●Rice harvesting event
As a new resident of Fukushima and of Japan, I could not have felt more warmly welcomed when I received an invitation to such a traditionally Japanese activity as helping to harvest rice alongside the residents of Iizaka.
The day began by meeting at Iizaka Onsen Station with other foreign residents and Japanese residents alike, and from there we were driven to a local rice field where we were shown how to harvest. Working in the field together, I felt connected to the local people in a way that I had not felt even after living here for almost two months. Despite the fact that there is a language barrier, as my Japanese is not very strong yet, I felt that we could communicate through our work.
After the field has been harvested, we were all treated to a true feast thanks to the generosity of local people. We were able to share in making Japanese onigiri, and we shared local grapes, dumplings, and more brought by locals. It is hard to remember a time when I have experienced such impressive hospitality. At first I was a bit intimidated at the idea of trying to talk with any Japanese people, but as they made an effort to talk with me, and as the children started serving beer for the adults and communicating in their own way, I felt welcomed, but more importantly, I felt like I was part of the community. I think this type of event can break the ice between Japanese and foreigners, as it did for us, and in the end, I think everyone went home feeling just a bit more comfortable with each other, as well as with other cultures. I hope these events continue, and I hope to remain a part of them.

David Benson