First Activity Day of 2012 in Nara

Date of Activity: July 19th

On our first activity day in Uda, Nara we got to experience a form of zen meditation called “zazen”. Some days in advance I had already heard some rumours that there was going to be a man with some sort of whipping stick involved, hitting people if they were sitting in a wrong position or falling asleep, etc. Me being me (I’ve tried meditating before, but I always ended up tired after 10 seconds) I figured that I’d probably be one of the first being hit.

We drove up to this really nice temple called “Renshouzen-ji”, where we were met by the monk that was going to guide us through the zazen. The first thing we did before we started was to join our hands in prayer and bow to a statue of Buddha. We then proceeded to another room to begin the zazen. Already at the first part, where we learned the right way to sit, some people were having difficulties. We had to first put our right ankle on our left thigh, and then our left ankle on our right thigh, which can be REALLY hard. And painful. When meditating, we had to sit in this position without moving, with our backs very straight, not even moving our sight and – that was seemingly the most important part – not moving our thoughts. We were told to count our breathing from one to ten over and over again until the meditation was over. I’m not sure if there was even one person who managed to do this throughout the whole thing. We ended the zazen by bowing to the statue of Buddha again.

After having lunch, we met up with a bunch of elementary school kids and played lots of games from our countries with them! For about two hours the room was filled with running, screaming and laughter, a big contrast to the silence we experienced during the zazen earlier that day. We ended the day drawing personal flags. Soon the floor was covered with rainbows, animals, moustaches and whatever else people felt represented them. Oh, and everyone was given ice cream. That made me happy.

(Maria Sørlid, Norway)

Making obento and cutting bamboo

Date of activity: July 17th

This day was sunny and hot in Suita City. We all have had different experiences with our host families during the week and also different transportation experiences. Some of us are driven to the facility, some of us ride the train, some of us walk a little and some of us walk a lot.

Anyway, we started the day by having a morning meeting, and then we started preparing Japanese lunch-boxes or ‘Obento’.

These boxes are what people take to their jobs or different activities, but they have become almost a work of art!

Bamboo and Obento

You can make cartoon characters with your rice, or make little sausages look like octopus, wrap cheese like if it was candy, it’s so crazy! But it was really fun.
After that, we took the train to a park where there is a small Bamboo forest area.

Bamboo and Obento

We met up with some local volunteers that take care of the area, cut the bamboo, take out the weeds, and keep it clean. I learned that bamboo, when it’s starting to grow, can grow up to 50cms in one night! I have also learned, here in Japan, that you can eat Bamboo! It’s quite delicious.

We got to experience cutting down bamboo trees and also make our own bamboo footrests. Another unique experience! Keep the fun coming!

Paulina – Mexico

Suita, Osaka – Host family day and Personal Day of 2012

Date of activity: July 15th and 16th

Host Family Day was about exploring some interesting places in Osaka. We visited shitenno-ji, which is a large Shinto sanctuary in Osaka, the famous castle (Osaka-jô) and a Japanese style festival (matsuri).

hostfamily + personal day

Even if I didn’t get to see most of the big conglomerate called Osaka, I did see the things that are well-known there. I went there with my host mother and her cousin. It was a hot day, the sun was shining brightly with almost no clouds, and it could have easily been at least 35 degrees Celsius. First we went to Shitenno-ji, and then we went to a big shopping mall in Osaka, where we went to the Ninja Store to buy some ninja tabi (special shoes). After that we went to eat ramen for lunch; I had Kimchi Ramen, which was very good, recommended! Then we headed for Osaka Castle, but we were kind of late for the last round to actually go into the castle, so we could only observe the castle from the outside. After that, we went home, because everyone was already exhausted due to the hot weather. I went to a matsuri nearby. It ended with a spectacular firework show. It was nice, and I was very, very tired when I got home. Fast asleep!

On Personal Day, I went to Kyoto with Louise (Rui-chan from now on) and Belinda from Denmark. First I met up with Belinda at Kita-Senri station, and we took the train to Tomotsû, where Rui-chan would join us. From there it was 45 minutes to Kyoto Karasuma station. From here we took the metro to Karasuma Oike station, where we got off. We went to the Manga Museum, but to our regret, it wasn’t what we had in mind what it would be. So, we went out and headed towards Nijô Castle which was a 15-minute walk in the blazing hot sun.

hostfamily + personal day

It was at least 36 degrees Celsius, with the same kind of weather as the day before. Hot, hot, hot. The Danish girls couldn’t take it so much, and even for me it was something I had to get used to since we don’t get this kind of weather in Holland. It took our toll, and after a few hours of strolling through the lush gardens of the castle, we went back to Osaka and to Yamada Station, where we would have dinner. After that, calling it a day, we parted and went back to our host families.

Anlong – The Netherlands

The Suita arigatou event of 2012

Date of activity: July 14th

This day started of as most days did this week. It was hot… but traveling by train makes it better, because it has airco! After arriving at the facility we immediately started rehearsing our dances and songs. Some local kids joined in and after playing around a bit they started the preparations for their performance later that evening. Because of the great amount of participants this session the amount of host families and other spectators was larger than usual. This however is a good thing, because performing for a bigger audience really makes you feel like the work you put into learning the dances is worth it. Laughing at us, enjoying our dances and songs and singing with us! This creates a great atmosphere, especially with many people! Before the event the kids performed their dance. It was a Japanese style dance with a lot of great dance moves and action. Then the event begun and we had a great evening having fun with the audience. Afterwards we all went our separate ways back home with our host families and I for one enjoyed a very nice dinner. In other words: I ate sushi!! NomNomNom!! In short, it was a great day with lots of sweat, but it was totally worth it!

Jurrien – The Netherlands