"The experience of living in Toyooka, a small town in Southern Japan, broadened my view of Japan and enriched my life by living with a host family. Most travelers visit only the biggest or most famous cities, such as Tokyo, Kobe, or Hiroshima, when they go to Japan. Exploring a more rural Japan unlocks the secrets of the way of life on this small island. The metropolis of Tokyo allows you to view the public life of the Japanese from an external perspective. Living in a Japanese household permits an internal observation of the daily routines and interactions of a family." -- Christopher Dean

@ kinosaki

From personal travel after the program:
"From Matsue to Hagi early this morning: I was able to get my tickets for the rest of my trip as well; it's a busy time, but at least I have reserved seats. The ride from Matsue to Hagi was totally incredible. Right along the coast most of the time, and I more or less had the second part of the trip to myself on a train car. I change trains at Masuda. I asked someone "この電車ははぎへ行きますか" and got a firm reply that yes indeed this train was headed to Hagi. Even though simple, it was one of the interactions where I understood everything, and they understood as well. It was an awesome experience. Heart beating, smile on my face, I nearly laughed at the absurdity of being impressed by asking a simple question. I asked a few more people along the way different things, mostly short, mostly they finished my sentence, but overall it's been awkwardly rewarding being on my own. The woman in charge of the Minshuku Hagaki Hagi, the place where I'm staying here is amazing, speaks some broken English and has been super helpful. I went on my way today walking around Hagi...walked across the bridge to the main part of town, and went to the Koutokuji Sanmon, shrine, it's gate was original, very old, and truly impressive. I then, via a round-about way, climbed the Shizuki mountain, and from the top there were amazing views of the sea and outer lying islands. I go to have ramen tonight, manage some type of conversation with the hostess, and feel glad that I'm able to say what I can. It's amazing being able to speak these strange sounds, them to have meaning, AND to top it off for them to be understood on the receiving end. Did I do that?" -- Josh Ostrander

missy and girls in nara

cris and sister

"Small town Japan radiates with a feeling of wonder and excitement not felt in the larger cities. Common people look at Americans in awe, wondering why white people have come to their small town. In Tokyo, it’s normal for an American to wander the crowded streets. Just walking through Toyooka shows a traveler a different Japan, the less known countryside of a fascinating country." -- Rich Andes

naoko fuji

Miss Fujii.  Fujii-san was a host-sister for a previous student, and is the person working to make arrangements for Evergreen students at Ooka Gakuen. 

christiana and family

tori in izushi

"As you come out of the Sea of Japan side of the mountains bisecting Japan, a couple of hours by train out of Kyoto, you get to Toyooka. It's a big little city that virtually no one from Tokyo or Kansai has heard of, but nonetheless is the heart of the north Hyogo region of Japan. Nestled amongst the lush, wooded hills and the peaceful rivers snaking their ways through the valleys, Toyooka represents the opposite of Tokyo's modern hustle and bustle, neon lights shining bright, the ear-shattering noise of the pachinko parlors blasting in every alley all hours of the night. Toyooka is calm. It is serene. People walk slower there. English speakers are not common. First-graders come up to you as you walk to buy some groceries and start up a conversation like you're best friends who happened to run into each other. Old men and women, out for a stroll, always say 'hello' with a big smile as you pass them on the small paths laid out parallel to the winding aqueducts. I felt calm in Toyooka, like I haven't really felt anywhere else. The beautiful forests, hills, rivers and geological splendors (like Genbudo) that surround the town certainly help in this respect (as do the wonderfully cheap hot springs in Kinosaki next door). I woke up every day during my one month stay in Toyooka excited to explore more and more of it. How much do I like Toyooka? I'm moving there for a year or two in a couple of months." -- Kyle Smith

path in toyooka

"At no other point in my life have I had the experience of spending entire days not saying one word of english or seeing any other foreigner. It was an experience that is rare and held in great value to me. Having traveled to other areas in Japan, (Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, etc.) and experiencing what they could give me, I am confident in saying that in no other town would I have been able to gain such a pure experience of Japan. My home stay was in a town call Kasumi which was a 40 minute train ride from Toyooka. When I asked people in Japan what they know about either town, most people had not heard of ei ther of them. While these towns are not lost in time compared to many other areas of Japan, they are nicely hidden from the bullet train paced lifestyle that is likely to be found in many larger cities. I would have preferred to study in no other place." -- Hart Boyd

rice paddy

Paths, canals, rice paddy's, and bakery of Toyooka.

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