Tag Archives: Kumamoto

Traveling to a new city and experiencing Nou

Paul wearing the oni mask and costume
Paul wearing the oni mask and costume

There’s something intimidating about having to move to a new city every week. Right after getting used to a family and becoming part of it, you need to pack up and repeat the process over again in a foreign place. I won’t lie; I was scared to leave Omuta initially. I had grown so attached to my host family; my dad Mizu, my mom Riko, and my siblings Junsei and Koto. But I knew what I was signing up for when I joined World Campus Japan, and meeting new families was boldened in the contract.

We got to the bus station at the very start of the rainy season. It was pouring, and we had been running late. I chalk it up to taking my sweet time saying some final goodbyes to my siblings and mom, but I’ll blame the rain on anything official. We pulled up just as everyone was loading up onto the bus, so Mizu had to take off fast. The goodbye was short, but I know we’ll miss each other very much. Afterall, he had become my dad in the week I lived with him, and I became his son.

The ride was short, but the air in the bus was heavy. I think everyone felt the same growing anxiety at the prospect of meeting a new host family. I slept for the hour and a half drive to the YMCA in Kumamoto City. After arriving and waking up a bit, we received some free time from our councelors. We strolled through the thinning rain to the shopping street down the way, and we all split up and went our own ways. I wound up with another student from Sweden, and we had lunch at a curry house together, talking about our lives back home and how we felt about the world in the present moment. It was in that moment I realized I had really made true friends while on this journey of mine. I made my way back to our meeting spot early so that I could work on some journals for the trip.

We had been invited to experience a type of Japanese theatre called Nou. We walked down the road to a small cozy house nestled in an ally. Inside and up the stairs, a small stage had been built by the house’s owner. He demonstrated his beautiful art, akin to opera in the west, and then invited us to try the movements and some of the costumes. The air was thick with amusement as we watched our friends make stiff movements and try the exotic costumes and masks. We thanked the very talented actor, and we headed back to the YMCA to meet our Kumamoto host families. I won’t lie, I was terrified in the moment.

Families started to pour in, but we had no idea who our host family would be. We were given cards with our family’s info and we lined up in the front of the room and introduced ourselves to our families. My hands subtly shook as I read out the name of my new family; Takayama.

My host dad, Yoshi, stood up and waved at me. His wife, Tomoko, stood close behind with my 5-month-old host sister Hiyori in a sling. My younger host brothers, Eito and Kento stared at me with awe as I walked over and towered over them. My fear melted away to worry; worry that I would be obnoxious or too different from what they’re used to. But as we drove home that worry subsided, and a feeling of familiarity washed over me.

It occurred to me that the best part of this trip has been that feeling. The feeling of meeting and becoming apart of a new family. Every week, I was welcomed with open arms and, for all intents and purposes, was adopted into a new family. It was effectively the cherry on the cake that World Campus had offered me.

I didn’t just stay with families, I became a part of them.

Paul George Newman
USA

Stereotype games with university students on midsummer

Signe with takebana bamboo branch with wishes and shoudo in Kumamoto
Signe with takebana bamboo branch with wishes and shoudo in Kumamoto

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.

Signe Söder (Sweden)

Arigato Event 2: The Technical Guy

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!

Simen Solumn (Norway)

Today we went to a university

Charlotte with origami roses in Prefectural University of Kumamoto
Charlotte with origami roses in Prefectural University of Kumamoto

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.

Michael Buehlmann (Switzerland)

Baby hatch! – Kumamoto 22.06.2017

Videoblog from Kumamoto City, filmed on the 22nd of June 2017.