Category Archives: City Life

A japanese culture day – chadō and shodō

Group picture with the Calligraphy Club of Chuo Gakuin University in Abiko
Group picture with the Calligraphy Club of Chuo Gakuin University in Abiko

When I woke up today, I felt like laying in a sauna. I think it was about 40 degrees Celsius in my room, although it was only 7 am. Atsui desu! In the kitchen, there was already a nice breakfast waiting for me. My host Mom made it for me. She is so kind. It is always fun to talk to her; she hardly speaks English and I don’t understand Japanese, so we lead our conversations with a lot of gestures and simple words; the best way to get to know a new language, I guess.

Later, we drove to Chuo Gakuin University. We were going to experience a traditional tea ceremony, chadō, and discover Japanese calligraphy, shodō. After everyone from the group had arrived, we took a seat in a large room where the students and teachers received us affectionately; they were happy to meet us. In front of us, a young woman, wearing a Yukata, made one cup of matcha tea. During the procedure, she used different utensils and every single movement was perfectly practiced. She seemed to be in her own world; looking at her was calming. I didn’t expect it to be so accurate and it was really admirable. After that, we could try it. Somehow, I was a bit nervous because even the cups are held in a special way! But the students helped us.

We also got to know origami and folded some pretty cranes. While eating lunch, we became acquainted with the university students and their teachers. It was really interesting to learn about the way they live in Japan and about their studies. After lunch, the shodō students showed us a presentation where they were writing on a huge piece of paper. It nearly looked like a dance which was quite impressive. We were involved too and could write on a fan. Shodō is a peaceful and comforting activity; I think everyone had fun!

Later on, we interacted with the students while playing games and drinking tea, which was actually Cola. And this is, in my opinion, one of the best things of World Campus Japan: you meet people from all over the world. You make new friends and enjoy great moments with them! During my short time here in Japan, I got to know so many nice people; it‘s amazing! I spent the rest of the day with my host family. In the evening, we watched anime together, exchanged knowledge about our cultures and laughed a lot!

That day, I made numerous great experiences. And imagine, it was only one day out of 3 weeks, where I‘ll discover this amazing country.

Melina Schmit (Luxembourg)

A rainy day and a potluck party

Group picture with the host families in Mito
Group picture with the host families in Mito

Woke up at 6:30 am as usual when my host mom knocked on the door. This morning however, the plans had been cancelled due to potential heavy rains and so I could sleep in. As much as I was disappointed about not going to the Kairokuen, I was quite tired and happy to sleep for a few more hours.

At 9 I got dressed and had breakfast with my host family. My host mother made a really tasty breakfast with eggs bacon and edamame and my favourite, curry bread.

After we had put away the dishes, we all headed to the Kokusai kouryo to meet with all the other families. On the way we noticed that it actually had barely rained. When we arrived, I quickly joined the other World Campus Japan members for a quick meeting before us all having fun playing games and singing silly songs with the families as well as enjoying the delicious food people brought for the potluck party!

I spent most of the time with my family, but especially with my host dad. We talked about a lot of things together including the education and a little bit about his trip to my country when he was younger.

After clean up, my family decided to still quickly take me to the Kairakuen, but now it was actually raining and very badly… Instead we decided to go visit the Kodokan, an important school where clansmen and their sons had gone to school to learn everything from mathematics to martial arts. The building was quite old but extremely beautiful. Because of the heavy rain, the garden surrounding the traditional Japanese building looked stunning and made the whole area seem like a movie set for a historical movie.

My host family also translated and explained all the panels that were only written in Japanese for me. When we left, the rain was much worse. After a short run in the rain, we made a quick stop at the shopping centre where we picked up some ingredients for dinner which was curry!

After we cooked together and ate, we watched a few game shows on TV together before finally going to bed early. The next day was Host family day, and we planned to leave as soon as possible the next morning and also hoped for no rain.

Sonja van Lier (Switzerland)

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)

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)