Date of activity: June 18th
Waking up in the morning I was wondering if going to a Japanese High School would be fun. Thinking back about my own days in high school I expected the students to either be too shy to speak to us or to not be interested in a group of foreigners like ourselves at all. I have stayed with some host families in Japan that included high schoolers and most of them tend to be shy or uninterested.
Arriving at the school we were welcomed by a tight looking welcoming committee. We were led to a room in which we were briefed about what classes we would join that day etc. Me and some other fellow WCI participants were led to the calligraphy classroom. This is where the madness begun. Upon entering the room, each of us was greeted by hysterical screams of teenage girls, as if they were proposed to by Justin Bieber. Given the fact that 80% of the students at ariake shinsei are girls, this day was bound to get more crazy. When the screaming went over into giggling, we sat down and got to try out Japanese calligraphy. We were asked to write/paint the kanji for flower (花), 3 strokes with the brush and a spoken sentence in Japanese was enough to get the girls praising and screaming again. Doing calligraphy was much fun and we were taught several ways to write/paint it. For example trying to let your writing/painting style be influenced by keeping a certain type of flower in mind.
Next up was handicraft class, after introducing ourselves and going through the same screaming ritual as before, we were invited to make silly sculptures out of clay on a potter’s wheel.
We all gave it a try, had a laugh and soon the class was over. On the way to the next class, one of the Dutch participants, Robin, was attacked by a group of girls who wanted to take pictures with him. After he fought his way back to freedom, we went on to our next class, which in my case was Japanese History. The teacher spoke some English and really did his best to tell us about the history of the famous coal mines of Omuta. We were then divided into groups and asked to talk about our culture with the students. My group ended up having a conversation about hobbies, foods, history, etc. which was good practice for my Japanese and their English. In short, an educative and fun hour.
After a fulfilling lunch with lots of interaction with the students all WCI participants gathered in a room where we started a discussion with some of the school’s teachers. We got to ask them questions about the school and they got to ask questions about the school systems in our different countries. This is where we were told that Ariake Shinsei gives students the opportunity to strive for whatever goal they have in life, as they are able to choose between 110 different subjects to study. I was really amazed by this and I think a concept like this would work quite well for some students in the Netherlands as well.
At the end of the day we were invited to visit the teppanbu, which is basically a baking club that makes Japanese pancakes. The pancakes they made were unique to Omuta though. I was rather surprised to see how they put layer after layer after layer of weird topping combinations on the pancakes, these included bacon, seaweed, mayonnaise, shaved fish flakes and more. It didn’t exactly seem tasty to me, but it was pretty good after all.
On this day a lot of my expectations and thoughts were proven wrong, which I consider a good thing since it means I learned something. This was a very educational, crazy and fun day that left quite an impression on me, I’m already hoping to come back to Japan next year and experience this day again!
Daniel van Delft – The Netherlands