Omura City Theme – Peace and Conflict / Social Welfare

On Feb. 21st, the 8th local Fureai event in Omura took place. The event was created to bring physically and mentally challenged people, local volunteers and elementary school children together to develop an understanding of the world around us. The World Campus — Japan Spring 2008 Class also was invited to participate as guests.

After the opening ceremony and an introduction of World Campus International, everyone joined in playing some games. The warm atmosphere made it easy for the WCI participants to communicate and exchange hand-made name cards. The definite highlight was dancing all together to the songs of the Big Country Jazz Orchestra, who also came to play at the event as volunteers.

These four precious hours went by very quickly and soon it was time to say goodbye. As Mr. Ashizuka, a staff member at the Kibo-no-Sato (Village of Hopes) facility for people with disabilities said: “If you touch one’s body, you touch one’s heart”. Thanks to his initiative and the help of so many others, 380 hearts were moved with happiness that day.

Peace and  ConflictThis event was not the only thing which added to our tour’s main theme that week. As Nagasaki is one of the most important places to study the full tragedy of an Atomic bombing, we spent a day at the Nagasaki Peace Center. The center is not only providing historical facts about the A-bombing, but also trying to educate people about recent Atomic tests and the importance of world peace.

World Campus International also invited Mr. Hirose, a survivor of the Nagasaki A-bomb who recently received a prize for his engagement in Korea-Japan cooperation, to speak to our group. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all to gain first hand historical information. During the following meeting we discussed our varied personal and cultural points of view on this topic. The main focus however was on the involvement both of Japan and America in WW II and we came to the conclusion that history is like a mosaique. We can learn and add pieces one by one to form a big and colorful picture of our past.

During both the Fureai Event and the trip to the Nagasaki Peace Center I realized how important it is to become involved in the world surrounding us. Because I am German I have a very sensitive view of WW II, but the trip to Nagasaki opened up a new dimension of this war to me. I have learned that no one can ever win a war, and that everyone was suffering from the irreparable destruction of the bodies and souls of so many people. Yet, no one can ever change what has happened and it is our duty and responsibility to make sure that Nagasaki is the last city ever to be destroyed by an atomic bomb. The Fureai Event on the other hand changed me in quite a different way. Before the event I was really nervous because I had never interacted with physically and mentally challenged people before. Early in the event, when a girl came up to me, touched my hand, and smiled, all of my worries were gone. Communication is not a matter of language or spoken words, it starts within us – it does not know any boundaries. World peace is based on this theory of communication and will be always a possibility as long as we try.

(Katharina Haack, Germany)

Shorinji Kempo Experience

Shorinji Kempo ExperienceOn Feb. 17th, World Campus – Japan participants got to try out our Kempo-skills with children and instructors from Omura. I personally have little experience with martial arts, only in Judo. Shorinji Kempo has a few elements in common with Judo, and it also seems very similar to karate. There is a lot of punching and kicking, even though one of their main principals is not to attack first. It is important for them to focus on self defense and to use their strength to protect the weak.

Furthermore, Kempo is more than just martial arts, as it has strong relations to Buddhism. The ultimate goal of Shorinji Kempo is to prepare students to be respectable members of society. Half of your focus should be on your wellbeing, and half should be on the welfare of others. With this mentality they hope to create a better society.

With that said, the first impressions I had after seeing the demonstration by the trainers, and talking about the “Kyusho” (weak spots), I feared being beaten and hurt for a couple of hours. In the end, this physical part of Kempo holds great value as it is important to know the pain you may have to inflict onto others.

It was actually more of the fun and less of the pain. We started out with a warm-up, which was nice because I was cold after taking off my two pairs of socks and long underwear. We followed the kids as well as we could, and after some time we paired up with them for a fun competition.

Later on the kids taught us some movements after the instructor showed us the basics. It was not scary, it was not painful. I am even considering learning martial arts when I return home.

(Henning Rodtwitt, Norway)

Team Building during the Class Orientation – Getting to know Japan and each other

Since Omura city was the very first stop for the February – April 2008 World Campus — Japan participants, we spent time talking about Japanese culture and norms, getting to know each other through various team building activities and preparing for our weekly community appreciation event – the “Arigato Evento”.

World Campus - Japan class February 2008

One of the team-building activities was called “Story of your life” where participants sat around in a circle to voice memorable events in their lives and hobbies. Then the participants found a counterpart who shares a similar experience or hobby to get to know each other even more.

Parts of the “Arigato Evento” preparation also focused on learning Japanese songs as well as for preparing “Cultural Pieces”. This is where international participants have the opportunity to demonstrate songs, dances and literary works from their country of origin. The creation of a stage performance itself became a great bonding experience.

The high point of the “Arigato Evento” preparation was learning a Japanese song with sign language. “Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no hana” (the one and only flower in the world), is a very popular song originally performed by a Japanese boy-band. The song contains a significant message which is also important for the path to becoming a global citizen: everyone is unique and should be valued for what they are.

Welcome Party in Omura City for the Feb – April 08 Class!

On the evening of the 12th of February, a welcome party was prepared for the members of the World Campus International (WCI) spring session and the host families. We were treated with a sparkling performance of Taiko (Japanese drums), and then “Big Country Jazz Orchestra”, which consist entirely of amateur musicians. The great performance lifted everybody’s spirits. Participants of WCI and the host families danced along to the fantastic music.

My host father, Mr. Okuma, is the president of Up with Omura. He remarked that the welcome party was exceedingly pleasant and his heart was sobbing happily. He was extremely pleased with the enthusiasm shown by all the participants. He likes World Campus a lot because it is a program through which he can share his own philosophy and learn the culture of others. He really enjoys organizing the activities for us and mentioned he gets so much back in return. Therefore, he offers thanks to the participants for “being such wonderful people”. At the party everyone contributed and gained much in return.

I really enjoyed the evening and I am certain that all the host families, WCI participants, and Up with Omura members also did. Writing about a perfect evening isn’t easy, so I’ll summarize with a quote from my host father, “Meni Meni happi taimu!”

(Jotter Verhaeghe, Belgium)