Yunzhi Liu comes from Beijing, China, and she is currently studying Classics at Middlebury College in Vermont, the US. She first became a World Campus Japan participant in 2017, and the powerful experience she had interacting with the local communities inspired her to come back and learn more. She felt belong to the program community and appreciated the great friends she was able to make. As a counselor, she will be responsible for interpretation and translation, and she hopes to help the participants enjoy and gain a great deal from the program just like she did.
Her interest in Japanese customs, history, and religion can be traced back to when she first started learning the language at the age of 12, and she is now still minoring in Japanese Studies in university. She finds a community like World Campus important to her forming understandings of the country, on account of being able to learn about Japan not only through one’s own, but other cultural lenses as well. She also likes writing, reading, watching Japanese films and anime, and playing badminton.
Nena Stritzel was born in Belgium. She studied journalism for four years and after her graduation she decided to learn Japanese and now she is a second year student Japanology at the University of Ghent. In her first year she got in contact with World Campus – Japan when Hiro Nishimura came to her University informing about the program. As soon as she heard the stories of her fellow students who went through the program, she knew she had to go too. It was her first time visiting Japan and she had the best experience ever. She believes World Campus is the best way to explore and to get to know Japan in his full glory. Definitely the experience with the different hostfamilies is something unforgetable. She is so happy that she met so many lovely new people that she got really close with. She finds it interesting to meet new people from all over the world, so she hopes to meet a lot of new people this summer and help them have the same unforgetable experience that she had in her summer. And of course that she will have a lot of fun together with them! She is looking forward to meeting you all.
Today was the last host family day. This host family also used to be the host family of another Dutch person. They said they were hoping for another anime fan and that is what they got. They also suggested going to a place that anime fans like. So warning the rest of this blog will be about anime stuff.
I was very tired from the other days, so I was happy I could sleep until 8 o’clock today. After that I ate some toast for breakfast. This family likes Western style cooking a lot and has Western breakfast almost every day and Western style dinner three or four times a week. As we had already gone to Akihabara on our personal day we decided to go to Ikebukuro. I chose this location not only because there is anime stuff, but there was also a non-anime related place that I wanted to visit since I was very young, the planetarium in Sunshine City. I always wanted to see a planetarium and the last time I was in Tokyo, three years ago, the place was closed, so I was happy that I could go this time.
Another thing we did was looking for a new backpack. As we have a pretty tight schedule I thought that I didn’t need a lot of extra space, but everyone was so nice and gave me so many presents that I didn’t have enough space in my backpack anymore. At the Uniqlo I found a nice backpack for not too much money. After that it was time to go to the planetarium. The show we saw was in English called: Fantasy railroad in the stars. I can only understand a bit of Japanese, so I think I understood the base of the story, but the details were too difficult, so I might have some misunderstandings about to the story. The story was about a boy that traveled through the galaxy with a girl and they learn about the stars during their travels. It was a very beautiful show and I am happy to have fulfilled this childhood dream of mine.
After that my host sister wanted to show me a place where she sometimes goes: a butler café. It was a lot of fun, but also very awkward for me. It looks and feels so formal, but it isn’t. I ate some pasta as they only had Western food. After that we did some manga shopping. I bought two manga today. I want to improve my Japanese reading and manga are easier than normal books and I just like manga.
In the evening we ate chicken with onion, salad, pumpkin and onigiri. They always eat so much for every meal I can’t get used to it, but it tastes so good. We also had a good talk about the cultural differences in our countries.
Today was a very fun day. I hope the rest of the rest of the week will be like this too.
I woke up this morning at 7 AM. As usual, I took my clothes I had prepared the night before and went downstairs to greet my family. Afterwards, I took a shower, where I was surprised to see that there was no hot water. So an awkward moment arose as I had to ask my host sister to turn on the hot water. She came in to help while I was standing in the corner butt naked. After finally being able to take a shower and get dressed, I headed to the living room, where breakfast was waiting for me.
At 9 AM, the participants, including me, had our daily morning meeting. After the meeting we went to a room where a lot of taiko drums were spread around the room. A Japanese man greeted us and invited us to take seat next to a drum on tatami mat. He showed us how to use the drumsticks and taught us a very easy rhythm that we played together. And that was how our taiko lesson started. After a while we all got the hang of the piece we would play at the Arigato Event that would take place later that day. The taiko teacher taught us a few more songs that were more difficult, so difficult that I couldn’t do it properly. At 11.30 the taiko session was over and we moved on to the next activity, which was cooking.
We met up with many elderly people with cute aprons and were also asked to wear an apron and a bandana. Although it was a cooking class, we didn’t actually cook. We made our own wagashi, Japanese sweets, that are eaten during a tea ceremony. The chef demonstrated how to make two different sweets and we made them to the best of our ability. I thought it was easy at first because the chef made them without any effort but I was wrong. Mine turned out pretty bad. Some were so ugly that I couldn’t say that I was proud with what I had made. I wish to try it again in the future.
After we were done, the cute ladies in cute aprons prepared us curry that was delicious. We and the Japanese people sat down and ate our bellies full. We could eat our own wagashi as dessert, or we had the choice to keep them for later. After that we had our session wrap up. We talked about our favorite moments and wrote a review about World Campus. I also received a very official World Campus International Certificate of Completion, which I’m actually very happy about.
Later we had the rehearsal for the Arigato Event. Even though we had done it many times before, there were still some minor changes. I already knew what was going on so it was a bit repetitive. Finally, at 6 PM, it was time for the show our families had been waiting, and it was a great success!! The families brought food so we could have a potluck party afterwards. However, we also had our taiko performance after the potluck party. After that it was one last group picture and the day was over. Finally, at home another participant, Jules, joined my family for fireworks. A perfect finish for the day!
Saturday was the final activity day and the Arigato Event day of Uda. For me, as I’m responsible for the technical area of World Campus Japan, the Arigato Event day looks quite different from the other participants’ day. It’s a very busy day and it can be stressful if I don’t have a good plan.
I woke up about 7.30 and started working on the slideshow that I had created the day prior. The slideshow is an integral part of the Arigato Event where we show a collage of photos and videos from our stay with the host families, and for many it’s the highlight of the event. As such, I take the job of creating it very seriously. However, due to a lot of work and lack of time lately, I had to finish the slideshow on the same day as the event, which made my schedule very tight.
After eating breakfast and washing myself, my host mother drove me to the Shinkou center, where we would spend most of the day. In the morning I was informed that I had to hold a presentation about World Campus Norway to the ten-or-so students that came from Nara prefectural university to visit us that day. That meant less time for me to make the slideshow, so I had to take every opportunity I could during the morning to work on it.
Our first activity of the day was a tea ceremony experience. We all got to dress up in a Japanese yukata, a lighter summer version of kimono. While there are a lot of different customs to follow during a tea ceremony, our teacher was very casual and wanted us to enjoy the experience of drinking Japanese matcha tea (green tea,) so we only learned some basics. When drinking, we had to turn our cup three times such that the front was facing away from us, and then we had to turn it back before placing it in front of us so the front was facing ourselves. We also tried to sit in the seiza position, which can be very painful if done for a long time, but looks very beautiful.
Next up was lunch. We walked to a nearby facility with the newly arrived university students from Nara. This day was extremely hot, reaching 35 degrees celsius, which is typical of Japanese summer. At the facility we had a buffet style lunch, made by some very kind local ladies. We enjoyed the delicious local food, including rice, cooked bamboo, fried chicken and eggplant, among other things, while talking with the Japanese students.
Having had lunch, we returned to our original location where Juuso and I held a presentation and led a discussion with the Japanese students, while the other participants were doing team building activities. Juuso is in charge of World Campus Finland, while I’m a local staff of World Campus Norway. The students seemed very interested, and it made me happy to see that we could spread the word of World Campus to other people.
Finally, it was time for final practice for the Arigatou Event before the real thing. I had to finish the slideshow first, and then I had to test the sound and video system of the facility, while the others were practicing. Trying to figure out how this ancient system works, mainly made for playing CDs and cassettes(!), while the others are practicing and expecting me to participate and support them with music while not being in their way, is one of the hardest part of my job. I kept my cool and had to accept working with a very old projector for displaying our videos, and we eventually managed to do a full rundown of the event using the outdated sound system. It was time for the event.
The event went exceptionally well. As expected of the second city, the other participants knew their dances and other parts very well, with only minor hiccups. The slideshow was well received, which made me very happy. When people laugh and enjoy my work, I’m very glad for all the effort I put in it. In the very end, after our performance, I was suddenly asked to play a cassette with some music over the sound system, because a local student was going to dance. I had not prepared for that, and it took me a few minutes to figure out how to do it, which caused a small delay. That’s a typical part of my job, but I have managed to accept that I can’t always be perfect and that I have to improvise.
Being content with the work of the day, I went home with my host family and enjoyed tempura and a beer with my host father. I went early to bed in anticipation of the next day, which would be the last day of Uda, the host family day.