I woke up at around 6:45 am and got out of the bed after my alarm went off for the second time. For breakfast my host mom had made rice and soup and she had also put different kinds of furikake (basically a type of sprinkles that you put on rice) on the dinner table, with different flavours like tuna roe, salmon and sesame. It was so good and interesting to eat that I actually had two bowls of rice that morning.
After breakfast I packed my things for the day, freshened up and put on makeup and around 9:00 am me and my host mom were out of the door and on our way to the destination of the day, which was the prefectural university of Kumamoto. After arriving, gathering and having the morning meeting we went to the CPD centre to meet the students of the ELLA program. The students arrived after a few minutes and sat down with us. We later stood in two lines, WCI on one side, ELLA in the other and we had 40 seconds to introduce ourselves and get a hang on who we where. After that we played something called “the stereotype game” where on three two-sided whiteboards we wrote stereotypes that we had about the other countries and later the representatives from the countries got to explain some of the things that were written. Most of the things on the Sweden board were about snow, shrimps and the cold.
After that we went to a special classroom to eat lunch consisting of Obento lunches and talk with the students. I told some of the students about Swedish food and celebrities. After lunch we did some calligraphy and got our names written in Kanji. My name became Shigure which kind of means the sound of a drizzle of rain in fall, I also got my last name in kanji which was a bit easier as my name literally means south 南. We drew different words like ‘love’, ‘dream’ and ‘friend’. After about an hour or so we moved back to the CPD centre where we made some origami to put on a plastic bamboo branch and writing wishes on the origami.
Time is up and it was time for some group photos and waiting for the host families to pick us up. My host mother drove me home and we made dinner together in the form of Japanese hamburger steak. What I didn’t expect was that along with the food she had also brought appetisers from the Italian restaurant where she worked. While waiting for the steaks to finish in the pan we were feasting on bruschetta and liver pâté with crunchy focaccia pieces.
After dinner we discussed Swedish holidays and when my host dad came home from work we looked at pictures of my home city and my university. I also gave my host their gifts which were a Swedish midsummer maypole and a glass bowl which was nice considering my host mom was collecting glass. A very unique way to celebrate a midsummer weekend I would say.
Today was the last organized activity day of the visit to Kumamoto city. We spent the entire day at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto, where at first we were given a presentation regarding the general demeanor of the Japanese people. I found this very interesting, as it went in depth on how the average Japanese person thinks, and how past events helped shape their current behavior.
The rest of the day was pretty much dedicated to rehearsing and doing the Arigato Event. As the staff member on tour responsible for the technical aspects, my job was at this point just to run the correct music at the correct time, and ensure that all the pieces went in order and that the volume for the different pieces was correct. However, during this particular event, I was also given the extra task of timing how long we took on each individual part of the event. This was a little bit of a challenge, just due to remembering to write down the time every time it was necessary. However, I believe that the event was held very successfully, and it seemed like the audience was entertained throughout our little show.
I was also charged with making the slideshow for this event, and although I didn’t get any feedback as of writing this, I think it went well considering I only had three days’ worth of pictures and videos to choose from. The day in general felt really good, and I’m pumped for continuing with the program!
First, we tried to break the Ice by having a little chat so we lined up in two rows, World Campus members in one line and high school students in the other. After one minute of talking, we changed our partners.
Later we had lunch together. Sadly, some of the students were very shy so I didn’t have a very deep conversation, but I think everyone gave their best. After lunch, we tried to make friends with an origami master by bribing him with licorice. Unfortunately, the taste of salty sweets seems to be new for Japanese. The origami master then showed us how to fold a rose.
We probably could have folded paper for the rest of the day because that was so much fun.
Last thing at this day was a lecture about nonverbal communication and its differences in different cultures. For example, counting with fingers and gestures like “come here”. The differences between cultures and gestures was interesting.
So today we visited the Jikei hospital in Kumamoto, where the only baby hatch in Japan is installed. A baby hatch is a small door in the hospital wall where parents who are unable to take care of their baby may anonymously leave their baby. Japan is still a country in which honor and family names matter a lot so sadly throughout history a lot of unwanted babies have been left in the wilderness. However, since Dr. Hasuda installed the hatch ten years ago hundreds of babies have been saved.
Our day started by watching a report from NKH World in the morning at the YMCA, our base of operation in Kumamoto. Even though the English dubbing of the Japanese was at some points quite questionable, everyone seemed intrigued. After the video followed a discussion. Some differing voices was raised, as of how about the children’s right to know their biological heritage, how is it even is possible to reconnect with the parent with the child and whether that would impact the anonymity of the parent. However, between talks about electrical gizmos and having the hospital acting as an information bank, we all seemed to agree that however sad it is that the need for the hatch exists, it is better that the hatch is there than not having it at all.
Later that day when we finally got to meet the doctor himself and saw the hatch, it all became very real and I started to think about all the lives saved by the door. Sadly though, it is the only hatch available in Japan so a lot of already exhausted people are forced to travel from as long away as Hokkaido to Kumamoto or choose a more tragic alternative. The reason we were given for the concept not spreading wider in Japan is that among other things, people in powerful positions believe that it would cause an increased number of abandoned children. But to me they seem quite misinformed since the statistics seems to suggest that there is no such correlation. And this is a topic where human life is at stake.
However, unrelated to the hospital visit, when we returned to the YMCA – where we started the day – we played both Ninja and Footzies. Ninja is a classic among WCI members but if you have not heard about Footzies or the foot game, just imagine an angry invisible cat with laser shooting eyes that just can’t avoid jumping between peoples feet. I think that would give you a clear picture of how it is played.