Tag Archives: host family

A rainy day and a potluck party

Group picture with the host families in Mito
Group picture with the host families in Mito

Woke up at 6:30 am as usual when my host mom knocked on the door. This morning however, the plans had been cancelled due to potential heavy rains and so I could sleep in. As much as I was disappointed about not going to the Kairokuen, I was quite tired and happy to sleep for a few more hours.

At 9 I got dressed and had breakfast with my host family. My host mother made a really tasty breakfast with eggs bacon and edamame and my favourite, curry bread.

After we had put away the dishes, we all headed to the Kokusai kouryo to meet with all the other families. On the way we noticed that it actually had barely rained. When we arrived, I quickly joined the other World Campus Japan members for a quick meeting before us all having fun playing games and singing silly songs with the families as well as enjoying the delicious food people brought for the potluck party!

I spent most of the time with my family, but especially with my host dad. We talked about a lot of things together including the education and a little bit about his trip to my country when he was younger.

After clean up, my family decided to still quickly take me to the Kairakuen, but now it was actually raining and very badly… Instead we decided to go visit the Kodokan, an important school where clansmen and their sons had gone to school to learn everything from mathematics to martial arts. The building was quite old but extremely beautiful. Because of the heavy rain, the garden surrounding the traditional Japanese building looked stunning and made the whole area seem like a movie set for a historical movie.

My host family also translated and explained all the panels that were only written in Japanese for me. When we left, the rain was much worse. After a short run in the rain, we made a quick stop at the shopping centre where we picked up some ingredients for dinner which was curry!

After we cooked together and ate, we watched a few game shows on TV together before finally going to bed early. The next day was Host family day, and we planned to leave as soon as possible the next morning and also hoped for no rain.

Sonja van Lier (Switzerland)

Thank you Isehara: Final goodbye of session 2 with a bang (of taiko drums)

Learning to play taiko drums in Isehara
Learning to play taiko drums in Isehara

I woke up this morning at 7 AM. As usual, I took my clothes I had prepared the night before and went downstairs to greet my family. Afterwards, I took a shower, where I was surprised to see that there was no hot water. So an awkward moment arose as I had to ask my host sister to turn on the hot water. She came in to help while I was standing in the corner butt naked. After finally being able to take a shower and get dressed, I headed to the living room, where breakfast was waiting for me.

At 9 AM, the participants, including me, had our daily morning meeting. After the meeting we went to a room where a lot of taiko drums were spread around the room. A Japanese man greeted us and invited us to take seat next to a drum on tatami mat. He showed us how to use the drumsticks and taught us a very easy rhythm that we played together. And that was how our taiko lesson started. After a while we all got the hang of the piece we would play at the Arigato Event that would take place later that day. The taiko teacher taught us a few more songs that were more difficult, so difficult that I couldn’t do it properly. At 11.30 the taiko session was over and we moved on to the next activity, which was cooking.

We met up with many elderly people with cute aprons and were also asked to wear an apron and a bandana. Although it was a cooking class, we didn’t actually cook. We made our own wagashi, Japanese sweets, that are eaten during a tea ceremony. The chef demonstrated how to make two different sweets and we made them to the best of our ability. I thought it was easy at first because the chef made them without any effort but I was wrong. Mine turned out pretty bad. Some were so ugly that I couldn’t say that I was proud with what I had made. I wish to try it again in the future.

After we were done, the cute ladies in cute aprons prepared us curry that was delicious. We and the Japanese people sat down and ate our bellies full. We could eat our own wagashi as dessert, or we had the choice to keep them for later. After that we had our session wrap up. We talked about our favorite moments and wrote a review about World Campus. I also received a very official World Campus International Certificate of Completion, which I’m actually very happy about.

Later we had the rehearsal for the Arigato Event. Even though we had done it many times before, there were still some minor changes. I already knew what was going on so it was a bit repetitive. Finally, at 6 PM, it was time for the show our families had been waiting, and it was a great success!! The families brought food so we could have a potluck party afterwards. However, we also had our taiko performance after the potluck party. After that it was one last group picture and the day was over. Finally, at home another participant, Jules, joined my family for fireworks. A perfect finish for the day!

Sarah Lennaux (Belgium)

Handmade chopsticks and making new friends

Celine and friends chatting with students in Isehara
Celine and friends chatting with students in Isehara

I woke up around 6am today after having a good night at my 3rd host family’s house. I slept in my host sister’s room on the 2nd floor. For breakfast I had a salad and toast with cheese, and as a kind of dessert I ate a sour plum. We had a lot of fun trying to catch their squirrel that they released from its cage earlier that morning. In the end, we caught him and gave him some sunflower seeds once he had returned to his cage.

My host mom first took my host sister, Haruna, to her school and then drove me to the Sanno University where our first activities of the day would start. I was the first one to arrive (around 8:30am) and waited in a classroom on the 2nd floor. When the other World Campus members arrived as well, we had a short briefing about today’s schedule and an introduction of the LOC’s of Isehara. We joined the University’s English class around 9:30am and introduced ourselves. The students tried their best to introduce themselves in English as well as share some of their hobbies. I talked to 4 students, named Yuuki, Tomoya, Kouya and Teruyoshi. They were either 18 or 19 years old and all 4 of them liked sports a lot.

After talking to the students for a little over an hour, we went to the library where we then talked to more students. Some of my Belgian friends and I talked to a student named Ryo. We tried our best Japanese to interact with him and become friends! Afterwards we went to a special section of the library that exhibited old photographs made by the Japanese photographer Uyeno. We viewed one of his most famous photographs of a man named Sakamoto. After looking around and taking a look in some books with more photographs, we went to the cafeteria to have lunch. I ate udon with vegetable tempura, which I both like a lot. It was really good!

Before leaving we took a group picture together outside and then moved on to the next location which was at a carpenter’s place (Kawado). We learned how to make wooden chopsticks there, within 2 hours! The wood we used is also used to make Japanese houses, which I find very interesting. We were taught that we should use wood well and never waste any of it. After shaping the chopsticks with sandpaper, we wrote or drew something on them with paint. It was a fun experience even though it was extremely hot. While we were sweating like crazy, we at least ended up with one-of-a-kind chopsticks!

Next we traveled to the city hall of Isehara. After changing into fresh and more decent clothes, we met with the major. He was very friendly and was willing to answer all questions that we might have. After having a nice conversation about what it’s like to be the major of a beautiful city like Isehara, we thanked him and took a group picture together.

My host mom picked me up around 5:30pm and took me home to get ready for bowling! My host brother, Haruto, invited 2 of his friends from school to join us. It was a lot of fun! We laughed a lot and they really liked practicing their English when talking to me. Afterwards we went out to eat pasta and pizza at an Italian restaurant. We continued our conversation about differences between our countries there and were slowly ready to go back home.

It was a really nice day of meeting new people and experiencing new things. I hope there are many more days like these to come!

Celine Dewit (Belgium)

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)

Bamboo crafts and okonomiyaki in Omuta

Joakim flipping Okonomiyaki in Omuta
Joakim flipping Okonomiyaki in Omuta

I woke up at 7.30, at which point it was time for breakfast. I prefer to sleep as much as possible, since World Campus can be quite tiring. Today, like yesterday, we had toast and miso soup. There was toast with melted cheese & piman (Japanese green bell pepper,) blueberry jam and the newcomer, coconut oil. I had never tried toast with coconut oil before, and it turned out to be a bit… greasy. It was totally edible though, but it’s not my favorite condiment for toast. The day had started with something I had never done before, and it was not the only thing this day.

Arriving at our location at 8.30, I was ready for today’s first activity, bamboo crafting. One of the locals, Mr. Higuchi, told us a lot about bamboo in Japan, both things I knew and some I had never heard before. He told us that bamboo sprouts used to be a common food in Japan, but that these days it was not so popular anymore. As a result, areas that had previously been used to grow bamboo sprouts are now covered by huge bamboo forests. Bamboo grows about 15 to 20 meters in a year. Because they are so tall, they block out the sunlight so other plants can’t live there. As such, bamboo is a bit of a pest. It is important to keep cutting down bamboo trees, and Japanese people try to find uses for the excess bamboo. Mr. Higuchi cut down some bamboo trees for us the day before, so we had the opportunity to create a bamboo “smartphone speaker.” It was a contraption that worked similar to a flute, where the sound from the smartphone would be channeled in one direction through the bamboo instead of going in all directions, hence enhancing the sound. In order to make this, we used a special saw made for cutting bamboo. Unlike western saws, it could only cut when pulling it towards you, making it more efficient, but less flexible.

After finishing the bamboo speaker, we learned about Japanese ribbons. In Japan, it is common to give money as gifts on certain occasions (such as funerals,) and one usually puts the money in an envelope and decorates it with a ribbon. The color of the ribbon indicates the occasion, and the size indicates the sum of money. We learned how to make the most basic ribbon, awai musubi. We then made a slightly more complicated ribbon, which was supposed to look like a crane, that we used to decorate our bamboo speaker.

Next we each made our own stamp. In preparation, I had asked my host family what they thought would represent me. We ended up choosing the kanji与 (“yo”). It sounds like the first syllable of my first name, and it also looks like the number five. In Japanese, five is pronounced “go”, which is the first syllable of my family name, so it seemed like a perfect choice. It also means “give” or “grant.”

As our final activity of the day, we made okonomiyaki with some locals. Okonomiyaki consist of a batter similar to pancakes, and usually contains cabbage, spring onion and other fillings (in our case, cheese.) It is cooked in a frying pan shaped like a thick pancake with pieces of pork on top. Finally it is served with a special sauce, mayonnaise, nori (seaweed) and fish flakes. It was delicious as always!

In the evening we had a couple of hours to shop in Aeon (a large shopping mall,) before being picked up by our host families at 17.00. This evening my host family had a guest – a student who was being taught English by my host father. Even though she was very shy, we had a great time and enjoyed a lot of food and drinks together. My host father also played some songs on classical guitar for us, which was amazing. Overall this was yet another fantastic day with World Campus this year!

Joakim Gåsøy (Norway)