Tag Archives: school visit

School visit and BBQ with host family

Magnus with his extended host family
Magnus with his extended host family

Hello everyone, My name is Magnus Krumbacher and I’m from Norway. I have been living in Tokyo on my gap year since I graduated from high school last year.

Now that I’ve introduced myself, I would like to talk about my day and what I got to experience. It started off as usual by waking up at 7:00 AM. I went downstairs to eat breakfast together with my host family. I have to say, I’m not really a morning person so I’m always half asleep while eating. Today was no different. Luckily though, they are quite the same so I felt comfortable with just sitting, eating and occasionally talking a bit.

After breakfast my host father drove me to Takematsu elementary school where I met up with the other World Campus participants. After everyone had arrived we walked inside and sat down in an empty classroom, waiting for the principal. Astonished by the sight of so many foreigners in one place, the elementary school kids quickly began to gather outside of the classroom and started staring at us. I didn’t feel uncomfortable being stared at because I think that children anywhere in the world would stare out of curiosity when seeing a group of people that don’t look like people they’re used to.

The principal finally arrived and we were taught the history of Takematsu elementary school. After also having explained some things we were not allowed to do, such as taking pictures of children and publishing them on social media, it was time for 書道, calligraphy in English. After going to the gymnasium and briefly introducing ourselves, we sat down with the children and started writing Chinese characters. I chose to write 嵐, meaning “storm”. Although I was pretty bad at it, the children helped me enough that I ended up with a presentable result. Then the children cleaned up after us and we were introduced to some typical Japanese games like 剣玉, literally translated “Sword-Ball”.

After about 30 minutes we returned to our classroom and waited for the kids to prepare for school lunch. We were sent into different classes and got to interact with the children while eating the school lunch. I made a small group of friends during that time so after we finished eating, they dragged me outside to play with them. On the way out one child had the idea of asking me for my signature and when the others saw that, it completely took off. All of us were surrounded by school kids asking for our signature for at least 10 minutes. When we finally made it outside, my small group of friends suggested we play tag. Of course I was the one who had to catch them and it wasn’t exactly cold on that day either so after we were done, I was drenched in sweat.

We then proceeded to clean the classroom with the children. This is actually part of the education at Japanese schools. They have to clean their own classroom, toilets etc. The children had a hard time believing that in Norway we have people who clean after everyone leaves the school in the afternoon. Anyhow, after having cleaned the classroom it was time to say goodbye. I really felt bad because my small group of friends I had made seemed quite sad that we were all leaving and they had to return to their daily school routine. We then moved to back to the Shorinji Kenpo Dojo we had been earlier that week and practiced for the upcoming Thank-You-event at the end of our stay in Omura.

Our host families came to pick us up and I just had enough time to take a shower before they took me to their daughters place and we all had a rooftop BBQ. The daughters children were pretty scared of me in the beginning but that went away pretty quickly when we started playing various games. The BBQ was also delicious. I discovered that I really like fried tofu. When it got dark outside we went inside and it turned out they had made a cake for me to “welcome me to the family.” I thought that was very sweet of them. Then I went home with my host family and we watched some TV before I went to bed. Overall it was a very successful day!

Magnus Krumbacher (Norway)

Joyful interaction with school children and the spirituality of Japanese archery

Helena about to shoot a Japanese yumi bow in Omura
Helena about to shoot a Japanese yumi bow in Omura

This day started with me not being able to wake up, even though I slept for 9 hours! Which is probably the last time I can sleep that much during the program as I am a counselor.

The breakfast was so delicious I suddenly realized why I wanted to wake up. After quick preparation and hurrying with my host mom, I got dropped off next to Nijinohara school. My host mom happens to work in the school that stands next to the one we were going to visit that morning, so I was glad I didn’t take time from her usual morning.

We met in front of the school and the activity day could start. This school is a bit different from the other schools we visit with World Campus Japan. It’s a school for children with special needs and that was recognizable from the beginning. For me it meant a huge joy. We lined up and the children high fived us while entering the school and even that was a wonderful experience. We were given a chance to see how excited these kids can be and how much they can give you just by smiling. The whole experience was really emotional for me as I really love spending time with happy people and these kids are just glowing with joy.

One of the teachers lectured us about how the school works and what not to do around the kids. We even had a tour around the school and I must say: how much creativity they use to teach the kids is really impressive. Every kid has the attention needed.

Next, it was our turn to introduce ourselves and perform for the kids. Even though we practiced just a little bit the day before and our positions changed, it went well. The amazingly performed Alele by Daniel was an even better icebreaker.

After dividing to 3 groups we were assigned to a specific classrooms. I was with the 3rd years. On the way to the classroom two of the kids wanted to hold my hand and walk with me. I couldn’t feel happier. The teachers took like thousands of pictures of the three of us. I made new friends right in that moment. The class had its own program for us and everything was fun, mainly watching the kids being sooo excited. Their joy was almost visible as waves of energy in the air. But I would prefer not doing the whole “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” four times in a row and singing it with a microphone while doing so. The tempo of that song was changing in a weird way but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

Lunch was the last thing that awaited us in that school. My group was eating in the cafeteria and the system of Japanese school cafeteria is just amazing. Almost every system like that is really well done in Japan. Maybe this system was a bit adjusted for the kids but that makes it even more amazing. We ate curry and drank milk. The portion was so big I just couldn’t finish all of it, so I gave the rest to someone else. Together with my jelly. Even while eating, the kids were coming to us and introducing themselves. They always tried their very best.

Then we said our thanks and were headed to a dojo for Kyudo. The dojo had a tradition to follow when entering and leaving which was the first sign of the spiritual nature of what was about to happen. A very well done lecture about Kyudo was given by the masters and then they helped us getting in the traditional clothes. We looked so cool in those. I felt really confident while wearing it.

Kyudo has exact steps to follow before and after shooting the arrow. Following them has a spiritual meaning to it and some of us really enjoyed this part of Japanese style of archery. I enjoyed the feeling that it’s not as hard as it looks. After a short practice without the arrows we were able to shoot. Not once. Not twice. Multiple times. I couldn’t hit the exact target anyway. But still it was really interesting and rewarding. Literally. We received an award for hitting a balloon, or in my case, for trying hard. And also other gifts. Japanese people are too kind.

When we left we had some time before our host families would come pick us up so we went for ice cream! What a nice ending of a long day. Even more so thanks to the deliciousness of the ショップドチョコレート (chipped chocolate) flavor.

For dinner with my host family we went to a sushi place and of course it was also delicious. It really felt like a dinner with family. Everyone was exhausted but still enjoying the presence of one another. I always try to remind them that they need to sleep more but they never listen!

We sang together on the way back and were welcomed by a loud “wan wan”. Honey, the dog, barks all the time. It’s like a little black sheep trying to gain some respect. After taking a shower I went to my room and now I can enjoy a nice sleep in this huge bed.

Helena Raichartová
(Czech Republic)

Climbing in the rain

Group picture by Oyama shrine with water evaporating from the shrine roof
Group picture by Oyama shrine with water evaporating from the shrine roof

Today was the first activity day of a new city, Isehara, which I also happened to be the city runner of! So, definitely no extra stress for me there, none whatsoever! My host family happened to live just 100 meters from Oyama elementary school, which we would visit in the morning, so instead of going 15 km the wrong way just to come back I walked straight to the school. I was earlier than the rest of the group, so I had time to talk with the principal before the activities.

I have to say, I was really nervous having my first proper morning meeting after 1st Session, and I’m sure it showed. But the group is very diligent and hardworking, so we survived and headed out for the activities with the kids. We would interact with the kids, signing dozens of forms accommodated with the ever-repeating cycle of “Hello! My name is _ What’s your name? Nice to meet you!” until we became deaf to the words we spoke. It was fun though, and the kids were really cute. Also, by my experience with Japanese elementary school kids their English was really good. Afterwards we tried to play a traditional game with spinning tops, at which I failed spectacularly, for the second year in a row. At least no-one but me was hurt. Anyways. Finally, we got kanji for our names from the fifth and sixth graders and then tried to write them ourselves. I was dubbed “the friend in heavens”. Charming, although could be interpreted as somewhat sad as well.

After the school visit we had a delicious lunch of tofu in various forms. The lunch charged our batteries enough so that we were ready to tackle the final challenge of the day, climbing Mt. Oyama! We put on traditional pilgrim clothes and climbed the approach to the cable car station. When we reached the station, however, the dark, rainy clouds of doubt descended upon us, quite literally. Luckily though, the LOC were not shaken by small drizzle and we continued up the endless steps along the mountainside. Halfway up the mountain the rain got worse and towards the end we were running up waterfalls. Also, who had the great idea of making a hiking trail that consists of 97% stairs? In any case, we made our way to the top, drenched, exhausted and with a lifelong hatred of stairs, but happy at our achievement.

We had some time to gather our thoughts and change before we were given a tour of the shrine. We learned a lot of interesting things about the shrine, Oyama, connection between Shinto gods and Pokemon, and much more. It was a great ending to this very active day.

Juuso Myller (Finland)

Elementary School Visit and Murou-ji Temple in Uda

In the morning, most of us went to Murou elementary school to interact with the children there. This is the first time for me to visit an elementary school in Japan, and I was really amazed by the friendly and polite reaction the young kids had when we were doing our presentation in the gymnasium.

Then, we were assigned to participate in different classes. Talking to the fifth graders was really fun; everyone was so active! Especially, there was this one boy in my class who was apparently receiving a special education, and other kids kept helping and encouraging him in such a natural way that impressed me a lot: obviously, the help from his classmates and their friendship had contributed a lot to him. He was not afraid of foreigners at all and could even understand a little bit of English!

After a very nice school lunch and a crazy outdoor playing time with the kids, we departed for the Murou-ji Temple. The history of the temple was highly related to Chinese Buddhism, so it was actually really interesting for me to listen to the tour guide’s explanation. And climbing up the stairs became a nice exercise as well. The view aside the stairs was incredible.

At the end of the day, we made sushi with our host family at home for dinner! Highlight of the day——great Japanese food as always!

Yunzhi Liu (China)

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)