Category Archives: Uda City

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)

Tourism advisor gig and playing with kids during elementary school visit

Emma talking about ways to improve Uda's tourism at the city hall
Emma talking about ways to improve Uda’s tourism at the city hall

Yesterday we had a fun day of Zen meditation and some interesting ninja training. One of the most difficult activities was the crossing of the Akame river, using only a small floating device, which I completely failed at. Returning home I was looking forward to a much appreciated rest.

The house of my host family, the Okuda family, is amazing. It is a really relaxing environment with an absolutely wonderful forest view accompanied with the whining of the nearby cicadas. The house itself is made by my host father himself using only natural resources that can be found around the building. It is such an amazing and relaxing environment that it makes me want to stay a lot longer than a week.

However, today we had two activities planned; visiting Murou elementary school, and Uda city hall. Before meeting with the schoolkids we were invited to their morning meeting in the gymnasium, so that we could formally introduce ourselves. We were also introduced to some Chinese school kids who also were invited that day. We showed them our Japan medley dances too. After that we were divided into groups, meeting four different grades. My group was going to meet the third graders.

When we met the kids in their classroom they were really excited to see us. They all welcomed us with a song, and then we played a game. The World Campus Japan members were asked some questions and the kids had to guess the right answer. They asked me what my favourite colour was, but none of them guessed the right answer, which is blue if you were wondering. Then we ate lunch with the kids in the classroom and we got some more time to interact with them. Kana-chan absolutely loves playing the piano and Ibuki-kun is absolutely crazy about labels and ketchup cups.

After saying our goodbyes we went by train to Uda city hall and met up with the members of the tourist committee. They told us what Uda’s must see spots and attractions are. Because we have not been here long we did not yet really know a lot about the city and its surroundings but I have the impression that Uda is a wonderful place witch does not yet know the mass tourism that places like Kyoto and Nara knows, which means that it is a place where you can enjoy the many temples and shrines, without feeling swarmed, but able to visit them in a peaceful and relaxing way.

We sat together with the committee members to talk about the possible ways to attract more foreign tourist; as of now Uda mainly attracts Japanese tourists and only a handful of foreign tourists. This led to some interesting discussions about the future paths Uda’s tourism can take. I hope that they can take some of our ideas into consideration.

This afternoon did convince me that Uda is certainly a place were I want to return to, hopefully in the near future.

Then we returned home to our host families and at night I had a lovely dinner with my host mum, Hinomi-san and the kids, Akiha-chan and Kiharu-chan. In the beginning they were incredibly shy but after a few games they opened up. We probably were too busy yesterday so after watching sumo, first time for me, they went to bed. I spent the rest of the night with my host mum and talked to her some more until my host father came home. After some nice cold beer and some more chatting, I went to bed.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the weeks activities.

Emma Vermandez (Belgium)

Visiting a sake factory, Akame watefalls including a ninja training

Today we visited a sake factory and learned about the process of making sake. It was very informative and intimate, as the factory itself was quite small. After watching a video clip on the process of sake making, we went to see the storage rooms where sake was fermented. Unfortunately, it is the wrong season for sake making so we didn’t get to see it actually been made. We did, however get the opportunity to buy some sake from the gift shop.

Later on we went to the Akame waterfalls where we were given a tasty lunch by the park owner. We got to learn about the Japanese giant salamander and some people actually got to touch a salamander. We learnt that the salamander is protected here in Japan.

I then went on the ninja training course where I learnt how to blow darts, throw shuriken and do a ninja assault course – which I proudly completed. The thing I enjoyed the most was dressing up as a ninja, it made the whole experience so much more special. Finally, we all took turns to cross a river, ninja style… Many of us fell in and it was really nice to laugh and have fun with everyone. I fell in on my first try but mastered the course on the second time.

After the training, I went with a small group to see the waterfalls. They were really beautiful and serene and I could see why the ninjas chose such a place to train back in the day. I wish we had time to see more of the waterfalls, as there were dozens of them in total! But, I managed to get some good photos before it started to rain.

In the evening, we had a pot luck party and the food was, as usual, amazing! We drank sake and interacted with the families which was really fun. I was sad that it ended so quickly.

Ceara Best (UK)