Back Alley Trash Cans: A Japan Story

The Japanese Connections group / Photographer: Hugh Burleson

In April, four students from Orcas Island and four from Lopez Island had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Japan. After a lengthy application process and many meetings, Anah-Kate Drahn, Ashwani Bartolucci, Claire Roberson, Hayden Simpson, Matia Schwartz, Michael Chesher, and McCabe Webb went on the trip. They gained insight on Japanese culture and learned about the history of the country.

However, when you drop eight American high school students into the middle of Tokyo (and Kyoto), misadventures are bound to follow. Here are some of the never-before-heard, juicy inside stories from Japan.

An Orcas Island student was looking around a back alley looking for a trash can when he noticed that a shop keeper was looking at him suspiciously. Curious, he asked Hugh Burleson, one of the benefactors that took the kids, about the situation. Referring to the bright Hawaiian shirt he was wearing, Burleson responded, “Were you wearing that shirt?” “Yes,” the student responded. “Well, that explains it,” Burleson continued. “Those are the types of shirts the Yakuza wear to show their affiliation.” They then spent the next several minutes dying of laughter.

Another Orcas student combined a terrible jet lag with an interesting night’s sleep. His roommate warned him that he snored extremely loudly, and not believing him, the student just went to sleep.

Two hours later, the student lay awake staring at the ceiling, wishing he had taken the complimentary earplugs offered at the check-in desk. The snorer told the other student before they went to sleep to wake him up if he started snoring too loud, but being too polite, the student simply decided to weather it. Luckily, they got free coffee every morning from the hotel.

When students were asked about their experiences in Japan, the conversation inevitably turned to the toilets that had many different options including a seat heater, two different types of sprays, and music. More than once, students had some very embarrassing accidents after pressing the wrong button. “It wasn’t me!” exclaimed the perpetrator upon hearing other students discuss her bathroom button mishaps during the Japan presentation.

Another student, on one of the days where the group walked the most, realized that she had left her comfortable walking shoes at the store where they got fitted for kimonos. Without any other choice, she had to go the entire day in the fancy but uncomfortable heels she took for their fancy meals. They did not exactly match the rest of her traditional garb, and certainly made for an especially uncomfortable walk.

These are but a few of the many hilarious mix -ups and mistakes that were made by the Japanese Connections team this year. However, these mishaps, only strengthened the bonding that took place, and made them all grow close. They also gave the students more stories to talk about and, hypothetically of course, to publish in the newspaper.