Day of activity: 2013 August 8th
Today was a really interesting day; we went to a temple to interact with the local children and to learn about some aspects of Japanese culture. There were a lot of young children from a nearby school with whom we were going to make our own fans. It was a lot of fun to color with the children and to decorate our fans with stickers and origami, and it seemed that the children also had a really great time. When we had finished making our fans the teachers of the school did a little dance performance for us, and they asked us to join in. After doing the dance a couple of times it was time for our lunch. We sat down with the children and ate our lunch together while we talked and played with the kids. It was really too bad that they all had to leave after the lunch.
When we were done eating we started the first cultural activity: shakyo. Shakyo is basically the writing of Buddhist texts as an offering to Buddha. We could choose whether we wanted to do this the easy way (drawing over the characters that had already been drawn on a sheet) or the hard way (draw the characters ourselves). Most of us, including me, chose the hard way, and even though it was quite difficult to draw the characters it was a lot of fun to do.
The next activity was rakugo, a form of Japanese comedy. There was a rakugo player who explained the different kinds of jokes to us, like word jokes, quizzes, and short stories. The short stories were a lot of fun to watch, and luckily we also got a translation sheet in case we did not understand the Japanese. The quizzes were really funny as well; we all tried our best to find the solution to the different puzzles as fast as possible. Finally, the rakugo player also chose three people from the audience to which he taught how to act like you are eating a bowl of noodles, and these people had to perform for us as well.
After the rakugo we had furoshiki as our final activity. Furoshiki is the art of cloth wrapping, something that is quite popular in Japan. It is used when wrapping gifts, making small pouches and you can even make a shopping bag! The first thing we were taught was how to make a small hat for ourselves, and next how to make a small pouch to attach to our belt. After that we learned how to wrap a wine bottle, and the next step was to wrap two wine bottles in the same cloth. It was a lot of fun to do, and it really made me realize how handy a piece of cloth can actually be. At the end we also witnessed something really amazing: there was a special piece of waterproof cloth in which a full bottle of water was poured, but the cloth did not get wet at all! So not only did I have a really great time playing with the kids, trying shakyo the hard way, and watching a really funny rakugo performance, I also now know that I should always take a piece of cloth with me, because you never know when you might need it.
Lieke Vermeulen (The Netherlands)