Toride City, Ibaraki

Toride was a quiet rural village until it was developed in the 1960’s as a bedroom suburb of Tokyo. People who worked in the capital started to move to Toride for its rich nature and good access to the center of Tokyo.

Starting in 1995, the city began to lose inhabitants due to an aging population as well as the trend for young people to move back to the Tokyo city center.

A group of local people got together to revitalize Toride. Places for people to come together were built; such as the old-fashioned candy store “Yoiko (good kid)” and the community art gallery “Emaru”. Since a campus of Tokyo University of Arts is located in the city, there have been many events arranged to connect young students and local people. Those people who stood up for the city include Ms. Kudo from Yoiko and Mr. Sobajima, who stayed in the city after studying art to keep doing more projects.

We were fortunate to collaborate with them during our visit. Mr. Sobajima, together with other members of the local organizing committee, set up an event called “World Street”. A day prior to the event, each participant drew 3 small flags; the national flag of their native country, one with how to say ‘thank you’ in their mother tongue, and one with something famous from the place where they’re from, to be used in a game with local elementary school children.

For the international event, 60 kids came to get involved and learn about different cultures. Children in Toride don’t have the opportunity to communicate with foreign visitors so often and so they were a bit hesitant to talk to us in the beginning, but after spending some time, connected really well. Passer-bys stopped for a while to take a look at what they were doing, and the otherwise lonely street was livened up once again.

Some of the participants also leaned “Tamasudare (traditional bamboo stick performance)” at “Hohoemi San”. We teamed up with special needs “Tamasudare” performers who incidentally have became so popular in the region, that they visit elderly homes and schools on a regular basis. We enjoyed the opportunity to perform together, fully dressed in Japanese street-performer costume!

Tama City, Tokyo

The class of 2007 is back in the Kanto area after more than 2 months of being on the road in western and central Japan! Tama city, Tokyo is a bedroom suburb of the metropolis, located some 30 minutes from Shinjuku, one of the terminal stations in Tokyo.

Progressive baby boomers reside in Tama and have a long history of hosting various cultural activities with citizens’ initiatives. Also, Tama is unique in that it is led by only one of four female mayors in all of Japan.

A metropolitan Tokyo tour was organized by the Chuo university students on September 25th. Split into 5 theme groups, we visited different districts in central Tokyo such as Asakusa, Shibuya and Akihabara.

The group which visited Akihabara had a unique experience in the former electronics quarter turned into an anime / manga town. The participants explored the small shops selling anime character goods and service outlets that they would never find in their native country, while others who went to the medium-sized shopping street of Shimokitazawa found similarities to the one they’re used to seeing.

By traveling in small groups consisting of college students, members of the local organizing committee and WCI students, we could all share viewpoints of students from around the city, native Tokyo residents, and outsiders.

On September 26th, the class had the opportunity to visit 2 of the local elementary schools. One of them, Higashi Ochiai Elementary school, was established 8 years ago as a result of a merger of 2 schools. To establish closer relationships with local residents as well as visitors, schools in Tama city are surprisingly open-armed. At the school where 380 children are currently studying, the class introduced their native culture and they performed dances and songs to make a connection with the children.

Toyota City, Aichi

As the name of the city suggests, Toyota City thrives on the automobile industry. In recent years, the central-Japan area has enjoyed the fastest growing economy within the country thanks to companies like Toyota Motor Corporation. Due to the high number of foreign residents in the region, Toyota city actively supports international NGOs.

On Sep.19th, part of the class visited the OISCA Training Center. At this multinational NGO, people from developing nations are able to take lessons in sustainable development as well as acquire skills in modern agricultural methods. WCI participants joined the trainees to help harvest rice at the paddy for a day.

“The most important lesson I leaned today through the harvest work, is that WE SHOULD CHERISH OUR FOOD! I really understand how difficult farming work is. It’s necessary to develop our techniques. Helping and training those people from developing regions and teaching them organic farming is very good”
-Lisa Wang, (China)

Another part of our class had the chance to have a tour in one of the Toyota plants to see their eco-friendly operations and later take part in the role-playing simulation facilitated by Toyota’s education personnel to experience how the well-known TPS (Toyota Production System) functions.

On Sep. 20th, the entire class had the opportunity to visit another Toyota plant as well as their exhibition center, and later had the privilege to have a lunch and a Q&A session with the PR director of the corporation to gain a better understanding of the secrets to their international success.

“Since childhood, I’ve been interested in everything with wheels and engines. I studied Industrial Engineering and Management with specialization in logistics at my university. I enjoyed the workshop a lot. This way you can experience their daily production method. I also saw the theory, I learned, I applied.”
-Bjorn Jurcka, (Netherlands)

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