Today we visited a sake factory and learned about the process of making sake. It was very informative and intimate, as the factory itself was quite small. After watching a video clip on the process of sake making, we went to see the storage rooms where sake was fermented. Unfortunately, it is the wrong season for sake making so we didn’t get to see it actually been made. We did, however get the opportunity to buy some sake from the gift shop.
Later on we went to the Akame waterfalls where we were given a tasty lunch by the park owner. We got to learn about the Japanese giant salamander and some people actually got to touch a salamander. We learnt that the salamander is protected here in Japan.
I then went on the ninja training course where I learnt how to blow darts, throw shuriken and do a ninja assault course – which I proudly completed. The thing I enjoyed the most was dressing up as a ninja, it made the whole experience so much more special. Finally, we all took turns to cross a river, ninja style… Many of us fell in and it was really nice to laugh and have fun with everyone. I fell in on my first try but mastered the course on the second time.
After the training, I went with a small group to see the waterfalls. They were really beautiful and serene and I could see why the ninjas chose such a place to train back in the day. I wish we had time to see more of the waterfalls, as there were dozens of them in total! But, I managed to get some good photos before it started to rain.
In the evening, we had a pot luck party and the food was, as usual, amazing! We drank sake and interacted with the families which was really fun. I was sad that it ended so quickly.
Ceara Best (UK)
In the morning, most of us went to Murou elementary school to interact with the children there. This is the first time for me to visit an elementary school in Japan, and I was really amazed by the friendly and polite reaction the young kids had when we were doing our presentation in the gymnasium.
Then, we were assigned to participate in different classes. Talking to the fifth graders was really fun; everyone was so active! Especially, there was this one boy in my class who was apparently receiving a special education, and other kids kept helping and encouraging him in such a natural way that impressed me a lot: obviously, the help from his classmates and their friendship had contributed a lot to him. He was not afraid of foreigners at all and could even understand a little bit of English!
After a very nice school lunch and a crazy outdoor playing time with the kids, we departed for the Murou-ji Temple. The history of the temple was highly related to Chinese Buddhism, so it was actually really interesting for me to listen to the tour guide’s explanation. And climbing up the stairs became a nice exercise as well. The view aside the stairs was incredible.
At the end of the day, we made sushi with our host family at home for dinner! Highlight of the day——great Japanese food as always!
Yunzhi Liu (China)
In the morning, we had a nice meeting where the counselors explained everything that was going to happen today. After the meeting, we were out in our scheduled groups and left to our shops. Our group would be helping out in Senri temple. The people working there were so nice; the first thing we did was drinking matcha tea and seeing a beautiful tea ceremony. Because of the matcha’s bitterness we also got a red bean paste cake filled with mochi.
After that we sang a song and they explained how Buddhism came to Japan from India. After a while we had to say our goodbyes and go back to the Senriyama community center. There we got a nice lunch from the kitchen staff. They’re so nice to talk to. While we were eating, Yui, from the local organizing committee, who does some of the activities with us explained what was going to happen in Kansai University. Not only did we get a tour of the University that explained where everything is located, we also went to their little museum and got to play games with the students there.
After all these fun events, we still had one thing planned: a bon dance practice at Senri temple. There we got to see how a summer festival works. We got to write a wish and hang it on a bamboo tree. The bon dancing we were taught was really tiresome but super fun. So, to give us some energy we ate some shaved ice and watermelon! It was such a fun day.
Samantha Bressinck (Belgium)
Today was the last organized activity day of the visit to Kumamoto city. We spent the entire day at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto, where at first we were given a presentation regarding the general demeanor of the Japanese people. I found this very interesting, as it went in depth on how the average Japanese person thinks, and how past events helped shape their current behavior.
The rest of the day was pretty much dedicated to rehearsing and doing the Arigato Event. As the staff member on tour responsible for the technical aspects, my job was at this point just to run the correct music at the correct time, and ensure that all the pieces went in order and that the volume for the different pieces was correct. However, during this particular event, I was also given the extra task of timing how long we took on each individual part of the event. This was a little bit of a challenge, just due to remembering to write down the time every time it was necessary. However, I believe that the event was held very successfully, and it seemed like the audience was entertained throughout our little show.
I was also charged with making the slideshow for this event, and although I didn’t get any feedback as of writing this, I think it went well considering I only had three days’ worth of pictures and videos to choose from. The day in general felt really good, and I’m pumped for continuing with the program!
Simen Solumn (Norway)