Hello everyone, My name is Magnus Krumbacher and I’m from Norway. I have been living in Tokyo on my gap year since I graduated from high school last year.
Now that I’ve introduced myself, I would like to talk about my day and what I got to experience. It started off as usual by waking up at 7:00 AM. I went downstairs to eat breakfast together with my host family. I have to say, I’m not really a morning person so I’m always half asleep while eating. Today was no different. Luckily though, they are quite the same so I felt comfortable with just sitting, eating and occasionally talking a bit.
After breakfast my host father drove me to Takematsu elementary school where I met up with the other World Campus participants. After everyone had arrived we walked inside and sat down in an empty classroom, waiting for the principal. Astonished by the sight of so many foreigners in one place, the elementary school kids quickly began to gather outside of the classroom and started staring at us. I didn’t feel uncomfortable being stared at because I think that children anywhere in the world would stare out of curiosity when seeing a group of people that don’t look like people they’re used to.
The principal finally arrived and we were taught the history of Takematsu elementary school. After also having explained some things we were not allowed to do, such as taking pictures of children and publishing them on social media, it was time for 書道, calligraphy in English. After going to the gymnasium and briefly introducing ourselves, we sat down with the children and started writing Chinese characters. I chose to write 嵐, meaning “storm”. Although I was pretty bad at it, the children helped me enough that I ended up with a presentable result. Then the children cleaned up after us and we were introduced to some typical Japanese games like 剣玉, literally translated “Sword-Ball”.
After about 30 minutes we returned to our classroom and waited for the kids to prepare for school lunch. We were sent into different classes and got to interact with the children while eating the school lunch. I made a small group of friends during that time so after we finished eating, they dragged me outside to play with them. On the way out one child had the idea of asking me for my signature and when the others saw that, it completely took off. All of us were surrounded by school kids asking for our signature for at least 10 minutes. When we finally made it outside, my small group of friends suggested we play tag. Of course I was the one who had to catch them and it wasn’t exactly cold on that day either so after we were done, I was drenched in sweat.
We then proceeded to clean the classroom with the children. This is actually part of the education at Japanese schools. They have to clean their own classroom, toilets etc. The children had a hard time believing that in Norway we have people who clean after everyone leaves the school in the afternoon. Anyhow, after having cleaned the classroom it was time to say goodbye. I really felt bad because my small group of friends I had made seemed quite sad that we were all leaving and they had to return to their daily school routine. We then moved to back to the Shorinji Kenpo Dojo we had been earlier that week and practiced for the upcoming Thank-You-event at the end of our stay in Omura.
Our host families came to pick us up and I just had enough time to take a shower before they took me to their daughters place and we all had a rooftop BBQ. The daughters children were pretty scared of me in the beginning but that went away pretty quickly when we started playing various games. The BBQ was also delicious. I discovered that I really like fried tofu. When it got dark outside we went inside and it turned out they had made a cake for me to “welcome me to the family.” I thought that was very sweet of them. Then I went home with my host family and we watched some TV before I went to bed. Overall it was a very successful day!
Magnus Krumbacher (Norway)
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.
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)
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)