year junior high school student when the earthquake struck the area. I was preparing for my graduation ceremony at the time it occurred and was unable to go home for a while. However, since I live more inland, I didn’t know of the true situation of the cities near the sea. It was when I first came to Ishinomaki that I realized just how big of an impact the disaster had on communities along the coast.

I want to become one of the 1000 engineers that ITNAV produces and mentors. I want to be able to tell the world that even though Ishinomaki doesn’t have a great image because of the disaster, it’s still a wonderful place and people should definitely come and visit.

Ryuta’s Story

Ryuta has a memory of running around playing when he was two years old. It is rare for a person to remember something from such a young age, but this experience really stuck with him. His head smacked through a glass window while he ran. Shards of glass stuck out of his head. He’ll never forget this.

Even now that he is sixteen years old, he remains adventurous and determined. He sees himself as a video game programmer after he finishes high school. His goal is to make a game similar to Dragon Quest, his favorite game. Even now he is working hard to achieve his dream. Aside from gaining experience at ITNAV, he is the president of the programming club as his school. Sometimes he recruits ITNAV to come in and teach aspects of programming.  

Ryuta appreciates the combination of the city and nature in Ishinomaki. Aside from programming, he has a passion for fishing. But, ironically, he doesn’t like fish at all. He prefers chocolate; anything he buys at the convenience store has chocolate in some form.

For such a young age, he has insightful advice for anyone interested in programming. He says although programming has an image of being inaccessible, anyone should give it a shot and play around because it is not as difficult as its reputation suggests. Another piece of wisdom he had was that programming requires a lot of creativity. He believes it is the most important skill for the field. If you have any trace of a creative idea, he advises you don’t give up on it. Think about the idea in different ways, and it may turn into something.

Brown’s Story


My given Japanese name is Tetsuya Ouchi; my English name is Jonah, but everyone calls me Brown. I am 21 years old. I’ve been working at ITNAV as an intern since February of 2017. In my free time, I enjoy programming, video gaming, and reading books and manga. I grew up an only child, with just my mom and dad. My mom pushed me to learn English growing up, even though I did not always put in effort.

My given Japanese name is Tetsuya Ouchi; my English name is Jonah, but everyone calls me Brown. I am 21 years old. I’ve been working at ITNAV as an intern since February of 2017. In my free time, I enjoy programming, video gaming, and reading books and manga. I grew up an only child, with just my mom and dad. My mom pushed me to learn English growing up, even though I did not always put in effort.

I’m not originally from Ishinomaki. I was born and raised in Sendai, a nearby city. Sendai was much more convenient because there were many more supermarkets and convenience stores, but if you get used to Ishinomaki, it’s okay living here.

Although I am learning programming here at ITNAV, it is not what I will do in the future. I am leaving ITNAV this upcoming July to work at a sales promotion company. Before I came to ITNAV in February, I attended a university in Canada learning carpentry skills and trade. I realized that wasn’t what I was interested in, so I came back to Japan. The reason I think it is important to learn programming is because it can be combined with infinite ideas and will be useful for me in the future.

My advice to younger students is this: You can learn programming on your own through the internet, but as a beginner it’s still hard. For me, it is very helpful to have people around to ask questions when I am unsure of something. ITNAV makes learning programming much easier than doing it on your own. I want to tell others that ITNAV is open so welcome.

Learning programming for me is to get the most powerful means to express ideas and self. My final goal for now is to express all of my thoughts and self with this.

Tama’s Story


My name is Saori Chiba and my nickname here at ITNAV is Tama. I’m a graduate student studying business at Ishinomaki Senshu University. I came to know about ITNAV because my professor is an acquaintance of the company’s CEO, Furuyama-san. He suggested I apply here. There were many things I wanted to learn that I thought ITNAV would be able to teach me, so I decided to come here. My main job is android app development. I’ve created a watch application and an anniversary tracker application. After graduation, I’d like to stay in Ishinomaki as create my own IT company.

I’m originally from Ishinomaki and have lived here all my life. Ishinomaki has really good food and there are plenty of cool places like ITNAV. I honestly love everything about ITNAV. The people here are really interesting, like Furuyama-san for example.

The place where I lived wasn’t affected as much by the 3.11 disaster. There was food at home and water was still accessible, so I didn’t really realize how severe the destruction was. I only understood the severity of the situation a week afterward when I visited my high school and saw the devastation with my own two eyes. I can only remember how shocked I was then.

Because of the disaster, I was unable to go to Sendai University like I originally planned. This led me to attend university here in Ishinomaki, which is how I ended up meeting my professor and working at ITNAV. I want to use my experiences here at ITNAV to found my own company one day and benefit the city.

Favorite Song: CQCQ by Kamisama, boku wa kidzuiteshimatta

Kaito Abe’s Story

Hi, my name is Kaito Abe and I am 17 years old. I live with my brother, mother, and father. In my free time, I enjoy kendo, playing games, watching videos, and reading.

I was born and raised in Ishinomaki, but I plan on leaving my hometown. After high school, I want to go to a vocational school for game programming and eventually create my own game. However, I would like to eventually come back to my hometown and teach programming to students or continue programming with ITNAV. I like Ishinomaki because it has become more and more convenient. There have also been more people coming into Ishinomaki, so exchanges among people have increased.

I got involved with ITNAV a month ago, but I was interested in programming since I was 14. I heard about ITNAV from a hackathon event at my school in which I participated and learned from. When programming, I like that I can quickly shape my thoughts and place them onto the screen.

My advice for other youth is once you decide what you want to do, research and learn about it and act on it.

Sendai Excursion-5/19/17

The view from Aoba castle was breathtaking.
Here is the statue of Date Masamune on his horse.
This was also seen on the land the castle used to be on. Although the sun makes it hard to see, there is a giant eagle in front of the turret.
We showed our Michigan pride with the university’s flag.
If we were a rap group, this would be our album cover.
The Guardians of the Galaxy poster taken in the movie theater.

Brad led the ITNAV group and Ishinomaki Lab Group around his favorite city in Japan, Sendai. The weather was hot and the sun was blazing, but that didn’t stop us from having fun.
First we went to the War Reconsturction Memorial Museum. This place tells the story of Sendai during and after World War II. Sendai was unfortunately a victim of fire bombing from the U.S. Most of the buildings in the city today had to be completely rebuilt in the early 50’s. Despite this misfortune, the city emanates hope and ambition for the future.
During a reflection session we had in the museum, we discussed our privelege as Americans in Japan. This brought up other questions of nationality. Some members of our group weren’t born in the U.S. and are not sure of whether they should claim the history and heritage of the U.S.. We did not have an answer, however we all had something to think about for the rest of the day.
After the museum we hiked up a hill to see where Aoba palace once was. Now it is an expanse of land overlooking the city with a gorgeous view. We also saw the famous statue of Date Masamune riding a horse. Luckily for us, there were role-playing historical samurai figures in front of the statue that kept shouting. It was very amusing.
By late afternoon, we were finished exploring. Some people from the Makigumi group took a train to meet up, and we went to the movie theater to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy. What a night!

Fisherman Japan (12 May 2017)

Today we went to the Sanriku Fukko National Park, which was located at the tip of the peninsula. Our bus ride was long, but so worth it!

It was very windy at the top of the mountain, but the view of the ocean was gorgeous.

Caroline regretting wearing shorts on a very cold, windy day:

The view from the top of the hill was insane. We explored the area for awhile and then ate lunch picnic style together very happily despite the cold breeze.

Side note: rice balls!!

Alongside the trails in the park were numerous playgrounds. We had fun on different swings, slides, and even sledding. And we discovered Molly’s true self: a seven-year-old girl trapped in a grown woman’s body.

There was also a cool bridge that we found on the way!

After the park and bridge, we headed over to meet Fisherman Japan. They are a group that are dedicated to promoting the fishing industry within Japan. Currently, the average age of a fisherman is in the 60s. However, following the events of the 2011 tsunami, this organization has not only pushed for the increase of the fishing industry, but also have made efforts to recruit young people into the occupation. While Fisherman Japan is currently based within the Miyagi Prefecture, we are excited to see how their impact will grow and expand to the rest of Japan and even to other parts of Asia.

After we said farewell to Fisherman Japan, we met a new shy friend.

Who eventually moved away from us…

But it’s okay, because we ended our day with a very big boat!

Walking back, we saw flowers..

.. and these cool statues.

And fell asleep on our long way back to Ishinomaki.