Tag Archives: Japan

Happi

koto experience
koto experience

Wednesday the 7th of August was the first day of the last week of our great trip around Kanto area. We had had lot of fun times in Mito and afterwards in Abiko, but now was time for the city of Tama.

The first thing in the morning, we got to try out traditional Japanese clothing – kimonos. Each member of our group was dressed up by a bunch of lovely and enthusiastic ladies, all the while we could only raise our hands and let them do their work. Personally I really like this type of clothing and found it really fun to dress up in a few different outfit combinations for the photoshoot we had afterwards.

When everyone had at least tried on the clothes and had some pictures taken, we had a small parade around the building. Some of us were a bit uncomfortable about being presented as dressed up foreigners for the entertainment of the local people, but I just took it by the stride and enjoyed my time playing a Japanese flute, shinobue, to make most out of the experience. The parade ended at a stage, where we could try our hand at traditional Japanese games, while still in our fancy clothes. Not gonna lie, juggling or playing with a kendama with big floppy sleeves was not the easiest thing to do…

After lunch, it was time to try on a different traditional Japanese costume – Happi coat. Though not as fancy as the kimonos, it was a nice experience to try those too. In our new costumes we continued onwards with activities. From here we showed the audience the dance we had prepared for the arigatou event and gave them a few short presentations of some of our home countries.
The highlight of the afternoon for me, personally, was the activity following that. We got to try our hand at playing either a Japanese harp, koto, or one of the Japanese flutes, shakuhachi. While I would’ve loved to try out their shakuhachis, time only allowed for us to try one instrument, so I had fund picking sounds out of the koto.

The last activity of the day made us feel like proper celebrities for we got to give out autographs. It would’ve been great fun, if the kids wouldn’t have wanted us to draw something along with giving the autograph. I decided to give my signing seat to another participant after a few signatures to save the rest of the kids from my… “Art”…
All in all we had great fun!

Oskari, Finland

Summer School and Zen

Exchanging Ideas at Uda City Hall
Exchanging Ideas at Uda City Hall

We have done it, we have finally arrived in Uda! The city of beautiful hills, roaring rivers and… bugs. After having survived the first night without encountering any big unwanted guests, it was time for the first day, a day packed with a variety of activities.

Early in the morning our host-mother took us out for a quick stroll to a big dam that is just a stone’s throw away. The dam looked over on a beautiful lake surrounded by the dark green forests. The morning fog that was gliding through the woods created a mystical atmosphere. With that beautiful sight engraved in our memories Paul, who stayed at the same place as I did, and I were ready for the day

After having our usual morning meeting, we took a bus to a local elementary school. The kids were very happy to see us and greeted us with some traditional songs and a flute concert. One of the kids in particular stole my heart. When the other kids were listening to the long speeches, he took his socks of and tried to play the flute using his feet only. That was only the beginning of the fun. After the official welcome we were divided into smaller groups. My group had the luck to spend the morning with the 6th graders. We played a lot of card games together in some kind of tournament format. Even though I (almost) lost every game, I still had a blast! After having some intense card matches, it was time to replenish our energy with a traditional school lunch!

After Lunch we went to city hall, where we were ironically enough greeted even more as rockstars. When the bus arrived, the crowd was standing outside, cheering us on with flags. At City Hall we enjoyed some speeches by the mayor and other administrative figures of Uda City, a short presentation about the history of Uda and we got to ask many questions.

Immediately after the visit we continued on our way through the beautiful roads of Uda. We drove all the way to a Renshoji temple, which would be the location of a very unique experience: we were going to master the art of Zazen, the art of meditation and clearing your mind of all thoughts. Sadly, but to no surprise, I wasn’t very good at it. A key component of Zazen is the form. We had to sit in an uncomfortable cross-legged position, keeping our backs straight at all times without moving an inch. I don’t have to explain why, for somebody who can’t even sit decently on a chair, this was like cleansing the Augean stables.

While we were trying to cleanse our minds, a monk was walking around, making sure everybody was doing well. Those who were losing focus, received ‘encouragements’ in the form of being beaten with a stick. I can proudly say that I was one of the lucky few who got to experience the stick. After being beaten, having a sleeping foot and not feeling my ankles anymore, I felt one step closer to inner peace. The physical pain aside, it was a very interesting experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Up to the day that I have written this blog, me and the boys have been strengthening ourself in the art of Zazen on the path to true enlightenment. Except for Nils, he has a long way to go.

In the evening, Paul and I gave our host-mother some local gifts from Belgium and the United states. It was a very cozy evening and we really were having a blast. Paul also insulted Poland by calling the traditional 15th century Market square of my hometown in Poland a supermarket. Thereafter it was finally time to go to bed after what had been a very interesting and eventful day.

Herbert
Poland

Comprehensive review of July 26: Hitachi Corporation visit

We started our second day of World Campus International early, arriving at 7:45 at Keimei High School, in Mito, Ibaraki. We left immediately for the Hitachi Corporation, located nearby, where we were met with a smile and a stern policy against photography on the premises. In the effort of preserving memories, we immediately broke the only rule we knew, and took a group photograph on a particularly special staircase, reserved only for workers who have recently retired from Hitachi. After a quick ride up the adjoining escalator, we all simultaneously retired from our short-lived careers at the technology company. If these traditions are to be believed, I can only assume Hitachi has an unusually high turnover for its employees.

To begin our official goodbye tour of the complex, we were shown an informational video about the bullet we dodged by quitting when we did. The technology presented to us was daunting and impressive, and between comprehensive facility tours, and inspired question-answer-style forums, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that nobody really knows all of the secrets that Hitachi Corporation holds. All I know is that it’s beyond my grasp of science and human cooperation. Upon boarding the bus to bring us back to Keimei, we left with heavy eyes and tearful hearts, and returned to our home base with commemorative pens. I assume our final paychecks are in the mail.

After we situated ourselves in the meeting room/dance hall we had overthrown earlier this week, we tested Juuso’s patience, and his ability to rip paper in half, as we spent half an hour meticulously smudging the handwriting on roughly thirty Thank You-cards, all while pretending to write our own names on them. To our dismay, only one card was smudged, but luckily Juuso stepped his game up and kindly ripped a second one for us out of the kindness of his heart. We then changed into our knock-arounds, and practiced our dancing and singing for the Arigato event coming up. Whitney took some personal initiative and kindly volunteered me to sing a solo in one of our songs. My gratitude is palpable, I’m sure. As far as the dancing goes, Juuso says we’ve improving, but I think he might just be getting tired of ripping things in half.

My time spent at home consisted largely of a trip across the neighborhood to a local bookstore with my host brothers. On our way there, we stopped at the Mito Art complex, and took an elevator to the top of its 100-meter tower. The tower was quirky and fascinating, with windows on every side, granting an unobstructed view of the area for miles in every direction. It was a unique and worthy experience, and I genuinely don’t have any jokes to say about my time there. With that, Mito Art Tower is likely the least-funny place in Ibaraki.

Dinner was special tonight. My host family treated me to a night out at a Japanese restaurant, offering me the authentic Japanese experience that any red-blooded American otaku would die for. I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying to the waitress, but in no time I was bombarded with a plethora of foods. Everything from chicken livers to shrimp sashimi and kimchi came flying through the door. Dishes began piling on the table. The waitress had extra help just for carrying plates and bowls into the room. It was after the third or fourth course that I began to wonder if this wasn’t some sort of ritualistic food sacrifice to the white American demon. I had happily filled up on chicken and fish and egg, and yet the food kept coming. After a cartoonishly large stack of plates had been carried away, the American demon had been sated. Sorry about all the rain recently; it’s kinda my responsibility to return the favor.

Overall, my day was exciting and developmental. I look forward more every day to what strange experience Japan and the World Campus International team have to offer us moving forward.

Jack Malban (USA)

New arrivals, welcome to Session 3 – 2017

Day 1 was spent travelling and meeting our new host families. Me and most of the continuing participants from Session 2 met up in the lobby of our hotel after breakfast and checked out, and after gathering up we walked to the train station (I should not have packed in a backpack). Luckily the train ride to Tokyo station was quite short.

In Tokyo station, we met two of the new participants, both nice and from the Netherlands. We were also dragged to the stores to get some food, but were instead absorbed into the character stores, where my wallet mysteriously got a lot lighter.

After taking a train from Tokyo station and travelling for a while, we met the new participants at the station they had come to from the airport. We changed to a very small Japanese school bus, and drove for a while until we arrived at Keimei high school. A huge U-shaped building with a field in the middle, including tennis courts.

Here we stashed our baggage and quite quickly started the welcome ceremony. We introduced ourselves in country order and sat down with our new, and for many participants, their first host families.

After a few speeches and something small to eat, the ceremony was over and we all went to our new homes. The rest of the evening was spent talking and eating with my host family, which was made a little difficult by our communication limitations. But with body language, google translate, drawing, some English and some Japanese, it worked out and was a very cool experience. I went to sleep sharing a room with the oldest brother a bit too late, and suddenly the first day of a very fun week to come was over.

Isak Hjeltnes (Norway)