Youth Grants: Japan Exchange Program

Amy was a recipient of a Youth Grant in 2018 to help with her exchange trip to Japan to learn Japanese sign language and learn about the deaf community in Japan.

Amy attended a school in Osaka and stayed with a family on Awaji Island. She shares her story below:

“I was very lucky to be placed near Osaka as there is a large population of deaf people there. However, in my school, I was the only deaf/hard of hearing person, and my teachers and classmates had never encountered a hard of hearing person before.”

“At first, my classmates thought my Roger Focus was a real time Japanese to English translator!!”

“School in Japan is very different. When you arrive at school, you change into special school slippers, and all subjects are taught in the same classroom – apart from subjects like art or music. There isn’t much homework, because many students join a club which they participate in after school. I joined the art club as I LOVE art!
My host family took me to see the autumnal beauty of Kyoto and we prayed at the infamous Itsukushima Shrine on Miya Island for good fortune in the new year. I also visited Universal Studios Japan in Osaka with my friends and fulfilled my dream of drinking butterbeer in Hogsmeade! (A drink from the Harry Potter books).
One of the best experiences I had was going to a Japanese Sign Language (JSAL) lesson in a small community hall on Awaji island. At the beginning, they showed a film about a child of a deaf adult and her deaf family, showcasing Japanese deaf culture and day-to-day life for a deaf Japanese person. Then, we were taught basic JSL signs such as ‘like’, ‘dislike’, foods, hobbies, and the signs for ‘kanji’- Chinese characters adapted into Japanese. The latter was very interesting, as it allowed the other Japanese people to introduce themselves by using the signs for the ‘kanji’ in their names. I finger spelled my name, and then introduced my sign name. The teachers were very impressed! We had a good laugh comparing Auslan to JSL.”

“The sign for strawberry is very similar, only instead of wrapping the tips of your fingers around the pinky, you instead wrap them around your nose!”

“I am so grateful to have received the grant because it helped me achieve my dream of experiencing life in Japan and helped me learn about deaf culture in another country. It allowed me to make amazing friendships and improve two languages I am studying.”

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