Host family day in Tama

Cheyenne with her host family
Cheyenne with her host family

Hello everyone,

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.

Cheyenne Rizzo (The Netherlands)

Thank you Isehara: Final goodbye of session 2 with a bang (of taiko drums)

Learning to play taiko drums in Isehara
Learning to play taiko drums in Isehara

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!

Sarah Lennaux (Belgium)

Arigato event as through the eyes of the technical guy. And tea!

Trying out tea ceremony in yukatas in Uda
Trying out tea ceremony in yukatas in Uda

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.

Joakim Gåsøy (Norway)

Bamboo crafts and okonomiyaki in Omuta

Joakim flipping Okonomiyaki in Omuta
Joakim flipping Okonomiyaki in Omuta

I woke up at 7.30, at which point it was time for breakfast. I prefer to sleep as much as possible, since World Campus can be quite tiring. Today, like yesterday, we had toast and miso soup. There was toast with melted cheese & piman (Japanese green bell pepper,) blueberry jam and the newcomer, coconut oil. I had never tried toast with coconut oil before, and it turned out to be a bit… greasy. It was totally edible though, but it’s not my favorite condiment for toast. The day had started with something I had never done before, and it was not the only thing this day.

Arriving at our location at 8.30, I was ready for today’s first activity, bamboo crafting. One of the locals, Mr. Higuchi, told us a lot about bamboo in Japan, both things I knew and some I had never heard before. He told us that bamboo sprouts used to be a common food in Japan, but that these days it was not so popular anymore. As a result, areas that had previously been used to grow bamboo sprouts are now covered by huge bamboo forests. Bamboo grows about 15 to 20 meters in a year. Because they are so tall, they block out the sunlight so other plants can’t live there. As such, bamboo is a bit of a pest. It is important to keep cutting down bamboo trees, and Japanese people try to find uses for the excess bamboo. Mr. Higuchi cut down some bamboo trees for us the day before, so we had the opportunity to create a bamboo “smartphone speaker.” It was a contraption that worked similar to a flute, where the sound from the smartphone would be channeled in one direction through the bamboo instead of going in all directions, hence enhancing the sound. In order to make this, we used a special saw made for cutting bamboo. Unlike western saws, it could only cut when pulling it towards you, making it more efficient, but less flexible.

After finishing the bamboo speaker, we learned about Japanese ribbons. In Japan, it is common to give money as gifts on certain occasions (such as funerals,) and one usually puts the money in an envelope and decorates it with a ribbon. The color of the ribbon indicates the occasion, and the size indicates the sum of money. We learned how to make the most basic ribbon, awai musubi. We then made a slightly more complicated ribbon, which was supposed to look like a crane, that we used to decorate our bamboo speaker.

Next we each made our own stamp. In preparation, I had asked my host family what they thought would represent me. We ended up choosing the kanji与 (“yo”). It sounds like the first syllable of my first name, and it also looks like the number five. In Japanese, five is pronounced “go”, which is the first syllable of my family name, so it seemed like a perfect choice. It also means “give” or “grant.”

As our final activity of the day, we made okonomiyaki with some locals. Okonomiyaki consist of a batter similar to pancakes, and usually contains cabbage, spring onion and other fillings (in our case, cheese.) It is cooked in a frying pan shaped like a thick pancake with pieces of pork on top. Finally it is served with a special sauce, mayonnaise, nori (seaweed) and fish flakes. It was delicious as always!

In the evening we had a couple of hours to shop in Aeon (a large shopping mall,) before being picked up by our host families at 17.00. This evening my host family had a guest – a student who was being taught English by my host father. Even though she was very shy, we had a great time and enjoyed a lot of food and drinks together. My host father also played some songs on classical guitar for us, which was amazing. Overall this was yet another fantastic day with World Campus this year!

Joakim Gåsøy (Norway)

Stereotype games with university students on midsummer

Signe with takebana bamboo branch with wishes and shoudo in Kumamoto
Signe with takebana bamboo branch with wishes and shoudo in Kumamoto

I woke up at around 6:45 am and got out of the bed after my alarm went off for the second time. For breakfast my host mom had made rice and soup and she had also put different kinds of furikake (basically a type of sprinkles that you put on rice) on the dinner table, with different flavours like tuna roe, salmon and sesame. It was so good and interesting to eat that I actually had two bowls of rice that morning.

After breakfast I packed my things for the day, freshened up and put on makeup and around 9:00 am me and my host mom were out of the door and on our way to the destination of the day, which was the prefectural university of Kumamoto. After arriving, gathering and having the morning meeting we went to the CPD centre to meet the students of the ELLA program. The students arrived after a few minutes and sat down with us. We later stood in two lines, WCI on one side, ELLA in the other and we had 40 seconds to introduce ourselves and get a hang on who we where. After that we played something called “the stereotype game” where on three two-sided whiteboards we wrote stereotypes that we had about the other countries and later the representatives from the countries got to explain some of the things that were written. Most of the things on the Sweden board were about snow, shrimps and the cold.

After that we went to a special classroom to eat lunch consisting of Obento lunches and talk with the students. I told some of the students about Swedish food and celebrities. After lunch we did some calligraphy and got our names written in Kanji. My name became Shigure which kind of means the sound of a drizzle of rain in fall, I also got my last name in kanji which was a bit easier as my name literally means south 南. We drew different words like ‘love’, ‘dream’ and ‘friend’. After about an hour or so we moved back to the CPD centre where we made some origami to put on a plastic bamboo branch and writing wishes on the origami.

Time is up and it was time for some group photos and waiting for the host families to pick us up. My host mother drove me home and we made dinner together in the form of Japanese hamburger steak. What I didn’t expect was that along with the food she had also brought appetisers from the Italian restaurant where she worked. While waiting for the steaks to finish in the pan we were feasting on bruschetta and liver pâté with crunchy focaccia pieces.

After dinner we discussed Swedish holidays and when my host dad came home from work we looked at pictures of my home city and my university. I also gave my host their gifts which were a Swedish midsummer maypole and a glass bowl which was nice considering my host mom was collecting glass. A very unique way to celebrate a midsummer weekend I would say.

Signe Söder (Sweden)

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