Tag Archives: Omuta

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)

Bittersweet goodbyes: The last activity day in Session one

Group photo with the helping staff of the stamp rally at Eruru
Group photo with the helping staff of the stamp rally at Eruru

Today we first started with a stamp rally event in an arcade mall.

We were divided into 8 groups and each group was assigned to a flower shop, a sports shop, a tea shop, a cafe, a Swedish restaurant, a Japanese snack store, a deli store and a clothes store.

We had students from National Institute of Technology, Ariake college (有明高専) to help us and we could chat with them during the stamp rally. When children and their parents came to the store they greeted us using “hello” and “my name is —-” in our own languages such as Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, Finnish and so on and if they were able to say the greeting words then we gave our stamp on their rally sheet. I was a cameraman during the event but I could see all the kids and parents seemed having fun with talking with us although they were nervous to say the words from the beginning and atmosphere in the all the shops were very welcomed!

It was the first time to have this event in WCI but it all went smoothly and about 120 people including kids and their parents registered to join the activity, which means we put our stamps about 120 times, but it was worth to it! The purpose of this activity was to bring kids to the arcade street and let them know what kind of shops there are. Even though we didn’t think we helped with the sales of the various shops it was a nice opportunity to get the people know the stores and hopefully this opportunity brings about an another one and that those who visited us would come back to stores to buy stuff in the future.

After lunch, we went to Omuta shrine where daija (dragon float) was exhibited. People living around this area join Daijayama festival since they are young so it’s very familiar festival and although the festival is in middle of July they start making daija and practicing ohayashi which is a traditional festival music sounded by drums and flutes from May.

After visiting the shrine, we came back to Eruru and had our session wrap up.

Everyone shared how they broke out of their comfort zone and one of their best experiences during the session. Let me share some experiences from people; trying to eat natto as much as possible even though they didn’t like it, using Japanese style bathrooms, practicing dancing and performing it on the Arigato events! It wasn’t all unconditional fun, sometimes it was difficult to accept other cultures or things, but if possible everyone tried to have new experiences and adapt changes.

It was only 3 weeks but we spent most of the time together and through every activity we got closer and all the time we spent together became memorable.

Thanks, everyone, for making this a great time.

To everyone
One, two.. GOOD JOB!!

Shoko Mizuno (Japan)

Curry and Arigato Event in Omuta

Lunch break and relaxing with the two Colombians and Isak
Lunch break and relaxing with the two Colombians and Isak

Japanese people have something with the food. When they know I am from Colombia, the first thing they would ask is “what are some Colombian food?” or “what’s your favorite Japanese food?” Afterward, the question would probably be “where is Colombia?”

Today, 30th of July, we’ve got the challenge to actually cook our food, and not just eat Japanese food. Our task was to make Japanese style curry. Got to say I was worried about it… it wouldn’t be nice to end up with no lunch because we messed it up. But we made it!

Some curry, lots of rice, salad, that is never forgotten here, and some sweets, such as pancakes which were my favorite. The curry was amazingly good! I am still having trouble believing we did it. It is not complicated, just needs patience.

After lunch, we had a proper break as we hadn’t had one since day one in World Campus – Japan. Back then the staff were soft to us, because after that, the breaks became 5-minute breaks for the bathroom and drinking water, max 10. Too many things to do, no time to lose. Plus, we really needed it because the tiredness has accumulated from these 2 weeks, almost 3, and there are even some sick people among us… nothing to worry though.

Finally, we had to get ready for Arigato Event. Though my friend Natalia, the other Colombian girl, was feeling sick in the afternoon, she was better for the actual event! I was so relieved she didn’t have something serious.

Got to say, from the bottom of my heart, that I was so nostalgic and sentimental at the time someone made me realized that it was the last Arigato Event for session one, and the last for me in total. It has been amazing and unbelievable, this journey with World Campus International, and I am at days of the final goodbye! Feeling part of a group, a place where to feel comfortable, is something I really appreciate because I am not good at integrating. And this feeling was strong and alive in all time around Arigato Event. I am so glad and proud to be able to say I made amazing friends.

Nicole Rosario (Colombia)

A busy school day in Arao

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I went to the elementary school today. A little interaction, some fear probably is what I thought. I’m a whole different kind of person compared to a Japanese person so it’s hard to tell how Japanese kids will react. When we were sitting and the kids started to file in, I realized that our audience was a whole lot bigger than I had imagined. They also were all small and cute.

When we performed the Japan medley we usually perform at the Arigatou events, the kids reacted so strongly it was hard not to put my all into it. When we did the bread song, “alele”, Thomas had a fun time instructing the kids, and they matched his enthusiasm. It was fun to see their reactions and see them sing along with the songs we prepared. When we finished and we were left with just the 6th graders, it was fun to meet all of them and hear their reaction to our countries. The kids were a little shocked that American football stadiums are so big. One kid even knew the Golden Gate Bridge. It was kind of hard to talk fast about the country, sign our names and give them a sticker.

After we did that game with the 6th graders, we visited classes. It is so hard to say what class I liked most because all of the kids were so sweet and friendly. In the 1st grade class, we made paper snowflakes, which I was so relieved because I’m horrible at origami. The kids gave us their snowflakes as a present – so cute! However, as we went through 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade, I realized this was the case for all of these classes. They gave us little presents like pictures or origami animals. I had them all sign one so I could try to remember their adorable generosity in the future.

Sitting in the classes with four other people with you is much less intimidating. Plus, all the kids – plus the teachers – were super, super nice. I had lunch with Juuso (a WCI counselor) in 5th grade, and some of the girls were impressed with my multiple ear piercings and my heart tattoo. Even the 5th grade boys were willing to talk with me, which previously wasn’t really the case. It was nice to get to know them a little. Then, when we got to have free time with the kids outside or recess as we call it in the US, a lot of the kids wanted to play with us. One little 2nd grader grabbed my hand though, and led me around the large playground with a friend. They both chatted with me despite my broken Japanese, and gained other girls who joined the conversation of what Disney princess they liked and if I could understand Japanese or if they could understand English. When they said goodbye to me when the bell rang and ran towards the middle, they kept looking back so it made me want to run in with them and just stay. Maybe stay forever.

When I made it back to the library where we had breaks, we arranged ourselves to talk with the teachers. The teachers were all very nice and were super impressed with Juuso’s and Isak’s Japanese proficiency. It was a little funny because if Isak spoke Japanese, he translated what he just said into English for me. It was interesting to hear the discussion about diversity, English and bilingualism, how school systems work not only in Japan but also the U.S., Sweden and Finland, and learn a little more about the teachers who help mold those sweet kids into fully functioning members of society. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and I was very tempted to volunteer as an ALT for free. I hope that everyone from WCI gets to experience this kind of school.

Whitney Herbert (USA)

Katana master! – Omuta/Arao 29/06-2017

Videoblogg filmed the 29th of June 2017