Now that I’ve been in Japan for about three weeks, I feel like I can address some stereotypes about Japan. Japan is very clean. The streets are cleaner than any I’ve ever seen even in my own neighborhood. The trains look brand new and are almost never late. Pretty much all toilets have extra features that wouldn’t be seen on any of the toilets in America. There are a couple things I just can’t get used to though. People walking on the left side of the street and sidewalks is confusing, using the train during rush hour where people are in lines going from one side of the tracks to the other in order to cram into one train, and the crowds are too much of a hassle to get around. I don’t think I would do very well in Japan if I was claustrophobic. I’m still enjoying my experience so far, and have many things to look forward to.
My job involves many different kinds of people. The people who come into volunteer usually represent some company or another. If you look closely at the photo’s background, you can see the names of those who have volunteered and the names of the companies they represent written on the walls. IES Tokyo is one of those places whose name I saw and felt obligated to write my name next to. I am very fortunate to work alongside people of different backgrounds and who all wish to contribute to the betterment of the community.
I haven’t done the internship justice because I haven’t described in detail what it is Second Harvest Japan does, or their true objective. Second Harvest Japan aims to create a Food Safety Net for those in need. In Japan there is something called the 1/3 rule. According to this rule, certain places won’t sell anything past 1/3 of the product’s shelf life. The result of this, along with several other damages and production errors, means millions of food products are thrown out even though they are still edible. This is absolutely ridiculous to think about. It makes food banks and food pantries all the more important. Food banks accept food that has such errors and distribute them to Churches, people in need, and other charity organizations. Food pantries are where I work for the most part. Here, people physically come into the Second Harvest Japan workplace and pick up the food available to them. Often, families let Second Harvest Japan know ahead of time if their coming, so food is normally prepared keeping the number of people in mind. However, sometimes people come in for the first time and then we explain that, next time, a reference letter will be needed in order to prove that they are truly in need of such food, and not simply abusing the charity of the organization. Many people come into the organization, including refugees from other countries. I always feel a little cautious when approaching them to explain how the food pantry works. Normally, there isn’t any confusion, and I get the message across. In some cases, the language barrier is too large for me to get across, so I often have to get a fellow coworker to assist. Overall, working there has been an invaluable experience. I plan on doing volunteer work like this in the future.
Of course, more than just work happens when I’m done for the day. I went to a Korean barbecue in Shibuya! The menu had me so confused. There were a few animal parts I didn’t know were edible. I’ve come to the conclusion that Japan is full cool and crazy places. Sometimes you get a glimpse of peacefulness when go to places like Tokyo station, but it never lasts long. There’s always something to do, and never enough time to do them all. Last week I celebrated my birthday with my peers. Then, I went to Emma’s host family’s place, where I made sloppy Joes. By the way, everyone absolutely loved them! (I might think about getting a food truck in the future.)
Thank you all for following my posts. I want to tell you all more about Second Harvest and update you on Japan. I recently got the application on my phone to so I don’t need internet access all the time. I’m sure you will hear more from me about updates and Second Harvest Japan. #IWUstudyabroad