Host family day with Pokémon

“Enjoy your day off with your Host Family”, they tell us the day before, and so I did. Both me and my host mom agreed on that sleeping in on this day was a good idea, so the day started slow. After we all had eaten breakfast and gotten ready for the day, we left the house to pick up a friend and her family. It had become quite clear to my host family before that I really liked Pokémon, so our destination was the Yokohama Pokémon Center.

The ride was quite long and with 4 young children in a car, this could have been very tiresome, but luckily there were DVDs to watch, and so we watched a Doraemon movie on the way to Yokohama. I might not have understood everything they said, but I did understand that the evil guy that came from a century later than Doraemon did not win the fight in the prehistoric times. There was also a unicorn.

Having arrived at Yokohama, it was quite clear I wasn’t the only Pokémon lover among us, whose family had noticed, because in the Pokémon Center we encountered Irina and Sam and their host families. After thoroughly browsing the Pokémon Shop and other shops and trying my best at (and winning) a small game they offered, we went to get some lunch, to check out some more small games and a Pokémon pop-up store. After we were all satisfied with having played the games, doing Gacha-Gacha’s and having bought the things we wanted (a Pikachu shirt in my case), we went home tired but satisfied.

But the day didn’t end there, because that evening a local shopping street organized a festival and we were all invited to come, in yukata’s (the summer, festival edition of a kimono) if possible. And so, a lot of us showed up, some in normal clothes, some in yukata, and even someone wearing a Jinbei. When we arrived there, we got a surprise. We were apparently volunteers to work at the festival booths, but nobody had told us in advance, so this caused some stress for some of us. But after all the shifts ended, and when the bon dancing started we were too busy dancing and saying goodbye to worry about it anymore. This Saturday was the last day of session 2, the Sunday was departure day and since some people left early, this was the last goodbye for now.

Thank you everyone for this fun festival and amazing session!

Sabine Boom (The Netherlands)

Maids in Akihabara! Isehara personal day

Today (20th of July) was a personal day! And if you live in Isehara for a week, it most probably means a trip to Tokyo. And that is what I did. And my plan was, of course, Akihabara!

So, after being awaken by my lovely host sister and having a delicious breakfast, I was delivered to the Isehara station. The train was not that difficult to understand as I thought it would be. If you know the line, station and you know how to read (romaji) then there’s no problem. You just need to figure out how to get to a different line at Shinjuku.

Anyway, after arriving at Akihabara the atmosphere hit me hard. That district is like another world. You never pass by a silent or calm place. There’s always music playing. Suddenly I was surprised to see so many foreigners. After two weeks in Japan, seeing a foreigner who is not part of the World Campus is kind of odd.

The first stop was a Maid Cafe. What amazed me the most was that one of the maids could actually speak a tiny bit of my language. But, of course, the kawaii food and drinks and moe moe kyun mantras (the food and drinks taste better if you say it, apparently) were amusing too. I even saw a pretty interesting live show of five maids dancing and singing. One of the World Campus Japan participants I was there together with seemed to be really into it. That might have been the most amusing part of the day. After that I was just exploring the strange streets, buying some manga and surprisingly even some clothes. It was fun but also kind of tiring.

After safely getting back to Isehara station, my host family picked me up and we drove to a baseball practice place. One of my host sisters is a baseball player and it was really exciting to see the kids in their game uniforms.

Next was the supermarket. That is always a fun thing to do in Japan, because you can see how much products you DON’T have in your own country. And thanks to that Mama wasn’t at home in the evening, we got to have ramen! It was actually my first time trying it. When we got home I helped prepare the ramen. And that bowl of soup and noodles is juuust delicious! I can’t even believe how responsible my 15-year old host sister is. I feel like a princess.

The day was fun. Every day at World Campus Japan is fun for me. But I am tired and I miss the rest of the people in the program! I wanna go to sleep so that I can see them soon.

Helena Raichartová (Czech Republic)

University student interaction at Tokai University in summer 2017

Today we went to the Tokai University. It is a huge place with many different things to offer, such as a swimming pool or an international café. After our arrival, we got three options – visit a mathematics lab in the university, go on a tour with students, or explore the place ourselves for about an hour. I walked around with a map and let my curiosity lead me. In Japan, there are many vending machines everywhere, and this university wasn’t an exception – you can easily get yourself something to drink or eat.

After exploring, we ate lunch at the school cafeteria and talked to the students. Some of them spoke English and some didn’t, but that wasn’t a problem since we found our way to joke and laugh together anyway. People there were very nice and excited. After finishing my lunch, I had a little bit of time left, so I looked around at the shops and what they had to offer. Not only you could buy new books for your subject, but also t-shirts saying “TOKAI UNIVERSITY <3 ". When everyone finished their lunch, we moved upstairs for some activities. We were welcomed by a big room with tables covered in paper. It got me interested - what are we going to do now? First, we learned about the 7th of July and it’s celebration in Japan. We could write our own wish to get the feeling of this special day called Tanabata. I still wondered why the tables were covered. Apparently, after writing our wish on a piece of paper, we were about to make our own fan! We got blank fans, pencils, and other things to decorate each in our own way. I must say, many people had creative ideas and executed them well, the fans were beautiful to look at. Everyone seemed very focused and happy. In my opinion, it was something that could bring us all a little bit more together, everyone started complimenting each other’s skills and there was no one who thought something was ugly. Some people got time to decorate even two fans!

After finishing the previous activity, we got divided into seven groups where each group tried a different Japanese game, and we rotated around so everyone could try everything. My group first played a Japanese card game called karuta. It got very competitive very fast. It was about getting as many cards as possible by touching the right card with the correct syllable on it. After playing a short turn of it, we moved to the next point – Japanese calligraphy. It seemed easy but to get a pretty outcome, you need to practice a lot. We all tried writing our own word – mine was yume, which means dream in Japanese. After that we could try cutting shapes with a pin. You need to be precise and steady. I gave up after a while of failing. These three activities were in the first room.

In the second room, we could use chopsticks as a gun, or play with spinning tops (which is a mascot for this city as well). I don’t know how these kids are able to play with that, it’s so hard to spin it and control where it goes. We could also catch our own yoyo balloon from water and try Japanese sweets. It was a very fun day, I am especially glad for being able to interact with local students. Some of the conversations were very funny and interesting.

Adriana Misztowt (Norway)

Climbing in the rain

Group picture by Oyama shrine with water evaporating from the shrine roof
Group picture by Oyama shrine with water evaporating from the shrine roof

Today was the first activity day of a new city, Isehara, which I also happened to be the city runner of! So, definitely no extra stress for me there, none whatsoever! My host family happened to live just 100 meters from Oyama elementary school, which we would visit in the morning, so instead of going 15 km the wrong way just to come back I walked straight to the school. I was earlier than the rest of the group, so I had time to talk with the principal before the activities.

I have to say, I was really nervous having my first proper morning meeting after 1st Session, and I’m sure it showed. But the group is very diligent and hardworking, so we survived and headed out for the activities with the kids. We would interact with the kids, signing dozens of forms accommodated with the ever-repeating cycle of “Hello! My name is _ What’s your name? Nice to meet you!” until we became deaf to the words we spoke. It was fun though, and the kids were really cute. Also, by my experience with Japanese elementary school kids their English was really good. Afterwards we tried to play a traditional game with spinning tops, at which I failed spectacularly, for the second year in a row. At least no-one but me was hurt. Anyways. Finally, we got kanji for our names from the fifth and sixth graders and then tried to write them ourselves. I was dubbed “the friend in heavens”. Charming, although could be interpreted as somewhat sad as well.

After the school visit we had a delicious lunch of tofu in various forms. The lunch charged our batteries enough so that we were ready to tackle the final challenge of the day, climbing Mt. Oyama! We put on traditional pilgrim clothes and climbed the approach to the cable car station. When we reached the station, however, the dark, rainy clouds of doubt descended upon us, quite literally. Luckily though, the LOC were not shaken by small drizzle and we continued up the endless steps along the mountainside. Halfway up the mountain the rain got worse and towards the end we were running up waterfalls. Also, who had the great idea of making a hiking trail that consists of 97% stairs? In any case, we made our way to the top, drenched, exhausted and with a lifelong hatred of stairs, but happy at our achievement.

We had some time to gather our thoughts and change before we were given a tour of the shrine. We learned a lot of interesting things about the shrine, Oyama, connection between Shinto gods and Pokemon, and much more. It was a great ending to this very active day.

Juuso Myller (Finland)

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