5/31 – We hopped onto the shinkansen (Japan’s famous bullet train) today and travelled three hours to get to Kyoto. Our first stop was Kyoto University, one of the top universities in Japan, to meet the local CARP students. The students are very busy, but they took the time to meet with us.
Students gathered at the CARP center by Kyoto University.
We began with listening to the CARP Kyoto students about their activities. They showed us a video filled with photos of smiling faces, hardworking CARP students, and the assortment of activities they’ve done including clean-up campaigns, mentoring, and outreach.
We also heard a testimony from one of the new CARP Kyoto members, Kenji. “In Japan, people are not very religious. It was the same for me. When I first heard about CARP, I told them that I was not interested in religion. However, I joined because of the amazing seniors in CARP, my older brothers and sisters who really took care of me. Even though in the beginning I was very negative, complained, and argued a lot, they still invested in me, loved me, and forgave me. I was moved by that and that is why I decided to stay in CARP.”
Then CARP USA was able to share the many developments from CARP USA Headquarters, CARP Los Angeles, and CARP Las Vegas. We were pleasantly surprised to see that so many of our activities were similar to those organized in Kyoto, like discussion nights and service projects. We ended our presentations by extending a warm invitation to Japanese CARP students in the hope of doing more exchange programs in the future. We then visited the local Kyoto CARP center, not too far away. We did some icebreakers with the students that greeted us with love and care. It was a fun way to go around and get to know each other better. The Kyoto CARP members then serenaded us with an instrumental rendition of a song from the Ghibli movie Kiki’s Delivery Service. The talented students impressed us by playing the piano, guitar, trombone, and flute. They then invited us to join in singing “Country Roads” together.
The CARP students in Kyoto are very talented and musical!
The Power of Music and Stories
Now that we had connected with music, we had the chance to share our hearts with Kyoto CARP. One of the goals of this trip to Japan was to connect to the local CARP chapters and encourage them to not give up, despite the difficulties and challenges they face as a religious organization in Japan.
Pedro Diaz from CARP Los Angeles shared his testimony of how he came to join CARP in the past year. He expressed his heart with tears in his eyes.
“I wanted to feel happy inside. I saw the CARP members talking to each other and being so happy and I wanted that. I wanted to open up to God again but I struggled so much. But one day, after attending a 7-Day Divine Principle Workshop, I realized that even though I’ve done so many bad things, God still loved me. I was crying and laughing when I realized that. From then on, I wanted to convey God’s love and heart to everyone around me. Being around CARP, it felt like family.
Seeing the flame in the Japanese CARP students and how they went out everyday to do outreach really inspired me. I was shy in the past, but now I have gained new courage to go out and reach out to people. CARP means a lot to me. It is a means to spread God’s love to others.”
Then Takayo Hiraki, also a CARP student in Los Angeles, shared her experience doing outreach with her mother.
“At first, I began witnessing because my mother asked me to do it. Soon enough, I realized that outreach is not easy, but I saw how much my mother and her friends invested and poured out their hearts into doing outreach. I also heard how much people like Jermaine, a CARP LA student, have changed because of the Divine Principle. I directly saw the Divine Principle changing people’s lives and through hearing testimonies from these people, I realized that outreach and the Divine Principle are very important.
So no matter how difficult it gets, I will do my best. Also, through coming to Japan, I could see that CARP Japan is working hard. Even though we are far apart in distance, I feel that we are close in heart centering on God’s will.”
Finally, Jermaine Bishop shared a testimony about being called to a leadership position in CARP.
“When I was approached to become a leader in CARP, I didn’t want to do it. I did not think that I had the heart to care for the members from a leader position like Mrs. Hiraki, so I thought l would just be in a supporting role. But Mrs. Hiraki does not take no for an answer when she has her mind set on something. At first, I did not know how to unite with the other board members and I struggled. I didn’t want to become just another missionary that pushed their beliefs onto other people. But eventually I began to take ownership. I saw people coming in who were just like me. I realized that this is a great thing to be a part of.
CARP wasn’t about pushing your beliefs onto someone.I received so much love from the Hiraki family and from CARP LA, I felt that it was my responsibility to share that love with everyone.After taking responsibility, I realized it helped me to grow as an individual. Just studying alone and reading alone was not enough. I would have to teach someone and touch someone else’s life. I am grateful to you for accepting me to stand in this position. It’s not who you are or what you believe, but your ability to love and share the love of God that is important. That is the most important thing.”
We ended by singing a song and taking a group photo. There was a beautiful space for sharing our deepest hearts, reminding all of us that we are really all the same; we are all brothers and sisters.
I spoke to two Japanese CARP students afterwards.
“I was very moved by the testimonies given by the American students. I was amazed to see how they were reborn through Naoko’s love, and their sincere gratitude. Through the presentations on CARP activities in America, I could get a better idea of how outreach is done in America. My view and perspective on things have become broader.” – Eri
“I thought, ‘Wow America is really working hard! We have to do our best too!’ The testimonies were very good. I was amazed that students went out on campus and directly introduced content from the Divine Principle. This can only be possible because of the Christian foundation in America. Japan and America are different in some ways, but we are both moved by the Divine Principle. I realized once again that there is no doubt that the True Parents are truly the parents of all humankind.
What I like most about CARP is the family culture. Everyone is like family. Unlike with my friends at university, it is easier to develop deeper bonds with the students of CARP. I can live a life of faith from morning until evening together with everyone at the CARP center. It’s amazing to be able to live together with other people my age who have the same vision and beliefs.” – Sayaka
5/30 – Today we heard a presentation on the Tomodachi Initiative. It is a public-private partnership that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. Their goal is to raise young American and Japanese leaders who are passionate about strengthening U.S. and Japan relations. They want to encourage young people to appreciate other cultures and possess the global skills needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world.
When I asked Mrs. Hiraki about her vision for meeting up with this organization, she explained the possibility for cooperation. “Many people from different backgrounds are sponsoring and donating to this organization. They are very similar to CARP in that they want to raise global leaders and train them to serve the world. Our hope is that we can cooperate with them, and share our vision with them. If this organization can become one with CARP’s vision and goal, then we can do many activities together and make an even greater impact on our nations.”
The Tomodachi Initiative was established by the government and there is a branch in Washington D.C. connected to Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. We wrote her a letter with greetings from all of us.
“I was amazed to see another organization with a vision that is very similar to CARP’s vision. It would be great to work with them.” – Jennifer
We also saw a live Mario Cart race on the road!
Food is Love
The Chairman of the Blessed Families Federation, Rev. Yong-cheon Song, took our group out to a Japanese buffet restaurant for lunch. There is no better present than an all-you-can-eat Japanese meal for a bunch of young people. The selections and choices were incredible; there were at least 15 different kinds of raw meat that you can cook on the grill at your table, as well as sushi, soups, udon, ice cream, and you could even make your own cotton candy. For many, this was a new and fun experience and we had no hesitation in going back for more.
We were treated to a special lunch and gifts from the Rev. Song and leaders from Japan. Thank you!
Everyone left the restaurant full and satisfied. However, there was more to come. Rev. Song and his wife personally handed out presents to our group. They gave us scented fans with beautiful, unique designs. All the students were moved by the kindness of Rev. Song and determined to work even harder the remaining days of this trip.
“We don’t need any money to smile.”
In the evening, Mr. Otsuka, the Continental Director of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) North-East Europe, came to share some words of inspiration with us.
“In the past, I worked with CARP in Japan so much that some people called me ‘Mr. J-CARP.’ I have visited 63 countries so far for the sake of realizing God’s dream. I want to invite you to the country of Russia to meet the students there. I invited you so I’m expecting that you will come to Russia! We have to become one so that we can bring good fortune to both countries.”
He continued on saying, “There is no freedom in the country of Russia. It is not easy to create our own activities, but recently, we opened a new outreach center for CARP. No matter how difficult it is, we have to be more aggressive and take on the challenge. America’s best characteristic is their challenging spirit. I told the Russian members, ‘don’t forget your challenging spirit and always smile!’ The best present you can give to someone is a smile. We don’t need any money to smile. Just smile.
“True Parents have a deep parental heart. If you want to meet True Parents and understand them, you need to not only understand heaven, but also understand hell. I encourage you to take the more difficult path, not the easy path. We can deepen our heart and feel the love of God.”
We ended by singing “Saranghae” (a Korean song that translates to ‘We love you’) to Mr. Otsuka and his wife. Then he asked us to sing “You are my sunshine” and joined in as we clapped and sang our hearts out.
“I really felt True Father’s spirit through Rev. Otsuka. The way he spoke so casually and comfortably to us reminded me of True Father.” – Hitoe
Our team was in high spirits after hearing from such a spirited man!
NOTE: An earlier version of this post failed to properly identify the US Ambassador to Japan (Ambassador Caroline Kennedy) and had mistakenly gendered her as “he”. It has since been corrected. [Thank you David!]
5/29 – We got out of the elevator and there were the Japanese CARP students welcoming us with applause and shouts of excitement. They were lined up on both sides and high fived us as we walked into the “Shibuya Mission Center.” This is Shibuya’s main outreach center where people can come to learn more about themselves and the Divine Principle.
Finding My True Self
Today, we got a chance to experience the outreach system in Japan. We were divided into groups of 6 (3 Americans and 3 Japanese students) to go out in the bustling city of Shibuya to reach out to people and invite them to a seminar entitled, “Finding my True Self.” When we approached people, we invited them to take a quick survey where we asked them questions like, “How satisfied are you with you life currently? What brings you joy in life?” This opened up interesting conversations with them and we invited them to follow-up with attending the seminar.
American and Japanese students doing outreach in the local area.
Some students even went out to distribute flyers. Although it was busy, people took the time to hear us out and took interest in our seminar. Many of the CARP America members could not speak Japanese so it was a struggle to communicate and connect freely from the heart.
“I was talking to the people and there was so much that I wanted to say but due to language barrier I was not able to fully get my feelings across. That reminded me of some of the Japanese mothers back in America. Even though they could not understand or speak the language so well, they still poured their heart out into trying to connect with the people. Through this experience, I could understand how hard these mothers have worked as missionaries in a foreign land.” – Pedro
Visiting Holy Grounds
Two thirds of the group did outreach and the rest visited a Holy Ground in Meijingu. We were told that the original holy ground had been an area near a shrine but this area was eventually blocked off for other uses so people could not access it anymore. Rev. Kuboki, the first President of Family Federation Japan prayed to God to find another place for the Holy Ground and then found this tree.
There was a deep cut in the tree from when communists tried to cut it down years ago.
As the story and history goes, while some CARP members were praying there, some communists tried to cut down the tree to prevent people from praying there. However, the CARP members created a barricade together to protect the tree. The tree was left with a deep gash but it still stands tall today thanks to the great determination of the early CARP members.
After hearing this story about the CARP members risking their lives to save the tree and this holy spot of prayer, we immediately started praying at the tree.
“I was inspired by the story of the CARP members who fought to protect the tree. The communist group was so intent on destroying the holy ground that they even used violence. The Japanese CARP members could have gotten hurt but they still chose to protect the Holy Ground. It made me realize how deep their heart is for True Parents and for God. It made me want to work harder to be more passionate.”
This is the site where CARP members used as a holy site to pray.
All the groups gathered back for dinner at the center. There we shared pizza, fun, laughter, and songs. Everyone showed their talents through singing, playing piano, playing yoyo, and dancing.
At the end, the President of CARP America, Naokimi Ushiroda, presented an English text of one of the Holy Scriptures to the director of the Shibuya Mission Center, Mr. Hori. Mr. Hori concluded the evening saying,
“This is a very historical and happy day. This center was built to be able to host parties like these. So today, the purpose of creating this mission center was realized thanks to you!”