Lunchboxes and driving school!


Day of activity: August 10th 2015

Today was our final activity day here in Tama. We started the day off by going to a local community center and meeting up with some local Japanese students. We actually knew quite a few of them since they had organized various fun activities for us on personal day, so it was fun to meet up again and do something together.

Following our meeting up with the students, we were split into two groups for the activities in the community center: one group that would do tai-chi, and one that would cook lunch for everyone- I was in the latter group.

The special thing about the lunch we were cooking was that we would be making ‘Kyara-ben’- character bento lunchboxes. My team would be making Pikachu and Kumamon (the omnipresent mascot of Kumamoto city) bentos. At first, we simply made the other items that would go along with the characters: rolls of fried egg, broccoli wrapped in bacon, fried chicken, etc. Then came the tricky part: making the actual characters! Pikachu in particular proved challenging since I had to make the proportions of its face somewhat even- that went… Ok… As for my Kumamon, he ended up being more disturbing/terrifying than cute. But in the end everyone told us that our creations looked and tasted great 🙂

After lunch, we all visited a local driving school. I was rather impressed by the size of the school- they had several classrooms and simulators for teaching their students. We were greeted by one of the instructors who put us through a memory test that elderly Japanese drivers have to take. A lot of us came close to remembering all the pictures we were shown, but no one could get a perfect score (the ‘pineapple’ and ‘sparrow’ cards in particular proved difficult!). Once the test was over, we got to try some ‘drunk vision’ goggles- nothing like being drunk if you ask me, but still majorly disorientating! After that, some of us even got to try the driving simulators- the results left much to br desired…! Once our activities were done, the final group of participants received their well-earned certificates of completion. It was a very emotional moment 🙂

We had a great final day in Tama, even if it was tinged with the sadness of knowing that we would have to say our goodbyes the next day.

Simon Presley (Denmark)

National Diet Visit 2015

National diet

Day of activity: August 5th 2015

On the way from Abiko to our new host families in Tama, we made a stop at the National Diet building. This is the place where the people’s political representatives gather. It is similar to a parlament in Europe.

After a guided tour through the building, including the emperor’s chambers and the main meeting room, we had a chance to actually meet one of the people’s representatives. He was Mr. Kado from the Liberal Democratic Party.

We asked several questions. One of them was concerning his solution for the growing urbanization. Because young people go to the big cities, it leaves the elderly out in the countryside, with no one left to take care of them.

We were also curious about the coming summer olympics in Tokyo. More specifically, the games will bring a lot of foreigners to the country. At this point in time, the Japanese language skill and cultural understanding might not be sufficient to adequately host so many foreigners.

So, we asked Mr. Kado how he thinks this problem will be solved.

His answer included the belief in technological advancement in instant-translation devices, but also the fact that an influx of tourists (although mostly Asian)
could help the Japanese shed the idea of a secluded society (one that still lingers since the end of the Edo era).

Personally, I would have liked to hear some attempt to make the Japanese interested in going abroad themselves, instead of counting on the people of other nations to come to Japan.
Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear his opinion.

After our meeting with Mr. Kado, he was kind enough to pose for a group photo with us. A few minutes later we were back on track to meet our new host families in Tama…

Wim Naessens (Belgium)

Our last day in Abiko: Chou Gakuin University

Furoshiki experience

Day of activity: August 4th 2015

Today was a day filled with interaction with students. The morning began with the arrival at Chuo Gakuin University, where we met up with a group of students from two universities. We had a day full of activities before us, so we soon began with the first one. Our first activity for the day was a lesson in using furoshiki. For those of you who have never heard of furoshiki before, it is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that is used to carry around all kinds of things.

After we all sat down in groups containing Japanese students and World Campus Japan members, we began very simply by making a small traditional hat.

We then wrapped and knotted several things with the cloths. The one I liked most was wrapping a bottle in such a way that it looked like it was wearing a kimono. It looked very pretty and it was fairly easy to do.

Next time I give a bottle of wine as a present I will probably wrap it like this.

Even though I liked the bottle kimono the most, it was also the most ‘useless’ thing that we made. All the other things we wrapped had some use other than just being pretty. For example, we wrapped a watermelon into the cloth in such a way that made it very easy to carry (as far as a watermelon can be ‘easy to carry’). We also made a bag, a backpack, and we learned how to wrap 2 bottles together to make them easy to carry. I was surprised by how many things you can do with just a square cloth.

After the furoshiki workshop had finished, it was already time to have lunch. Together with the students, we put our own lunch together. The lunch consisted of a hotdog and a ham-and-cheese sandwich, which was a nice change from all the rice (although I have to admit that the average bento box tastes a lot better).

After lunch we went to play a few games, beginning with our very ‘mature’ variant of Jankenpon (rock-paper-scissors) called Evolution. The students had chosen a mimicking game and a game of musical chairs. It was a lot of fun. I think that playing games and having a workshop like the furoshiki one are very good ways to interact with the Japanese students since most of them speak very little English. And the games and workshop allowed us to interact and have fun together without having to talk a lot.

After the games it was already five o’clock and time to go back to our host homes. My little host sister of 12 had promised to show me kendo, and today she brought her uniform with her. She was so kind to let me try it on. But as expected the uniform reached till just underneath my knees.

Since the clothing is quite loose I could still easily put it on though, and while I was dressed in my small kendo uniform, my host sister taught me some kendo techniques. Sometimes it was hard to understand what she was trying to explain since her English is just as limited as my Japanese (which is almost non-existent). Even so, she tried really hard and it was a lot of fun to do.

It was already the last day of our stay here in Abiko, so this night my host family was obliged to fulfill their promise to take me to a ‘rotation sushi’ restaurant. They could not explain it very well, but basically it was a restaurant where most of the serving was done by a conveyor belt. You can order sushi (and other kinds of food) using a touch screen, and then your order would be brought to your table by the conveyor belt. It was a lot of fun to see all the different kinds of sushi and other food (and apple juice) pass you by on the conveyor belt. I never knew that there were so many things you could make sushi out of! Sushi knows a lot more variety here in Japan than in the Netherlands.

After our last dinner together we went back home. It was sad to think about our inevitable goodbye tomorrow morning.

Yolande Schuijtvlot (The Netherlands)