Group picture inside the Afuri Shrine in Isehara

School visit to Oyama elementary school and Oyama Afuri Shrine

Andrea in front of the Afuri shrine
Andrea in front of the Afuri shrine

First activity day in Isehara! Today we first went to Oyama elementary school. At our arrival, we got some information about the school. The staff told us that their elementary school was quite small with few students, and that the kids were very excited to meet us. We were excited as well!

Meeting the kids was so much fun. The interaction started with the WCI participants doing country representations, telling the children some interesting facts about their home country. It seemed like the children enjoyed learning more about other cultures’ food, nature and traditions. After the presentations, the kids performed their school’s anthem for us. In my elementary school in Norway we never had a school anthem, so for me it was really special to see them sing. We then had the chance to interact directly with the students. Mingling with the kids, we introduced ourselves and interacted with them by signing papers with name and country.

Afterwards, we were introduced to spinning tops, often used by the children at the school. A spinning top is a toy designed to spin rapidly on the ground. Made mainly from wood, it is set in motion by a rope coiled around it. The children taught us how to play. I got the impression that most of the participants struggled to get the spinning top to remain balanced on the ground. The children, however, were so good at it! It was really entertaining to observe their spinning techniques, and maybe pick up some tips from them.

Our next activity with the children was to exchange introduction cards. In addition to name and country, we were supposed to write down our favorite word in our native languages. I picked the Norwegian word “pølse”, meaning “sausage” in English. My number one food! It was nice learning about the kids’ favorite word, as well as sharing my own. Towards the end of our visit the children taught us how to write our name in Japanese kanji, as well as our name’s meaning. Writing my name in kanji was a bit difficult, but still very fun to try.

After saying goodbye to the children, we went to a 200-year-old hotel for lunch. The meal consisted of tofu-based food. Apparently, the Oyama area is famous for its tofu. The food was very oishii! At the hotel, we also received traditional costumes for our visit to the Oyama Afuri Shrine. We took a cable car up to the shrine. The ride gave us an incredibly nice view of the landscape, and a closer look at the mysterious fog covering Oyama’s treetops.

The priest at temple let us take part in a cleansing ceremony, in which he played on a large drum and cleansed our souls. He then began telling us more about the history of Oyama and the shrine. Some of the participants were also lucky enough to try on some traditional priest clothing. Lastly, the priest gave us a tour through the beautiful shrine. Afterwards we had some free time to head into small shops near Mount Oyama, before the day ended with a wrap up meeting at the Support Center in Isehara.

All in all, today was a very fun day with lots of new experiences. I would like to thank the teachers and children at the school for letting us visit the Oyama elementary school, as well as the priest at the Oyama Afuri Shrine for sharing his knowledge. Arigatou gozaimashita!

Andrea Voldnes, Norway