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Kelroy Brown: An inner-city youth's journey to Japan

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Chad Bryan, Youthlink Writer

A recent trip to Japan has changed 28-year-old Kelroy Brown, otherwise known as Kirk, forever. He said it has allowed him to experience things which he would like to see come to fruition again, perhaps in the not-too-distant future.

"It was a life-changing experience. I've never done anything like that in my life. The experience there was amazing. The little Japanese I thought I knew was nothing, as everyone was speaking Japanese fast, and it was a huge culture shock," the University of Technology student explained.

Though residing in an inner-city community in east Kingston, he was able to raise money through his online blog, Jamaipanese.com, which is replete with technology, Japanese history and culture, stories about life in Jamaica, school and photography, all of which are among his interests. The funds were combined with donations, proceeds from Google advertisements and his own personal savings so he could travel to Japan in late 2011. "The website started in February 2006 and over the years it started to grow. I started to put in Google-sponsored ads and in 2009 money started coming, enough to cover expenses. I started to put aside this money," he said.

The journey to Japan took more than 20 hours from Jamaica. While there, Brown was able to visit several places, facilitated by a rail pass which gave him unlimited access to major cities throughout Japan. "People only go to Tokyo, but I got a rail pass and I could go anywhere. Everything is built around the rail. I would get up early and plan my day. I visited Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Natori," he recounted. Despite a terrible mishap which saw him losing his rail pass, valued at ¥60,000, it was returned to him within 15 minutes so his trip could have continued.

Kelroy Brown hopes to return to Japan one day. "I'm in college now and so all my finances go there. I told myself that I should write a book and I'm working on several projects, so I hope that within the next two or three years, I will be able to return," said Brown. 

View photo highlights here: http://youthlinkjamaica.com/gallery/kelroy-brown