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)

Handmade chopsticks and making new friends

Celine and friends chatting with students in Isehara
Celine and friends chatting with students in Isehara

I woke up around 6am today after having a good night at my 3rd host family’s house. I slept in my host sister’s room on the 2nd floor. For breakfast I had a salad and toast with cheese, and as a kind of dessert I ate a sour plum. We had a lot of fun trying to catch their squirrel that they released from its cage earlier that morning. In the end, we caught him and gave him some sunflower seeds once he had returned to his cage.

My host mom first took my host sister, Haruna, to her school and then drove me to the Sanno University where our first activities of the day would start. I was the first one to arrive (around 8:30am) and waited in a classroom on the 2nd floor. When the other World Campus members arrived as well, we had a short briefing about today’s schedule and an introduction of the LOC’s of Isehara. We joined the University’s English class around 9:30am and introduced ourselves. The students tried their best to introduce themselves in English as well as share some of their hobbies. I talked to 4 students, named Yuuki, Tomoya, Kouya and Teruyoshi. They were either 18 or 19 years old and all 4 of them liked sports a lot.

After talking to the students for a little over an hour, we went to the library where we then talked to more students. Some of my Belgian friends and I talked to a student named Ryo. We tried our best Japanese to interact with him and become friends! Afterwards we went to a special section of the library that exhibited old photographs made by the Japanese photographer Uyeno. We viewed one of his most famous photographs of a man named Sakamoto. After looking around and taking a look in some books with more photographs, we went to the cafeteria to have lunch. I ate udon with vegetable tempura, which I both like a lot. It was really good!

Before leaving we took a group picture together outside and then moved on to the next location which was at a carpenter’s place (Kawado). We learned how to make wooden chopsticks there, within 2 hours! The wood we used is also used to make Japanese houses, which I find very interesting. We were taught that we should use wood well and never waste any of it. After shaping the chopsticks with sandpaper, we wrote or drew something on them with paint. It was a fun experience even though it was extremely hot. While we were sweating like crazy, we at least ended up with one-of-a-kind chopsticks!

Next we traveled to the city hall of Isehara. After changing into fresh and more decent clothes, we met with the major. He was very friendly and was willing to answer all questions that we might have. After having a nice conversation about what it’s like to be the major of a beautiful city like Isehara, we thanked him and took a group picture together.

My host mom picked me up around 5:30pm and took me home to get ready for bowling! My host brother, Haruto, invited 2 of his friends from school to join us. It was a lot of fun! We laughed a lot and they really liked practicing their English when talking to me. Afterwards we went out to eat pasta and pizza at an Italian restaurant. We continued our conversation about differences between our countries there and were slowly ready to go back home.

It was a really nice day of meeting new people and experiencing new things. I hope there are many more days like these to come!

Celine Dewit (Belgium)