Reflections on Japan – Learning from each other

Following their return to the UK, Sarah and Joanne reflect on their time in Japan and the effect it has had, both personally and professionally.

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Hi, we are Sarah Marsay and Joanne Kennedy and this is our fourth blog about co-working together in Japan. We are now back in the UK!

At the end of our time in Wakayama there was a workshop day. There were presentations from participants from Denmark, Germany, Japan and the UK about including people with disabilities in employment and as part of the community. There were also some discussion groups. We talked about shadowing and peer support.

On Saturday we went to stay with a Japanese family as part of a ‘homestay’. We met the mother and daughter in the morning and went out for the day around Wakayama and Osaka.

In Wakayama we went to the fish market and the castle. We had been looking at the castle up on the hill so it was good to go and see it up close.

When we went back to our homestay house we found out that it was joined onto a temple! The father of our homestay family is a Buddhist monk.

Then we got the train to Osaka. We went to see things which Osaka is famous for in Japan. We went to a shrine. We had crepes. We took lots of photos.

We also made plastic ‘takoyaki’ in a workshop. Takoyaki are a bit like small fish cakes with a piece of octopus in the middle. They are very popular in Osaka.

Joanne, “It was a really fun day. I liked making the takoyaki and the crepes. We laughed lots.”

Then we got the train back to Wakayama and had tea in a traditional Japanese restaurant. We had to take our shoes off and sit on the floor. Our homestay family ordered lots of different things for us to try.

Sarah, “It was an amazing experience staying with a Japanese family. I would like to say a really big thank you to them for looking after us so well.”

The next day there was a formal farewell dinner with our homestay families. We also prepared our final presentation with everyone from our ‘people with disabilities’ work programme. Then we flew back to Tokyo on a plane.

The next day was our last day in Tokyo. In the morning, we went for a walk around the Imperial Palace gardens. We saw the Imperial Palace and some of the other famous buildings and statues.

In the afternoon there were presentations from the three different work programmes – people with disabilities, elderly people and youth. It was good to hear about what the other participants had been doing and what people had learned.

We got back to the UK on Tuesday 11th March.

Joanne, “This was my first trip abroad and I learned lots. It was great to learn about how charities work differently in different countries. It was also good to see people with disabilities in paid employment and being part of the community. I am inspired to do more travelling and to experience new things.”

Sarah, “The exchange programme to Japan was an amazing experience. I have learned lots about the differing position of charities in the participating countries, and about how people with disabilities are supported. I have also learned a lot about co-working and inclusive working practices.”

We hope to be able to share what we have learned about co-working and inclusion with our colleagues from NHS England and CHANGE, and with other people who are interested.

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