makenzie 2018 school visit 800

So Nice, I did it Twice!

Some have called K Corps’ two-week summer program in Japan a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Not so for Makenzie Addison…

Having enjoyed unforgettable cultural experiences, formed strong bonds with a Japanese host family and Kiwanis Club, and contributed to an inspiring service project in 2017, the Alabaman went again this past June!

With the opportunity to explore two of Japan’s most significant urban centers—Tokyo and Kyoto, it’s easy to see how Makenzie got hooked on Japanese culture. Plus, while in Japan K Corps participants have the chance to participate in activities such as Zen meditation and Japanese paper making. Makenzie even visited a school!

With more K Corps experience than any other teen, the K Corps team thought they’d catch up with Makenzie to hear what she had to say about her trips and why Key Clubbers should consider jetting to Japan this summer!

K Corps: Two trips to Japan in just over a year…you must have really enjoyed your time there. Did you have a particular interest in Japan before K Corps?

MA: I had been looking for a travel opportunity for months prior to having heard about K Corps. I guess you could say that I was just generally curious about other countries. And though I had been thinking about Spain (because I've taken Spanish), when I heard about K Corps at school, I knew that I was to immediately go home and encourage my mom to allow me to go on this trip! I feel so fortunate to have had these opportunities to visit and learn about Japan.

K Corps: Is there an aspect of Japanese culture that you’ve come to really appreciate?

MA: I have come to like so many aspects of the Japanese culture. There is such a big variety of things I like ranging from lifestyle to the simplest things. I love the aspect of the bathing system. In Japan, you bath at night as well as soak. This to me was very relaxing. Many Americans bath in the morning and most do not even soak on regular occasions.

I also love how Japanese people are so inviting. I have never met one Japanese person that wasn't as helpful as they could possibly be. I remember one day in Asakusa when I saw two Japanese girls, about 20 and 16, walking down the sidewalk. One of the girls was eating melon pan, and I have always wanted to try melon pan ever since I saw a Facebook video saying how amazing it was. Without hesitation, I walked up to them (I knew there was a possibility of having a language barrier) and I pointed to it and used body language to ask where she got it, thankfully the younger girl new very little English, but it was enough. We had a conversation while they walked me to the melon pan shop, and it was amazing. I loved how these girls went completely out of their way to help, and this is how every Japanese person I have ever met is.

I have loved learning the Japanese mindset of giving your all to everything, and by all, I mean your absolute all. The majority of Japanese people get up early and get off late, and on top of that, they walk almost everywhere (besides taking the train). Also, Japanese railways during the week are insanely busy. The etiquette of the Japanese people is truly so amazing. Japanese people will never try to rush on until all passengers are off, also they respect everyone by having a rule of no talking on cell phones. It is just a very respectful system they have with their trains.

K Corps: How did you prepare for your trips?

MA: To prepare for my trip to Japan the first time I did a variety of things. First off, I decided to visit a friend who was hosting a Japanese exchange student through PAX - Program of Academic Exchange. Through my friends, I was able to meet a young girl that was my age, and she lived in Japan! This was great for me, because I was able to experience a conversation with a young girl as well as make a lifelong friend. Also, I went around my town and decided to try all things Japanese: food, drinks—everything I could find.

Another thing I did to prepare was research…tons of research. Research helped me more than I even expected. I was able to research the modes of transportation in Japan, the lifestyle, and so many more helpful tips about Japan. Before departing for the first trip, I was able to communicate with my host family, which was the absolutely best way to help me prepare for my trip. We were able to communicate so much back and forth before my trip, and it was just really amazing.

For my second trip to Japan, I prepared less and more than for the first time. Since I had already been to Japan, I knew how life worked over there, but my communication was not great at all. Leading up to my second trip, I tried to study my Japanese every day. This included: listening to Japanese radio, talking in Japanese, watching movies in Japanese, and so much more. My second year was harder to prepare for, because I knew I had a goal. This year I wanted to be outstanding. I wanted to be a leader to my group—I went with a bigger purpose.

K Corps: Were you nervous about the long flights? How’d you manage?

MA: My first flight ever was my first trip to Japan. I was really nervous but also super excited. I prepared for my long flights with the help of Google. I read blogs about trip essentials and what to expect on long flights. For my second trip, I prepared based upon my first. The second time I made sure to bring along a few necessities that helped me get through my first long flight along with some things I wish I would have had. Some of these things were: small snacks, a water bottle, mints (to help with stuffiness), nose spray, eye drops, eye mask, neck pillow, and a Tylenol just in case. Also, I always made sure to get very little to no sleep the night before, so I could sleep on my flights.

K Corps: Any Japanese phrases that have stuck with you?

MA: There are a good many Japanese phrases that have stuck with me. One of my favorites is "Onegaishimasu" which would essentially mean please in a formal way, but could be used in many different scenarios in Japan. "Watashi wa Makenzie desu" has also stuck with me very well, meaning “My name is Makenzie." There are so many small and one word phrases that have stuck with me, and I still even try to use them as much as I possibly can.

makenzie toriiK Corps: You’ve had a chance to see a lot of significant sites. What did you find most impressive?

MA: I have had the chance to see many significant sights in Japan. I really enjoyed Miyajima. Miyajima is located in Hiroshima Bay. To get to Miyajima, my host family rented a van and some friends joined us for the trip. When we arrived, we purchased our tickets. We then all loaded up onto a ferry, because the shrine was across the island. It was just so beautiful when we arrived on the ferry. Also, it was cool because when you arrived you saw a beautiful floating Torii (Shinto gate) that usually looks as if it’s floating. When I visited, the tide was very low, causing it to be completely out of the water. It was awesome to see it out of the water, because you could basically walk right up to it.

Behind the Great Torii, was a shrine named Itsukushima. This shrine was so beautiful. The shrine was dedicated to three daughters, and long ago many people could not even go to it because it was so sacred. The shrine mainly represents purity. This island truly left me speechless.

K Corps: Tell us about the volunteer component of your experiences.

MA: My favorite volunteer activity was in Tsuwano, when a young Japanese student shared his service project and I shared mine. We all sat in a small room to discuss our projects helping the community. His project differed a lot from the projects I would usually participate in. He shared his service project, and it was just so amazing. His project was to do with bamboo forests. He explained how the bamboo can sometimes be too much, so his group works to cut down bamboo to help the rest of the forest. His heart for nature was so pure and beautiful.

Also with the help of the Yokohama Kiwanis Club, we were able to contribute to a beautiful, global, movable mural. While we painted, we got to communicate with younger Japanese students who were doing community service as well. It was awesome to be able to contribute to a beautiful piece as well as make new friends.

K Corps: What was it like connecting with Kiwanians on the other side of the world?

MA: Connecting with Kiwanis club from the other side of the world was just amazing. We were able to see the difference and even share stories together. It was cool to see that the Kiwanis Club in Japan was so homey—they were always welcoming and kind.

K Corps: We understand you’ve become close with your host family?

MA: I have built such an amazing bond with my host family. Ever since my first trip to Japan we have tried to keep in touch as much as we possibly can. Even though we both live very busy lives, we always try to communicate and share how life has been at least every two months.

My second trip to Japan, I was able to reunite with them. They took me to the Imperial Hotel to have dinner. We had one of the most amazing meals I have ever had. We ate at "Traditional Dining La Brasserie." The roast beef was the main course, and it was just mouthwatering. This dinner was so memorable, because we got to spend time together after a whole year of missing them so much.

This family left such a huge impact on my life. They taught me so much about the Japanese culture, and I never felt like I was a host student—I always felt as if I were a part of their true family. They accommodated to every single need I had. This family will forever have a print on my heart, and I will always consider them part of my family.

K Corps: Do you have any plans to study Japanese?

MA: In the near future, I would love to minor in Japanese. Depending on how my degree goes, I will highly consider majoring in Japanese. But, I do hope to take another trip to Japan in the near future.

K Corps: Are there any skills or mindsets you’ve gained from K Corps that you will take with you to college and beyond?

MA: K Corps literally gave me a whole new perspective. I am just from a small town in Alabama. Alabama is so southern, and it's absolutely nothing like Japan. Literally, almost everything in Japan is different. After my first visit to Japan, I decided to broaden my world as well as my perspective. I cannot thank the K Corps program enough for the change it caused in my life and the lasting impact the program has had on me.

K Corps: What advice would you give to Key Clubbers who may be thinking about signing up for K Corps?

MA: My advice to any Key Clubber who wants to participate in this trip is to GO! Do not hesitate; it will literally be the best decision ever. You will gain a completely new perspective on this trip while making memories of a lifetime. You will experience so much more than you could ever imagine in just two weeks.


Makenzie Meets Her Host Family