Boy - this has been a long time coming.
My earliest recollection of Diana liking things of Japan was when she was in Kindergarten. She participated with me in the local community acting play, The Mikado. Even though she didn't need to, she memorized the words (I think they just *sounded* Japanese) to all the songs while she was onstage, so she could sing along. At 5 years old, she was very cute :)
About this time, she also started watching Sailor Moon on TV. This anime from Japan was very different from typical US cartoons, in that it had a story line that advanced over the season. The episodes stood alone just fine, but there was a definite romantic plot line which was pretty involved throughout the whole school-girl-transforms-into-super-hero theme. Sailor Moon's character matured as did her friends' as well. Diana started drawing around this time, mostly Sailor Moon & her friends. She was Sailor Moon for Halloween one year (2nd grade?) and she collected anything she could. Interestingly, we could get a lot more Sailor Moon stuff in Canada than in the states... Of course, Sailor Moon takes place in Japan, and they ate Japanese food :)
The interest in drawing continued, and Diana also discovered Manga - Sailor Moon started as a Japanese comic book before it was made into the cartoon anime. Diana found other titles and became interested in more & more Manga & Anime. She discovered a magazine called Shonen Jump, which featured five or six manga, plus taught about Japanese culture and writing at the same time. She managed to get a paper route, so she could continue her subscription, and that lasted at least three years, until she was able to build her manga collection by getting the actual books.
In Junior High, we found out there was an exchange program to Shobu, Japan through the school. It was kind of privately run, and there was a panel of people who interviewed the students interested in going. Diana was very excited and really did everything she could to be able to go. In the interview, she talked about going to the temples and gardens, and seeing the various historic sites. To our surprise, she was not chosen. Later, we discovered all the children of doctors had gotten in... even those not so interested in going. One even told her, "you should be going instead of me." So our economic level had something to do with her not being able to go. I told her that when she was older, she'd have a lot more control over doing something like this. Plus, this trip would have only been 10 days. It was barely worth the flight going. In the future, she'd be able to go and STAY a while.
Her favorite became Full Metal Alchemist (still her favorite), and by high school, she'd found a group of students also as into Manga & Anime as she was - the Japanese Club. She joined Freshman year, and was president for Sophomore, Junior & Senior Year. All the while, continuing to draw & read, of course. She was also part of the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) and learned a lot about traveling through that experience.
So off she goes to U of O through the Ford Foundation. At the first big family gathering as a new Ford Scholar, we hear about the stories of the graduating Ford Scholars, many of whom had taken advantage of the Ford Foundation's generous attitude toward travel and study abroad. Not only was she getting her tuition almost completely covered, they were going to assist her in travel to Japan!
All this time (she's just finished her Junior Year) she's been planning and figuring out when she could go. She's been acing most of her Japanese classes, and I guess she's pretty good with the speaking (she also speaks German with a minimal accent - she has a good ear for dialect). She really 'gets' the culture and the values. She applied for the program, and had to be accepted on both ends (UO and Senshu University) with letters of recommendation, GPA, etc - Just Monday she got the final approval from Senshu :)
We went and reserved her round-trip flight yesterday through a local travel agency. They were able to match what I'd seen online, but if there's any issue, Diana will have a phone number to call & have people help her :) She'll have a stopover in Seoul, Korea (she's excited about that too) and we'll be able to drop her off in Medford, and pick her up there too. She's leaving mid-September, and comes home mid-December.
She's trying really hard to find a summer job now. She has to pay for her UO residence to hold it, even while she's in Japan, and she wants spending money, obviously. If she can't find something, she'll have to take her first loan out since she started her college journey (which is a testament to her frugality as a student), but she's very hopeful for the summer - she has applied for a variety of jobs, and has an interview lined up. She can work in either Roseburg or the Eugene area, and even though she doesn't drive, there's the bus or hopefully a carpooling situation can be set up once she's employed.
Oh - and this summer she gets to be a bridesmaid for her friend, Becki. Wheeeee!