Portland High School alum travels to Japan on ambassador trip

Portland High School alumnus Brandon Sorrow (right) visits Matsumoto Castle in Japan as an ambassador from the University of Tennessee. (Submitted)

Traveling to faraway places is a dream many have, but few live. Brandon Sorrow, a Portland High School graduate, who is now a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, recently got to experience this memorable reality.

Sorrow landed in Japan on Dec. 14, and spent eight days enjoying Japanese culture as part of an ambassador trip.

“The Japanese government has been doing this for quite a few years. They decided to include the University of Tennessee this year,” Sorrow explained. “They usually take a couple hundred students.”

The experience is one Sorrow won’t soon forget as it was so culturally rewarding.

“We had the chance to tour Japan, stay with families and learn about the history of Japan and United States together. It was just awesome. We stayed with our host family in Nagano. That place was just beautiful.”

While the whole trip was a highlight, several moments especially stood out to Sorrow.

“We were really close to the Japanese Alps, and we got to see the 1996 winter Olympics ski jump stadium. It was amazing and probably my favorite part of the trip,” he said.

Aside from the sightseeing, Sorrow admitted to indulging in some delicious food.

“The food was amazing. It was crazy good. Probably the best thing I ate there was a Nagano apple.”

Though he soaked up the leisure in his trip, he still went with a purpose, and he believes this experience will benefit his future goals. He was also able to put his area of study to good use.

“I’m studying Japanese Language and International Business, so it was really great to learn about Japan from the Japanese. I also got to speak Japanese a lot. So it was great practice. We also got to listen to a University professor speak about the Japanese political system. Just the learning experience was wonderful.”

Sorrow remains grateful that a program called “Kakehashi” made this trip possible.

“Kakehashi in Japanese means ‘bridge.’ It was promoted by the Japanese Center for International Cooperation. They invite college students from countries in Southeast Asia, Europe, the U.S. and all over to learn about Japan, to experience it and to come back and tell everyone about Japan. It’s kind of a cross cultural thing – it’s promoting the global economy,” he said.

To top it all off, Sorrow was touched by the kindness he felt in Japan.

“Everyone in Japan is so polite, welcoming and nice. Its southern hospitality times ten, and it’s everywhere. Anytime I can go back, I’d love to. Japan is amazing.”

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