Today we visited Kumamoto Prefectural University and Kumamoto YMCA. The university students all study English and introduced themselves to us in English, much to my surprise. We responded by introducing ourselves in Japanese. We then decided to play a ‘stereotype game’, in which the students all wrote down their impressions of all 9 countries represented by World Campus (and one by a British teacher). Students (and teachers) then got a chance to comment and correct these statements. It was a nice icebreaker and a truly amazing way to learn about each other’s countries, as well as seeing what other know about your country.
We then moved to Kumamoto YMCA, where various foreigners study Japanese. We spent over 1,5 hours talking to each other in small groups, learning about everything from their country to their dreams for the future. It was a rather pleasant experience, seeing as we now got a chance to have some serious conversations with people our age in a similar situation as ourselves, despite the fact that some languages barriers were still present.
This was followed by a short trivia game about our countries as well as the YMCA student’s countries. The questions were hard, but interesting, and taught us a lot.
On the second host family day of the second session, Oda (from Norway), the Hamada family and I went to visit the Kumamoto castle. It was so beautiful! Apparently they had just renovated certain areas, which attracted many tourists. The view from the top floor was incredible; it was really interesting to see how one side of Kumamoto was a concrete jungle, and the opposite side was entirely covered in trees. We had a lot of fun taking pictures and exploring the castle.
After a 30-minute drive we arrived at the Aeon shopping mall, and it was huge! We didn’t have the time to see everything, but after a nice bowl of ramen and a few cute shops we went home to take a rest. It was really hot outside, so by the afternoon everyone was a bit exhausted.
Later in the evening, after dinner, a friend of the family came by with a surprise; she used to be a Yukata-teacher, an thus she wanted to teach Oda and me how to wear Yukata. We chose our Yukata and helped each other in putting them on correctly. Once we were all dressed up our host family told us we could keep the Yukata as a gift; so generous!
We then went to eat some midnight icecream, which was a bit hard dressed in a Yukata, since it’s quite tight and heavy. But it was really nice, and altogether this day was a lot of fun.
I really love host family days because you get to know each other better. You finally get to know the people you’re staying with, and they get to know their guest. Especially when you go shopping you learn what everyone likes or dislikes. We had a great time with the Hamada family, and hopefully we’ll see each other next year!
Deyanira Velasquez-de Beer (The Netherlands)
Today, we went to Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto. This hospital is unique because of the so-called Stork’s Cradle, where people can give their baby away anonymously. Before the visit, we did some preparation at a nearby YMCA, which consisted of basic information about the hospital and the Stork’s Cradle, and we had several debates about topics like abortion, nationality, and anonymity. Because these topics are so delicate and hard to answer ethically, there were many different opinions. We also learned a lot about our countries though these conversations. Generally there are a lot of opportunities if adopting in the participating countries, but not many of them have something similar to the Stork’s Cradle.
When we got to the hospital, we first got to look at the Cradle itself, where people can physically give up their baby. You can either ring the bell for assistance from the staff, and then decide whether you still want to give your baby away, or you can just put the baby in the special baby hatch. Even though you can do it without talking to the staff, there is a letter in the hatch addressed to the parents. This explains that they can get their baby back if they get regrets in the future.
These and many other topics were talked about in a PowerPoint presentation by the founder of the baby hatch, Dr. Hasuda. He also explained why the organization was founded; to stop the killing of unwanted babies in Japan. In spite of the internal debate in the Japanese government, the permit was granted to Dr. Hasuda in 2007. During the rest of the meeting we could ask Dr. Hasuda questions.
The day was very educational and contributed something very special to the program, I believe.
Amalie Nielsen (Denmark)
The last day in Arao was host family day, whish, as the name implies, is a day you spend with your host family. I think it’s a great day, because you really get to bond with your host family. In Arao I stayed with the Hatao family, who also host me last year. We went to Miyazaki, which is three to four hours to the south-east of Arao by car. My oldest host sister, Yuri, had motor cross training there (she is super cool!). It was up on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, which I thought was pretty awesome. We actually drove there in the family’s bus, which sometimes seemed too big for the narrow road we were driving on.
After that, we drove a little more, to a shrine called Udojingu. The place was huge, with several temples close to the sea. It was amazingly beautiful. We made wished by throwing a special kind of stone onto a turtle-shaped rock. I wished for the health of my host father, who, even though he was pretty sick that day, drove us all the way there and back again.
We ended our trip by eating some delicious food at a restaurant where we were given homemade gifts by the lady who owned the place. I was sad that I had to leave them the next day, but I had a wonderful last day with them in Miyazaki, and we parted with promises to meet each other again next year.
Date of Activity: July 5th
Even though we had visited an elementary school yesterday, the reaction of Japanese kids to visits of the World Campus group never fails to surprise. Whereas the children from the elementary school seemed to look up to us (even though we did not do anything exceptional), the reception of the kids from the kindergarten was of a different kind. Indeed, the focus of today’s activities were lay on our visit to the Megumi Kindergarten.
When we first entered, the children all acted quite shy, even after you had played with them for a while. This changed gradually during the day. After having fun making mochi and eating the delicious pieces of ‘rice dough’, we got to play with the small kids some more. Caution had been replaced with genuine fun, visible from the happy looks we received. Today was something special.
In the afternoon we were to visit the sword-smith Matsunaga Genrokurou, one of the few blacksmiths in Japan that actually makes katana not for the purpose of simply displaying them. The man talked with such vigor about his work, which reflected on our experience as well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves even more than normal (and overly enjoying yourself is something quite inherent to the World Campus program, I noticed). Being allowed to try out pounding hot iron in Matsunaga’s workshop and swinging his swords, made the day even better.
Wester Wagenaar (The Netherlands)