Category Archives: Omura City

Joyful interaction with school children and the spirituality of Japanese archery

Helena about to shoot a Japanese yumi bow in Omura
Helena about to shoot a Japanese yumi bow in Omura

This day started with me not being able to wake up, even though I slept for 9 hours! Which is probably the last time I can sleep that much during the program as I am a counselor.

The breakfast was so delicious I suddenly realized why I wanted to wake up. After quick preparation and hurrying with my host mom, I got dropped off next to Nijinohara school. My host mom happens to work in the school that stands next to the one we were going to visit that morning, so I was glad I didn’t take time from her usual morning.

We met in front of the school and the activity day could start. This school is a bit different from the other schools we visit with World Campus Japan. It’s a school for children with special needs and that was recognizable from the beginning. For me it meant a huge joy. We lined up and the children high fived us while entering the school and even that was a wonderful experience. We were given a chance to see how excited these kids can be and how much they can give you just by smiling. The whole experience was really emotional for me as I really love spending time with happy people and these kids are just glowing with joy.

One of the teachers lectured us about how the school works and what not to do around the kids. We even had a tour around the school and I must say: how much creativity they use to teach the kids is really impressive. Every kid has the attention needed.

Next, it was our turn to introduce ourselves and perform for the kids. Even though we practiced just a little bit the day before and our positions changed, it went well. The amazingly performed Alele by Daniel was an even better icebreaker.

After dividing to 3 groups we were assigned to a specific classrooms. I was with the 3rd years. On the way to the classroom two of the kids wanted to hold my hand and walk with me. I couldn’t feel happier. The teachers took like thousands of pictures of the three of us. I made new friends right in that moment. The class had its own program for us and everything was fun, mainly watching the kids being sooo excited. Their joy was almost visible as waves of energy in the air. But I would prefer not doing the whole “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” four times in a row and singing it with a microphone while doing so. The tempo of that song was changing in a weird way but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

Lunch was the last thing that awaited us in that school. My group was eating in the cafeteria and the system of Japanese school cafeteria is just amazing. Almost every system like that is really well done in Japan. Maybe this system was a bit adjusted for the kids but that makes it even more amazing. We ate curry and drank milk. The portion was so big I just couldn’t finish all of it, so I gave the rest to someone else. Together with my jelly. Even while eating, the kids were coming to us and introducing themselves. They always tried their very best.

Then we said our thanks and were headed to a dojo for Kyudo. The dojo had a tradition to follow when entering and leaving which was the first sign of the spiritual nature of what was about to happen. A very well done lecture about Kyudo was given by the masters and then they helped us getting in the traditional clothes. We looked so cool in those. I felt really confident while wearing it.

Kyudo has exact steps to follow before and after shooting the arrow. Following them has a spiritual meaning to it and some of us really enjoyed this part of Japanese style of archery. I enjoyed the feeling that it’s not as hard as it looks. After a short practice without the arrows we were able to shoot. Not once. Not twice. Multiple times. I couldn’t hit the exact target anyway. But still it was really interesting and rewarding. Literally. We received an award for hitting a balloon, or in my case, for trying hard. And also other gifts. Japanese people are too kind.

When we left we had some time before our host families would come pick us up so we went for ice cream! What a nice ending of a long day. Even more so thanks to the deliciousness of the ショップドチョコレート (chipped chocolate) flavor.

For dinner with my host family we went to a sushi place and of course it was also delicious. It really felt like a dinner with family. Everyone was exhausted but still enjoying the presence of one another. I always try to remind them that they need to sleep more but they never listen!

We sang together on the way back and were welcomed by a loud “wan wan”. Honey, the dog, barks all the time. It’s like a little black sheep trying to gain some respect. After taking a shower I went to my room and now I can enjoy a nice sleep in this huge bed.

Helena Raichartová
(Czech Republic)

Goodbye Omura, Kumamoto here we come!

Thomas chatting with high school students in Kumamoto
Thomas chatting with high school students in Kumamoto

This was my last morning in Omura and time to say goodbye to my host family. The mayor of Omura came to greet us farewell and after a tearful goodbye, we left for Kumamoto.

My host family had prepared a traditional “bento” lunchbox for my trip, with lots of good food.

When we arrived in Kumamoto we visited 第一高校, a very nice high school. Here we met up with groups of English major students and got to talk with them. It was a fun and interesting experience; to share our culture, and hear the dreams of the students.

Later I met my awesome host mother, who came to pick me up. She is a programmer, assistant manga artist and in general a supermom. They had also prepared a really nice table with their names, nicknames, and a warm welcome for me. We went to Kendo training with the kids and their skills really amazed me. All of the kids also happened to play 囲碁 (Known as “Go” in the west), so me and the youngest boy played a game together.

Jacob Tørring (Norway)

First your studies, then you can party: Arigato Event in Omura

Arigato event party time in Shushu
Arigato event party time in Shushu

Today, was the day that the Arigato Event in Omura would take place in the evening. But before that, we visited Matsubara Elementary School during the day. After a short morning meeting at Kori Community Center, we moved to the elementary school. During our visit at the school, we were divided into groups of two, or three. I was in the same group as Juuso, and Nicole. The visit was divided into 5 sessions, 3 before lunch and 2 after.

Our first session was science class, with the fifth graders. The lesson today was about the anatomy of a fish. The second session was something called moral education with the sixth graders. This one was a pretty impressive lesson. In the lesson, they were teaching, and discussing lifestyles. The third session was math with the first graders. It was pretty funny, although the kids were pretty noisy.

After lunch, we had a playtime session with the kids. We did some clay figures with the kids we were playing with. This was the first time I saw Juuso’s impressive skills with clay. The next session was cleaning. A little bit of trivia: Japan doesn’t have janitors in the school’s, the kids are the ones cleaning it. What we did was some floor sweeping, moving around some stuff, and mopping. The last session was Life Environmental education. As I am writing this blogpost, I still have no clue what that subject was about. But the lesson was about wheel chairs, and how to operate it.

Many of us were impressed by the kids. They have a different level of concentration during classes, and to me, it seems like they have a lot more dedication in school. Even though it is only an elementary school. Some of the subjects and classes were really interesting too. Some of which I wish I had had in my elementary school as well.

We left the elementary school 15:30 for Shushu, the site for the Arigatou event of Oomura. Shushu is a small restaurant, a little way outside of Oomura city. We arrived there by bus. When we arrived at Shushu We quickly started the preparations for the Arigato event. Rehearsal started almost immediately after being briefed of the plans for the evening. I was particularly nervous, since I was one of the two participants to read a thank you letter, the other one being Charlotte. I am also one of the soloists. Although, I think most of us were nervous because of the performance.

The event was like a party with nice food and drinks. Our own performance in Oomura was a little bit shorter than what it would be in other cities. The rest of the entertainment during the event was provided by a local cover rock band. Our performance went smoothly. This was the first time we performed the whole Japan medley in front of a crowd. After seeing the slide show for Omura, it was time for reading the letters. I was having a hard time reading my letter though, since I wrote it in hiragana, and realized that it was very hard to read. Shoko had to help me reading the letter. I probably should have written it down in romaji instead. Charlottes letter reading went well. After that, we had a one last performance, which was the song “Minna ga minna eiyuu” (literal translation: Everyone is everyone’s hero). I was singing solo for the second verse. The song overall went well though, considering that we had very few opportunities to rehearse it.

The band was responsible for the rest of the party. It was really fun. The band was incredibly skillful. They performed top rock and pop hits of the 80s and 70s, like ToTo – Africa and Earth, Wind and Fire. We all had a good time the rest of the evening after taking the big group picture. There were many smiling faces and laughter. Oh, and also lots of photos!

Though our performance wasn’t perfect, it was a really memorable evening. I was very satisfied. The event ended around 10 o’clock. We were all very tired. But the whole evening was great fun. It was especially fun for many of us since this was the last day with our host families, so everyone was enjoying every last minute of it. I feel sad, but also exciting to know that we were leaving Omura for Kumamoto the next day. I think that everyone felt the same as me, that today was a fun and experience filled day that we would remember for a long time.

Henry Yang (China)

Visiting Nijinohara Special Education School and trying out kyudo

Activities with the kids at Nijinohara
Activities with the kids at Nijinohara

The first stop today day was a Special Education School in Oomura called Nijinohara. We stayed there the whole morning and after lunch we went to a dojo to learn about kyudo, which is basically Japanese archery and a form of Japanese martial art.

This was my second time visiting Nijinohara with World Campus Japan, and I have some great memories from last time so I was very much looking forward to being able to go there again. At the school we were welcomed by several curious faces and some enthusiastic “Hello!”:s. After introducing ourselves and dancing a bit for the children, it was time to split up to different classes and do some team activities together. First, we had a little chat and question session to get familiar with each other. Then we engaged in a chair racing competition followed by an English word game. There were many students that were very excited and wanted to interact, and there were some who were a bit more shy or reserved, but one thing that was very clear was that everyone wanted to be a part of the activities.

Some of the children didn’t at all use their voice to communicate, so when it was time for self-presentations the teachers helped them with reading the presentation. Others needed help from teachers or their friends to stand up, sit down and move around. It made me so happy to see everyone working together to make sure to include all of the students in the activities. I had a great time and the students seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

In the afternoon, having arrived at the dojo we got to listen to a lecture about kyudo and see a demonstration performed by the teachers. Then we got to change into kyudo clothes and try the technique ourselves. First, we went through the basic steps using a practice bow consisting of a handle with a string attached to it. After that we got to practice with real bows and eventually line up to shoot with the teachers’ help. Keeping the arrow in place was a bit tricky and drawing the bow required a certain amount of strength, but I enjoyed the challenge and I think we all had a lot of fun.

Sofia Larborn (Sweden)