After a quick breakfast my host mother drove me to the meeting point for the day, at JR Suita station. When everybody arrived, except poor Paul who would arrive an hour late due to struggling with the public transport in Suita as usual, we went over the details for the day and an excited group was heading to Kinrosha Kaikan. This was the place where we would spend most of the day, at a culture fare prepared specifically for World Campus and the community of Suita. And we had all the reason to be excited, as I think this day overwhelmed anybody’s expectation.
We were welcomed by the group who was organizing the fare. They are a diverse group of people who try to keep traditional Japanese culture alive, such as traditional games, instruments, theater, tea ceremony among other things. After their success with the cultural fare for us last year, they are now determined to keep the tradition going with the second fare. And I am happy that they do, because this was certainly the highlight of the stay in Suita.
Following the welcome ceremony, we were divided into groups of three participants and three Japanese volunteer students. My group first went to get dressed in yukatas, traditional Japanese garments, before going to sing karaoke. I really enjoyed the karaoke, as we first sang my favorite karaoke song, Bohemian Rhapsody. But even better was our final song Ue O Muite Aruko (better known as Sukiyaki in the west) since the Japanese people were all joining, and I am familiar with the song from previously participating in the World Campus program.
We then got to try to perform some traditional Japanese theater that uses katanas and really precise choreography. It was really fun to try because we had already seen these people perform during the opening ceremony and finding out how hard it really was made me respect them even more. It was indeed incredibly hard, but very satisfying when I (almost) made it.
After changing back to our regular clothes we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. We had two of Osaka’s specialities, okonomiyaki and yakisoba. It also happens to be two of my favorites. We then tried a lot more activities, including bonsai three trimming, playing koto (a harp-like instrument) and drinking maccha tea., but I will not elaborate for the sake of brevity.
Half of the groups, including mine, stayed behind after the event to help clean up. Due to our collected effort, the cleaning went by in a blink, so we had time to get some ice cream and visit some shops nearby. We then got picked up by our host families, and the rest of the day was a blast with them as usual.
Yesterday was the personal day for the World Campus Japan class, and unfortunately the heavy rain did not seem to want to stop. It caused many delays and trains to stop driving. Luckily there was still quite a lot to do and we all had fun and arrived back to our host families safely.
The rain however caused our plans for today, the 7th of July, and also the day of the Tanabata festival, to be changed for the most part. The plan was to visit a museum and university, but due to the heavy and constant rain, we could not go. Thankfully our lovely World Campus staff and counsellors came up with a solution, we were to spend the day doing various activities at Mai Theater.
We started off as usual with going over the schedule and explaining the changes in this case. We were joined by some of the host families aswell in the morning which was very fun. First we were divided into 2 groups so each group could go into a room to do an activity and afterwards switch rooms and also activities.
The 2 morning activities were ‘Shoudo’ (Japanese calligraphy) and writing wishes and making origami for the Tanabata festival. The group I was in, started with the Tanabata activities. First, we wrote 2 wishes each to hang in a bamboo tree for Tanabata. I wished to come back to Japan someday again, and for my Japanese to improve. After hanging the wishes up, we moved on to the origami. I love origami but don’t always have the time for it, so it was fun to pick it up again. We learned how to make a 4-pointed shuriken by Kengo, one of the volunteers of the LOC. It was quite funny to watch everyone, including me, struggle with the last step but in the end we all made our shuriken. After that, the children of one of the host families that were present, taught us how to make an origami heart. They were very good teachers and we could easily follow along!
I made a functional ‘beating’- heart out of paper aswell, which Kengo was very excited about. I ended up teaching him how to make it during our lunchtime. He tried his best, but I think he used the wrong paper, so he had a slightly broken heart.
Then came Shoudo. Our sensei was very kind and patient in explaining and individually correcting the Kanji we wrote. We wrote the Kanji for mountain (‘yama’) and river (‘gawa’), aswell as learning how to write our own names as Kanji. At the cultural fair the day before, we could ask how our name would be written with Kanji. For those that still remembered those Kanji or brought it, they showed how the stroke order works. For those without a Kanji-version of their name yet, they quickly thought it over and provided one.
Shoudo was difficult, but it was very satisfying when you finally received the ‘ok’ from Sensei, which was an orange coloured spiral she would draw over your well-drawn Kanji. We were of course allowed to take home all of the things we made and drew/wrote.
Lunch came around and we were surprised with quite some options, I personally had sushi, but I saw some eat a rice dish and even omurice. During this lunch hour, I made an 8-pointed shuriken that turns into a Frisbee, which I gifted to Rina, one of the volunteers. Rina, Kengo, and I chatted for a while and exchanged information, after which I attempted to teach Kengo how to make the paper heart I mentioned earlier.
After lunch we had a variety of games in store for us, provided and guided by Yui. We played name games to learn to remember each other’s names easier, aswell as funny ice-breaking games to get to know each other better and become closer.
We ended up playing a game called ‘Take your stand’. The point of the game was to share opinions with each other, without interrupting each other and to expand each other’s horizons. The questions that divided us ranged from, ‘Which do you like better, Pepsi or Coca-Cola?’ to more serious questions such as, ‘Do you think diversity is positive or negative?’. You had to stand on the side of the room corresponding to your opinion and then if you received Yui’s permission (in the form of a ball being thrown at you), you were allowed to voice that opinion.
We discussed a lot but everyone remained respectful and friendly, which was very nice to see. I am glad this group can get along so well and that games like these are in the program. I almost dare say, maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that the schedule changed. In the end it led to healthy discussions, friendships being formed or further expanded, and a group of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and with different opinions becoming closer.
We ended this interesting and fun day with a wrap-up meeting discussing the schedule for Monday. Long after arriving home to my host family, I kept replaying today in my mind, with a smile on my face. I think today was a success, despite previous setbacks and elemental struggles. Thank you to the counsellors, World Campus Japan staff and collaborators and everyone involved really. I made the right decision applying to join this group, and I am extremely happy that I was accepted and am meeting so many interesting people.
This was a glimpse into one of my and our days in Suita, Japan. There aren’t enough words to fully explain all I experienced but I hope this message still comes across quite well.
Today some of us got to go to the JR Suita shopping district. Our mission was to evaluate what we like about the place, and how it could be improved in order to revitalize it, since the shopping district is in a declining state and needs help to get back on its feet.
We visited two craft shops (Terubonoya and PaoPao), a comic store (Kitamoto), a tofu shop (Kurata-syokuhin), an optician (Vision-Megane) and an okonomiyaki shop (Oishinbo). After the tour, we got together to try out some Japanese foods (including natto, tofu, umeboshi, takoyaki and okonomiyaki) and talked about what we thought about what we saw. We were also asked to write down our comments and ideas to improve the shopping district.
Visiting a traditional Japanese shopping district was very interesting, since in Finland we mostly just have malls. The staff in each store were very friendly and it was amazing to see the craft masters work on their products, since usually you never meet the people who make the product you’re buying. The food was delicious, especially tofu donuts and okonomiyaki, and the staff had a great time watching us eat the different foods.
It was a lot of fun to take part in the improvement of an area. Together as a group we came up with many ideas, such as clearer maps and trails to make it easier and more interesting to explore, decorations to make it more pleasing to the eye, and utilization of social media in advertising. I hope our ideas will really help them out and that in the future it becomes a flourishing shopping district once again!
A big thank you to Suita shopping district staff for letting us take part in this experience!
In the morning, we had a nice meeting where the counselors explained everything that was going to happen today. After the meeting, we were out in our scheduled groups and left to our shops. Our group would be helping out in Senri temple. The people working there were so nice; the first thing we did was drinking matcha tea and seeing a beautiful tea ceremony. Because of the matcha’s bitterness we also got a red bean paste cake filled with mochi.
After that we sang a song and they explained how Buddhism came to Japan from India. After a while we had to say our goodbyes and go back to the Senriyama community center. There we got a nice lunch from the kitchen staff. They’re so nice to talk to. While we were eating, Yui, from the local organizing committee, who does some of the activities with us explained what was going to happen in Kansai University. Not only did we get a tour of the University that explained where everything is located, we also went to their little museum and got to play games with the students there.
After all these fun events, we still had one thing planned: a bon dance practice at Senri temple. There we got to see how a summer festival works. We got to write a wish and hang it on a bamboo tree. The bon dancing we were taught was really tiresome but super fun. So, to give us some energy we ate some shaved ice and watermelon! It was such a fun day.