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.
This was my last morning in Omura and time to say goodbye to my host family. The mayor of Omura came to greet us farewell and after a tearful goodbye, we left for Kumamoto.
My host family had prepared a traditional “bento” lunchbox for my trip, with lots of good food.
When we arrived in Kumamoto we visited 第一高校, a very nice high school. Here we met up with groups of English major students and got to talk with them. It was a fun and interesting experience; to share our culture, and hear the dreams of the students.
Later I met my awesome host mother, who came to pick me up. She is a programmer, assistant manga artist and in general a supermom. They had also prepared a really nice table with their names, nicknames, and a warm welcome for me. We went to Kendo training with the kids and their skills really amazed me. All of the kids also happened to play 囲碁 (Known as “Go” in the west), so me and the youngest boy played a game together.