Traveling overseas for a homestay to brush up their English or try life in another culture has become almost de rigueur for Japanese students, with many going as teenagers through their schools or as a private arrangement. However, the costs involved mean such an experience is often beyond the reach of students from impoverished backgrounds, such as those from single-parent households or children's homes.
A Tokyo-based NPO called Chokkura Home Stay (CHS) is working to change this, one student at a time. "Chokkura" means "for a short while" in Japanese and, as the name suggests, CHS arranges mini domestic "homestays" with foreign families in Japan. The period can range from a few hours to a weekend.
CHS is the brainchild of Keiko Ishikawa, who began reflecting on cultural differences after transferring from international school to the Japanese education system as a youngster. Finding that many of her peers regarded English simply as a language tool, she wanted to help open people's eyes to the value of cultural exchange as a way to embrace differences and develop mutual respect.