ONIGIRI Project 2018 a success; participants describe “impactful” experience

World ONIGIRI Friends Project Overview

This project was created to be a “Japan experience tour” for Up with People alumni. The first World ONIGIRI Friends Project, or “ONIGIRI Project” was last summer, in 2017. There are several activities, similar to UWP, such as staying at host families, show performances, school visits, Japanese cultural experiences, extracurricular studies, and more. Participants range in age and nationality, and you can enjoy various people and culture of Japan for this two-week long program. For more information on the program, see our website or the write-up from the July UpBeat.

2018 Tour Report

The 11 participants were from seven countries this year!  We stayed in Fukuoka and Hiroshima for one week each.  We spent two weeks with host families, spending valuable and quality time together.


We had a unique and enjoyable cultural experience by participating in Hakata’s traditional festival “Yamakasa” and a traditional dance called “Yosakoi”.

We also enjoyed activities with various people from different age groups, such as “A Common Beat” (the Japanese nonprofit affiliated with Up with People) and some public elementary schools.


We visited the Atomic Bomb Museum in Hiroshima, a symbol of peace.  We spent a valuable time by discussing with a tour guide and learned that every person feels different but the desire for peace is the same.   We had an exchange activity with a kid musical team led by an Up with People alumna.  We held a small party inviting various people living in Hiroshima.  Our team members became knowing each other very well through the team building activities and camping in Miyajima.


Comments from the Host Families

It gave me a great opportunity to think about, “how can I ensure the cast members enjoy this experience?” I gained so much more from it than I expected. Even though I do not understand English, I learned that just being with them was the key.  (Hoshi-san in Fukuoka)

Now I have new families in the US and Scotland! I want to do it again next year.  (Ejima-san in Fukuoka)

Our familial bonds became stronger while being a host family. (Tabuchi-san in Hiroshima)

I asked a neighbor, who was 80-year-old woman, to teach Kurodabushi (a traditional Samurai song) with an instrument called a Shamisen to the cast members.  It was a good experience for both the cast members and the woman.   I believe it is a wonderful project to keep the world peaceful.(Takahashi-san in Hiroshima)

I think it was meaningful that the cast went to the Peace Park. It was a bit of hard work to be a host family, but the cast members became like a family.  I will cherish the bond we have for a long time.  (Ueno-san in Hiroshima)

Comments from the Cast Members

I remember someone saying to me in the UWP, “Places become people” (or maybe faces I don’t remember). But that’s what happened to me in Japan. All the host families and people I met through ONIGIRI project are now the things I will remember when I think of Japan! Not the touristic places. I will think of how welcoming everyone is to us. I will think of how host families were so excited about showing us their favorite places or their favorite meals. Thanks for letting us meet Japan through their people!  (Sofia, Mexico)

Interacting with the kid musical team and watching their performance was cool; it was very interesting to see how the kids behave and interact between themselves and with the adults. (Joana, Portugal)

Peace Day, visiting the Atomic Bomb Museum and hearing survivors testimony was absolutely heartbreaking and incredibly sobering. I feel I grew as a person from just this one experience. I’m so glad I could go. (Erinn, Scotland)

[On Peace Day and the whole experience] It was very emotional and I learned a lot. I really liked that we could hear the testimony of a survivor. It reminded me a lot of why I joined UWP and the ONIGIRI Project.   (Jas, Germany)

Looking Towards the 2019 Project

We are looking for participants for next summer’s ONIGIRI project. Sign-ups begin in January and February 2019!

Those who want to meet with various people and make friends (like a family) in Japan, perform with members of different countries like the time of Up with People and take action to peace through the experience and performance: we’re looking for you!

While UWP alumni are specially invited (and are the target audience), you do not have to be an alumnus/alumna of UWP to participate in ONIGIRI. All are most welcome to the 2019 Project, as long as you are between 18 to 35 years old.  You will need quite a lot of physical and mental strength; just like the Up with People program!

If you have any questions, please contact Yuka Shimabayashi (Email address: nikonikopung0zila@gmail.com).   We plan to start the invitation in February 2019.

Let’s ONIGIRI~~~~!!!

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