Josh Pentecost

McNary junior Josh Pentecost’s planned yearlong exchange student trip to Japan was cut short by earthquakes, tsunamis and a nuclear crisis. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In recent weeks, many have made mention of the orderly response to the quake, tsunamis and nuclear crisis in Japan, but it came as no surprise to McNary student Josh Pentecost.

“People form orderly lines, there hasn’t been any looting or violence and it reflects how nice they are and how well they take care of each other. That really stood out,” said Pentecost, who returned last week from the land of the rising sun. He was part of a Rotary exchange student program that was meant to keep him in Japan until the end of the school year, but was cut short due to the trifecta of disasters.

Pentecost was in a P.E. class when the quake struck his city,  Maebashi, capital of the Gunma Prefecture, about 200 kilometers away from the epicenter of the 9.0 quake. It registered as a 6.0 in his area.

“It lasted a couple of minutes and we took cover under a raised track. Nothing fell, but the lights went out. It stopped and then it happened again,” he said.

The students exited the building after a third quake hit and the students ran back in to grab their things and went home.

“The first day, there were more than 100 aftershocks in 10 hours,” he said.

Despite the trip’s early ending, Pentecost said his time in the island nation proved to be eye-opening in many ways.

“School was a lot different. They study a lot more than we do. The students study from the time you get out of school until you go to bed. There the teachers change classrooms and the students stay put. There’s a lot more note taking vs. group work and interaction with other students,” he said.

Home life aside from the studying also presented unique experiences.

“Toilets open up for you as you walk in the room, the seats are heated and they have built-in bidet,” he said. “When I got back I found myself staring at the toilet waiting for it to open up.”

Host families and friends allowed him to pick up pieces of the language and experience aspects of the culture he might otherwise have missed from visiting Tokyo to snowboarding in Nagano Prefecture.

“Nobody goes to a friend’s house to hang out. When they hang out they’re out in the city and doing something and we got to go to a lot of different restaurants,” he said.

The menus were often seafood-centric, but it was not problem for Pentecost as seafood enthusiast.

It wasn’t until he was back in the western hemisphere that it really sunk in just how different his host country was on the whole.

“While I was in a layover in Vancouver, British Columbia, I was noticing how everyone seemed to be in their own bubble. In Japan, everyone is aware that other people are around and they’re respectful of that,” Pentecost said. “Japan is a lot different in the school, the culture, and the people, but it’s a really old country and even though it’s so different I realized that people, at their core, are still the same everywhere.”