Yuuka Kaneko

Immersed in American Culture


Kayla Friedrich

Yuuka Kaneko

Students choose to attend a specific college for many reasons including financial aid packages, cost of attending, programs offered, student success rate, distance from home…but at 21 years old, she chose Johnson State College with a very different mindset.
JSC has a miniscule international student population, and hosts even fewer students from Japan. Visiting the United States on an education visa, Yuuka Kaneko, chose to attend JSC, because there were no Japanese Students enrolled, and she wanted to be the only one. Before JSC, Kaneko was in the English language program at the University of Pennsylvania.

So, why did you choose to attend Johnson State College?

Because there are no Japanese. Before I came here, I was in Philadelphia, and in Philadelphia I went to English language school at University of Pennsylvania. At that school there were too many Japanese. I didn’t want to speak Japanese. I had too, because there were so many and I had to communicate. I realized that I came to the U.S., because I just wanted to learn American Culture, and I want to be surrounded by American people. So I just looked for the school that had no Japanese at all. I called many schools to make sure of how many they had. Some schools had a few Japanese people, and it was so hard to find a school that had none. Then I called Johnson State College.

I also like nature, and in Vermont, because it is called the Green Mountain State, I thought there must be a lot of nature around here. So, decided to come.

How did you find out about Johnson State?

Online. I went to a Japanese website, which had so many American Colleges. Then I found an article about Tomohiro [Ushida]. He just talked about Johnson State College, and he said that when he graduated there was a graduation ceremony. Even though he was the only Japanese student at Johnson State College, the school raised the Japanese flag and the American flag for him. I was really impressed, and thought the school must be so good for international students, even though there are not so many international students here.

So, how long have you been in the United States, and how long will you be staying?

I have been here since March, so seven months. I will be [at JSC] for just one semester. I will leave here in December. I am still deciding if I will go back to Japan after. I’m looking for internships here. If possible, I’d like to do an internship anywhere in the U.S. I don’t care the place. It can be in Vermont or the west coast, but I want to go to the west coast.

What do you like about the west coast?

The weather, and I like the ocean. So, either west coast or Miami. I went to Miami, and I love it there. The problem is, in California, there are so many Japanese, so I don’t know.

Had you been to the U.S. before you came in March?

I came here last summer with my university. I came here with my Japanese professor and my peers. I went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The reason why I went to Case Western is because I needed to do a presentation on Japanese culture. I gave the presentation to students there who were studying Japanese there. At the same time, they gave us a presentation about American Culture in Japanese. Then we gave ours in English to them. So, it’s like exchange of culture.

So, how does the U.S. compare to Japan?

Oh, it’s different. What is different? Uh, the food.

What is your favorite American food?

Good question. What do I like? What is American Food? Like pizza, hot dog, hamburger? Oh, I like the Shake Shack. It’s a hamburger shop. Oh, and Taco Bell. I like Taco Bell.

If you could tell Americans one thing about your culture, what would it be?

I’ve never thought about it. In the speech to decide the place of the next Olympics for 2020, some Japanese person, she is really famous, but her name I forget, she gave the speech about what is a good part of Japan. What is the advantage to having the Olympics in Japan. She talked about Omotenashi, which is the Japanese word that means hospitality.

I also think Japanese people have really good hospitality. It depends on the place, but generally they have good hospitality toward American people. I think for example, if people from other countries go to Japan, and for example, someone goes to a restaurant. Chain restaurants are just chain restaurants, but if it’s a restaurant run by an individual, they treat people so well. Sometimes they give extra food for free. This hospitality happens so often in Japan.

What do you think would surprise Americans most about Japan?

Americans visiting Japan?


Traffic lights, because here, many people go across traffic lights, even though the traffic light is red, but in Japan, nobody goes across traffic light if it is red. So, I think many people would be surprised, because we are so strict about the color of traffic lights.
I was really surprised when I came here that most people don’t care about the color of the light. I’m gradually getting used to it, so now I can go across without worrying about the color as much. I’m Americanized now.

What has surprised you most about America so far?

“How are you?” When I came to the U.S. many people ask me like “Hello, how are you?” We don’t have a word for this in Japan, so I understand the meaning of “how are you,” so I say my real feeling. For example, I’m sleepy. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m angry about something. But whenever I say my real feeling honestly, many people look so confused. I think I’m supposed to say, “I’m fine” or “I’m good.” It’s so general. They look so confused, and then I’m confused, because they are confused. After one week, I realized what I was supposed to say.

I found that it is part of greeting. I Japan, “hello” is the greeting, but here, “hello, how are you?” is the greeting. One of my friends also said the same thing. Now, she is in Oregon, but almost at the same time we came to the U.S. and she also said, “What is ‘how are you?’” It was funny. I think many Japanese people think the same thing, and I’m still a little confused, because I feel if I say just “good,” it is rude. It’s not friendly.

What are your favorite hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?

I like playing tennis and squash, and watching movies, and going outside. I like climbing mountains, and doing outdoor stuff like caving, canoeing. I’m in Outing Club. I’ve been here just one month so far, but I’ve already gone places with Outing Club. I really like caves.

Where did you go caving?

New York State. It took five hours from here. It was far, but I slept in the car.

Are you part of any other groups on campus?

I tried to join Dance Club, but it was a little bit strict. Every Sunday I would need to go to meetings, but because of Outing Club, I tend to go out every weekend, so it would be difficult. Besides, I don’t have so much time to go to lessons every week beside Sunday meetings, because I need to study, so I just gave up.

But you like to dance?

Yeah. Oh, I am going to Zumba lessons in the gym every Thursday. I love Zumba, and I prefer it.

What kind of music do you like?

I like every kind of music. I don’t listen to music so much. I don’t know what I’m doing. Many people in Japan like American music, like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga. Major artists.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I have played tennis for ten years. Since I was in middle school, but I’m no good at all. I’m really bad, but for some reason, I was a captain in tennis club in high school. Because I’m bad at playing tennis, so many people asked me why I was captain. Some kids said, “I’m better than you.”

So, who made you captain?

Everybody. There are elections for captain, and they voted for me, but then asked why I was captain.

Do you play tennis here?

No, I tried, but I don’t know. I’m looking for a person to play tennis with, to play tennis and squash. I started playing squash when I was in Philadelphia and loved it, but here, I can’t find anyone to play squash.

I like Rock climbing too, but I’m not very good. Oh, I climbed the highest mountain in Vermont, and also, I have climbed the highest mountain in Japan. I didn’t climb all the way to the top of that mountain, because of weather. The weather was so bad, it was like a storm. I just climbed until like, 80 percent. I stayed at the 80 percent place, because the guide said to us that it was so difficult with snow that we can’t go. It was like hell. Many people went up the mountain that day. It is called Mount Fuji. Some tried to go to the top even though the weather was so bad. They found out it was impossible and came back to the lodge. Because so many people came to the lodge, it was full. There was no space, and some people went into the bathroom, and slept there. It was terrible. The height is so high that many people felt nausea, and many people threw up in the lounge. They were also shaking, because it was cold, and there were not enough blankets.

It was like the Titanic, because many people suffered in that situation. It just looked like Titanic.