Core Value: Inter-Cultural Communication

My relationship with bilingualism is a long and storied history of turning tides. I have lived in Japan most of my life, at the time of writing this, having spent only 5 full years in the United States, the rest of the 13 here in Japan. Also, I am Japanese by nationality and the Japanese language comes just as natural to me. It is to the point where I think and dreams in Japanese. I speak Japanese with my parents, however, it is always English with my friends. When I lived in countries other than Japan, there was no need to use Japanese other than the daily conversations amongst my parents, so I have to say, my Japanese was starting to deteriorate. Once I moved back to Japan in 5th grade, I regained the skill again. I was in a Japanese speaking community, where communicating in that language was a necessity. On the other hand, during my 8th-grade summer holiday, I had a special experience to go to a Japanese middle school for 3 weeks. Then I realized that although my parents are both Japanese, I was I was called still called the “帰国子女” = “a returnee”. Therefore, I felt a distance from all the other students who were fully Japanese. Furthermore, I was embarrassed in their English class and was ashamed of being born in the States. However, when I reflect this experience now, I appreciate that in an international school, there are bilingual communities where mostly everyone spoke Japanese and English. So I strongly felt it was like entering my own country for the first time at the beginning of 9th grade. Then this experience leads me to take an IB Japanese A HL course at school. I am glad that I decided to take Japanese for my IB courses because it was a good opportunity to study in Japanese and up my language skills. Although I was born in America, I felt that it was necessary for me to understand and study at least the basics of Japanese. Overall I believe that would like to be proud of myself even if I am a ”帰国子女”.


Competency: Wellness

Another regular practice I engage in to support my wellness in being social was practicing koto towards a big event like a recital. For my recent racial, I was proud of my improvement of performing a solo at the G11 Music Recital. This was my first time to play two solo pieces and this enhanced my ability to give a speech about my song and to perform in front of a big audience. In addition, I was proud of myself when my drumstick fell but I still continued to play as if nothing happened. Also, it was the first time to record my own performance. However, I am still learning to love any note I play on the koto since I react to my mistakes which affects me to become hesitant. Participating and performing at this recital helped me become more socially balanced since I had much support from my friends, parents, and teachers.

Competency: Management

By accomplishing this Long Distance Walking I would like to achieve a healthier lifestyle by physically walking outside. By walking I will have more opportunities to interact with local people who live near my area and I will create a constant fit body. In addition, I will measure this by using a pedometer and I will start by aiming to walk 3-6km once a week. Eventually in autumn and winter breaks, since I have more time I will aim to run a 1-5 km once a week. However, when I have school, I will aim to walk. This is an initiative planned goal because I am the one who chose to walk or not.

Below are my reflections on each walking experiences.

On December 21st Ayaka and I went to Meiji Jingu Shrine. Then we also walked through Omotesandō and went to Yoyogi Park. In total, we walked approximately 2.6 km. As mentioned in my goal, I was to interact with local people in Tsunashima. However, this walking experience gave me an opportunity to not only increase interactions with local people but with my friends!! Hence I accomplished to enjoy and learn about the Meiji Jingu. Therefore I developed a new skill to plan a route and go out with my friends at the same time accomplish the goal of exercising. Also, a strength I grew is to control the pace of my walk. This is because I noticed walking a flat surface with a slow pace is meaningless. Therefore to challenge myself I asked Ayaka to walk a bit faster.

On October 23 since Saturday and Sunday was a very rainy day so I did not have a long walk. However on Monday the weather was better and because I had an autum break I decide to run from 1-5km. Therefore I ran 2.4 km. Honestly running 2 km was very challenging since I’ve never pushed my self to run. Also during the run I felt very tired and more tired after I finished running. However, while I was running it was enjoyable because the temperature was just right. Even though it was windy it never stopped me from running. Also I thought it was a good idea to bring a bottle of water because I was dehydrated after the run. Afternoon I ran I stretched at home to get blood to flow through my body and can poll down taking care of my body.

On October 14th I did my third long distance walking. This time in total I walked 5.7 km. Since today was 16° I chose an appropriate clothes having gloves and an umbrella to keep myself dry. Even though it was harder than usual I kept the routine to continue walking. It was a new experience defined patterns as you can see in one of the pictures. I never knew there would be footprints on the road. Overall I think I would try and increase the distance because I want to challenge myself.

Core Value: Global Understanding

Going to the Okinawa trip in 10th grade is one of the best decision I made in my life. Even Though it was my first time to dive, I really appreciate Mr. Mejia since he gave us the opportunity to expand our comfort zone by trying something completely new like diving. During the trip, we had a very tight schedule but we were able to learn the knowledge we need for diving and used the knowledge right away since we dived twice during the trip. In my first dive, I loved the view under the water since there were fishes and I’ve never been so close physically with the aquatic life. I saw a colorful starfish and stingrays. However, when I went for my second dive the sea floor was covered up by bleached corals and there weren’t any fishes. This which astonished me since everywhere I saw was white and I couldn’t see the end. It was my first time to see directly the effect of what we’ve done to the aquatic environment. Throughout this experience, this made me strongly feel that I should create and expand the Underwater Explorer Group to face the truth and to check the environment directly with my own eyes.

Consequently, YIS Underwater Explorers is a student-led service group that aims to understand and improve the aquatic environment in Japan. We will serve our community by working with the organization Project Baseline to check and record the ocean conditions and share them with local governments and educational institutions. We will also develop further knowledge and understanding of scuba diving to help us support this purpose. In addition, we are also be forming partnerships with Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) to help our members become more accomplished divers so that they can better collect data underwater.

In simple terms, our group hopes to have a positive impact on Japan’s aquatic environment. This approach will be seen in three different ways:

  • Direct action to clean up our aquatic and coastal environments
  • Baseline data collection to share with government and academic institutions
  • Alerting the public on our findings and how they can help

Then, the experience in Underwater Explorer lead me to research about ocean acidification for my ESS IA and was also a topic that came up in Geography class. I was astonished to know that the whole ocean was becoming more acidic. So for my ESS IA, I’ve explored how ocean acidification affects the growth of different types of shells. If I were to have more time I’d like to seek into how diving could worsen ocean acidification since we directly breathe out carbon dioxide which is the cause of ocean acidification.

Additionally, the experience of participating in this group and forming a partnership with Project baseline helped me realize that although we may be a group of only 15 students from Japan, we have the power and privilege to participate in a global scale project. The map is shown in the video at 1:26 has a red circle on Japan – that circle represents the group I am a part of. Moreover, I was able to notice how the environment is like a powerless person and needs the help us who has the power to change and take action. Therefore, although I will be graduating, I hope this group will continue to collect data and partnership with the Project Baseline. Personally, I would like to develop more of my diving skills in order to directly see and keep advocating people about the effect of global climate change.

This is a picture of myself in the depth of 10m.

All the member of UE!

Myself and our supervisor (Mr. Broughton) going to dive.


Competency: Personal Goal

For my personal project, my topic was to teach complex knowledge of the similarity and difference between a disease that both human and cats can have.

I was inspired to do this topic because I felt like a continuous journey from my fifth-grade exhibition which I researched the history of cats. Therefore this was a great chance to enhance my knowledge from a new perspective. Also because I had a real-life experience, this was the start of my project. It was when one of my cats become diabetes than my mom also become diabetes. I was surprised to know the treatment was totally the same. They had to inject insulin directly and have a controlled lifestyle.

My goal of the whole project was to understand the similarities between diseases that humans and cats are prone to. In addition, I wanted to do spread awareness to help other people who have cats. The goal was highly challenging and inappropriate for me because first I had to understand and explain the causes, symptoms without cue cards to directly talk towards the audience. Moreover, it was challenging to explain diseases with simple terms to teach small kids such as 4th grades. Lastly, I had the challenge to explain my project in front of people who are expert related to my topic. I wanted to explore the research question “what are the similar diseases both human and cats can have? To an extent which diseases are more serious towards humans or cats. Why?” The product I created which was a poster had helped me meet my goal. I was able to show and point out keywords that were important throughout my whole presentation by writing down on the poster and pointing it out. Also, I had visual references for specific treatments this directly help me to communicate my goal to the audience. The global context: Scientific and Technical Innovation, guided me because in the back of my mind I always have the question “How can I understand about the world I live in?”  So whenever I try to learn facts about cats I was able to make myself go back on task. Whenever I got information from the site I always check whether it was created by a vet to increase the reliability. I’d also research the vet on its own to check whether it was a useful site. As I said before I already knew the treatment for diabetes and knew that cats can have cancer. The knowledge from science class taught me that there are specific diseases that can happen in eyes. From this prior knowledge, I had to know basic facts about cats from a general point of view from a pet owner.

Before researching, I learned that even the Wikipedia is not recommended for an academic source we can check the reliability of a Wikipedia page as a source. Then I looked at Wikipedia page about the cat and checked the ranking. The site for the cat was GA ranked which was the highest rank. This meant the Wikipedia page was a reliable source. However, I thought this wouldn’t be the best source because Wikipedia can be edited by everyone. Then I bought a book by Yuuki Hattori who runs a vet only for cats in Tokyo. This provided me the basic information about cats such as the reasons behind the action acts take. This source was one of the best because I’ve seen him on the tv as a specialist for cats. Also Reading a Japanese magazine help me remember the evolution of cats and bone structure of cats. I learned from this that cats lick their body to decrease its body temperature and how cats can’t see color green, yellow and orange. This source was not reliable because The source wasn’t cited and I know magazines can exaggerate information. The main resource is used were online sites. To evaluate the source I’d always check whether the site was created from a professional veterinary. One of the best sites was PetMD because it told what the disease is and the cause, symptoms, and treatments. Every site had a doctors name which increased the reliability. I was able to develop a skill to check rankings of Wikipedia sites to get reliable sources through Personal Project. On the other hand, I wasn’t able to manage my time well I had to rush at the end.

Overall my product was a poster with a section that I can get a new question from the audience and a small activity and a section.

Therefore I set my criteria

  • The major element is a poster that can communicate complex information about diseases towards the audience.
  • The major elements is an activity that can increase the level of creation between the audience with me.
  • Also, a space that will include the question of the audience that I couldn’t answer which will help me enhance the knowledge towards cats.

And there are specifications

  • My element will look like a poster that has two doors and one side will show the similarity between the symptoms/treatment for both humans and cats.
  • My activity will look like a scale that is created by paper and will have two whiteboards on each side. Then I will create a magnet with names of diseases and ask them this question “Which of this disease are more serious for humans? Or cats?” and have the answer in the poster.
  • Then if I had any questions that I cannot answer I will have a space that the audience will be able to write down.

And overall I would measure my success by checking whether the audience understands I will record how many got the correct answer on the activity. If people get a correct answer over 75% will be the line weather my poster has achieved or not.

Comparing my results to the criteria I’ve created above, I’d say I was very successful because in all of my criteria I have highly achieved all the criteria. Firstly my criteria was how if I can create a poster that will communicate complex diseases about diseases, looking at the appendix. Also, I can say that my poster was very close to what I’ve planned as you can see in picture 1. To check weather the audience understood my presentation the results of my activity was 82% of the people were able to get a full score and the 18% had one or two incorrect answer. Overall when I look at the percentage it is higher than 75% with means my product was successful. In addition, my second criteria about the criteria was very close to what I’ve created. Please look at appendix J. Also in appendix J it provides the evidence of how there was a space to add additional information.

By completing the Personal Project it extended my knowledge towards cats which game me the skills to save my own cats if I see any symptoms that I’ve learnt. I was able to interact with my social community by sharing and getting prepared. In addition, I have learned a very small part of the world I live in and I was successful to communicate with a wide range of audience.

Picture 1

Competency: Work Experience

Last summer I had a job as a lifeguard at a local pool called “Tsunashima Park Pool”. I found similarities between a pool lifeguard and a hotel, which is what I want to learn in the future -hospitality This is because both pool and a hotel has a wide range of customers would visit and come to swim. Although the aim may be different, I believe there is a link where working as a lifeguard has developed me to become a person who adapts to changes very quickly and handles any situations with a calm state. My experience of working part-time lifeguard benefited me to learn how to be more responsible in a job setting.  I had to work closely with my peers and collaborate to solve problems which happened at the pool. The experience was fascinating to learn the traditional Japanese strict rules. For example, it was common sense to come at least 10 min before the scheduled time. Furthermore, I was astonished to notice that there were many foreigners in my town. Translating allowed me to interact with both the staff and the foreigners. Working for 8 hours from 8:30 to 17:30 was very exhausting at the beginning. However, the experience of working enhanced me to become an individual that will easily be able to collaborate with a variety of people with different backgrounds. This was because I worked with higher schoolers, college students and adults. Hence, I learned to change my languages depending on who I am talking to. In addition, it was refreshing to be called by my last name which was Otani since at my school we are called by our first name.

To conclude I believe this experience futher developed myself as a collaborate and responsible individual which related to what I want to do for university.

This was my locker with my last name.

Area of Expertise: Multilingualism


Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims is an NPO that works to eliminate the issue of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, in Japan. We are committed to fighting for a society without human trafficking. Like a lighthouse that guides people who are lost in the dark to safe harbors, we hope to be the beacon of hope for survivors of human trafficking and to be their voice. This group is based in Tokyo, Lighthouse aims to eliminate human trafficking in Japan by:

Providing confidential consultation services for survivors of human trafficking via a toll-free multilingual hotline, email, and LINE”

In addition, recently Light house published a manga booklet that aims to safeguard juveniles from what it calls the increasingly serious reality of teen sexual exploitation in Japan.

All in all by contributing in this group I was able to participate in translating the manga. Personally, I was surprised to hear the new of publishing after 3 years, since I’ve helped to translate when I was 9th grade. Throughout this experience, I was glad to have some level of both English and Japanese. Furthermore, I believe understanding two languages, in my case Japanese and English developed myself to be a person that will transfer more knowledge to one another, just like this manga revealing the reality of teen exploitation in Japan.

This is the actual cover of the manga. This is the cover of the manga. Overall believe that I learned how translating was time consuming and difficult since there are many words and onomatopoeia that can’t be directly translated. In addition, I had to think ethically when translating since there were phrases and words that could be taboo. Hence I tried to incorporate the meaning more than directly translating.

This picture demonstrates how I’ve participated in translating the manga called “Blue Heart” published from the NGO Light House. The white line shows that it was from YIS, and the red line is my name printed on the last page of this manga!! 😀

The comment in the white and red square is my comment from 9th grade and I am glad to see my own comment being published!

Core Value: Community Engagement

 Picture 1Picture 2  

2016 YIS graduate Leo Konno is an excellent koto player. Now in his 2nd year at Tokyo University of the Arts, he performs more frequently and also appears more and more in the media. This past spring Leo recorded some beautiful music for his 2nd CD (shown in Picture 1) from Columbia Records.

So, on May 20th of 2018, I have participated in playing a part for a concerto which was for Leo’s 2nd CD. The pictures above were taken at the recording studio at the Kojimachi Sound in Studio. It was an honorable experience to have my own sound to be recorded and it would remain as a form of a CD. Picture 2 shows my name is on the CD. The song had three koto parts and one base koto and a solo part which Leo played. Because this was a concerto, the group had to respond to have the best quality and my personal responsibility was participate in every practice. This was because there was a college student called Hayato which I was playing the same base koto part when he missed practices I had to communicate any changes made to the song.

From this experience, I learned practical skills, such as the skill to organize effectively. Since there were practices which involved 9 members, this required operative organization and effective collaboration, which I believe I have developed more through this experience. Additionally, I also learned the skill to communicate effectively – for example, when Hayato missed a practice I had to communicate the changes made to the song. Furthermore, I had to the responsibility for the development and enhance my personal skills to play the koto. This was significant since individual levels and motivation affected the whole concerto to become a better piece. For these reasons, the experience has taught me the skill to understand a new form of communication – music, in order to create a positive effect and showing the freedom of expression.

Competency: Artistic Expression

K8 is a self-organized group of eight of HS students and we were able to win the grand prize at the “Kono Oto Tomare! Koto Competition” finals held on January 2 at the International Forum in Yurakucho. The contest, sponsored by the popular manga Kono Oto Tomare! which tells the story of a koto club at a Japanese high school, was open to ensembles made up of high school and university students.

My first worry was when and where to practice with everyone. However, I was able to get permission to use my house and practice. Then we used a google document with tables that clearly showed when everyone had time.


Luckily we had Kazuki Doi (A graduate of YIS) to conduct us and improve our performance. A challenge in one of the practice was to keep the tempo the same throughout the whole piece. Hence, Kazuki would clap the tempo which made me recognize how the piece was unsteady. In addition, we had changes in how we play a certain pattern in the piece and getting used to the new style required a long time. Another challenge was remembering all the dynamics in the piece. However by having lots of practices with everyone I was able to overcome all the challenges.

Also on January 2nd, I was concerned with how different it will feel/sound for us to play on the new stage. However, Mr. Patterson told us that we all must really concentrate on following the people sitting in front for each section (me, Saya and Johan), and those people will be following Eddie very closely. Even if you feel like you are in sync with everyone else, that may not be the case – take a glance frequently. This advice really helped me to improve synchronizing with the whole group. I would talk with Saya when to have eye contacts and did my best to listen to what everyone is playing.

Right before the performance, I got really nervous. But since everyone advised me to calm down by breathing in and out, jumping up and down and encouraging each other with positive words supported me.

Through out this process and the performance, I learned that happiness consists of working toward one’s goals with a group and all the efforts brought everyone’s individual skill to an another level.


Pictures from the Koto Competition are shown below:

This picture demonstrates everyone performing on the stage.

This picture shows myself being in the front followed by Haruna(G10) and Lisa(G11)

This picture demonstrates how we won the prise as a whoe group K8.


This is a picture of K8 and the composer, Hikaru Sawai which was the piece we played.

The pictures above and below show the practice at my house.

Crashing Parties, Stolen Kisses, and The Horrible Memories

Taken on July 22,2012 by Moyan Brenn

The left drinks drank by Romeo and Juliet at the party on 1595.

This month a huge party was opened by the Capulets. To reveal the truth behind the party we caught up with Romeo – the man who stole the kiss of a Capulet. He was once lovesick with a different woman but now says he has found the one. Read on to know the latest information!

We know how there was a party opened by the Capulets. How were you able to get in? Who did you go in with?

I first had some bad feelings about going to the party. I even know that I’m a Montague. But, you know, I’d say that that party changed my whole life. It brightened me up so much and relieved all of the weight off of my shoulders. So, yeah, I’m glad I went, it was a great chance I got. I went in by having a huge mask to cover up myself and tried to look natural at the party. I went with Mercutio and Benvolio.

Well if I say I didn’t have any smooches it’ll become a lie.

Would you regret not going to the party?

I would definitely regret if I didn’t go to the party. Also by going to the party I got to meet someone special. (Blush) But overall party I loved it!

We heard you met a Capulet called Juliet, is that true?

Oh! You know about her? I did meet Juliet.

What was your first impression of her?

 I never saw a woman like her. It was faster than light, I thought I was watching a dream. For the first time I immediately fell in love with Juliet. Her smile was bright as a sun. My unworthiest hand were unable to touch but when I reached out I couldn’t stop trying myself to take the risk. And we’re still planning to meet in the future I guess.

Any midnight smooches? Come on we know you kissed Juliet right??

Well if I say I didn’t have any smooches it’ll become a lie. And is true because I did kiss Juliet… (looking right)

What were the words did you used to get a kiss? Do you remember any phrases?

Do I have to tell you? (sigh) I use prudent words and turned over Juliet’s words. I wanted a kiss so also used metaphors and rhyming words rhythmically. A phrase I said was “Well then, saint, let lips do what hands do. I’m praying for you to kiss me.” And went on “Then don’t move while I act out my prayer.” and kissed her.

Are you guys planing to live together or to marry? Who’s helping you to take contacts with Juliet?

Yeah we are planning to marry but this should be secret to my parents and her parents because I can definitely see there angry face right away. We contacte each other by talking with the Nurse.

However didn’t you love Rosaline?

Oh great, you say that name right now?(crosses arm) As I told you before I’m in love with Juliet!! Okay!?!?

What did you like about her?

I hate her now. I’m even confused why I loved her. I remember how she wasn’t desire to go out with me. Also she always declined me when I asked her out with crazy reasons.