After settling down in Kyoto the JASC delegate set out to explore Japans ancient capital. The JASC delegate split up into three groups, one went to Urasenke to participate in the Chado tea ceremony tradition, another went to the Toraya factory to see and sample some of Japans most famous sweets and the last group went to Nishihonganji, one of Kyoto’s renowned temples. Everyone enjoyed taking a break from meetings and work and finally getting some down time to tour Japan. We then returned to the Kyoto Utano Hostel to have round table reflection. As deadlines approach groups are having to think more critically about the aspects they have learned about each other’s nations and final forum presentations.
6:30am: The usual time for waking up during JASC. However, this day, I was particularly
tired from observing a four-hour conference centered around the prospects for
Shimane’s regional revitalization. I participated in the conference as well,
providing ideas for educational enrichment and how education could be used as a
tool to convince people to migrate and, ideally, live in the area.
Made it into the newspaper!
7:00am: Packing. This is the moment I finally realized that I was soon leaving Shimane’s beauty. Yet, I was not leaving the memories behind. My okaasan and obaasan treated me to a variety of Shimane’s unique activities and sights, including: a boat trip around Matsue Castle, the wonders of the castle itself,
8:00am: Breakfast. Potatoes again.
9:00am: Round table. The true highlight of the conference; this is what we set out nearly 24 hours of travel time and 12,000 miles to achieve. Today’s highlight included my gained knowledge of the difference between ippanshoku & sougoushoku (don’t know what it is? Should have been in JASC!)
12:15pm: Departure – a particularly bittersweet time. On one hand, I could finally venture outside the building past 10:30pm and explore the wonders that Japan had to offer. However, Shimane’s rural charm is forever etched into my mind.
2:30pm: We reached the first service stop on our long (seven hour) bus ride. This particular stop was situated in Okayama prefecture, curiously known for its delicious milk products.
4:30pm: I slept for the majority of the bus ride, and this service stop included. Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure where we were on the map, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the comfort (and air conditioned atmosphere) of the bus ride.
7:00pm: Arrival! Admittedly, I mostly explored the darkness of my eyelids the entire trip. However, when I was conscious, I was in awe at the green rice fields scattered along the highway. When we arrived in Kyoto itself, I was surprised that the weather was not as hot and humid as my round table partner (from Kyoto) warned.
The Future: Final forum is approaching rapidly and, admittedly, I am terrified, perhaps at the likely chance of presenting unprepared. Nonetheless, I am determined not to stress about it. Rather, I’m looking towards the future in other ways. For example, I’m excited to further explore Kyoto’s breathtaking beauty – perhaps its famous sites such as Kyoumizudera Shrine. I also want a taste of city life (and a preview of Tokyo’s eccentricity) in the Gion Shopping District. Finally, I intend to reinforce the valuable friendships I have thus far with my fellow delegates.
After nearly a week in beautiful Shimane, the 67th JASC delegation brought the second
leg of our program to a close with a forum on regional revitalization and following reception.
The day started off as any other at our Sunlake residence: at 6AM; a classical musical track wafted through the hallways and bedrooms as our cue to wake. A light cafeteria breakfast came soon after – and by mid-morning, most of us were fully awake and ready to tackle the day. For a volunteer task force of 14 (One Japanese and one American delegate from each RT group), this morning was spent prepping for a presentation to the residents of Shimane later that afternoon.
Split into three groups, delegates focused on innovating for regional revitalization across three sectors: tourism, industry, and education. I myself was a member of the tourism group, which discussed ways in which to sustainably attract both national and international visitors to the prefecture. After all the meetings, we had a light lunch and (for some, with nervous excitement) headed to the Prefectural Office to share our ideas with Shimane community members and to the rest of the delegation. Several important guests were present, including commentators from well-known businesses in each of the three sectors. Tourism was first, and suggested a linear marketing process for Shimane to follow
(centralize and define a powerful brand image, increase accessibility to the region and its information, and follow up with locally-based resources while keeping a global perspective).
As a digital marketer, I personally wanted to stress the importance of a unified marketing strategy – and expressed this by comparing the differences and issues with Shimane’s Japanese, Korean, and English tourism websites. I’ll be the first to admit that my nerdy obsession with digital marketing made me want to go on and on about this particular fix, but our presentation made sure to equally represent other ideas (such as development of a winter activities program to encourage tourism in more stagnant months).
Industry and Education brought up interesting points that played to Shimane’s strengths
in the medical and IT fields. By expressing and developing the talent and focus of the region, both groups sought to emphasize Shimane as a place for businesses to thrive and for eager students to begin specializing. The Industry group also mentioned the possibility of exporting Shimane products in the developing markets of Southeast Asia, and the Education group thought to utilize the large number of empty dormitories in Shimane to help create or convert new charter and boarding schools in the region. Each group’s presentation was followed by special commentary from Shimane leaders in each respective sector, and question/answer sections also brought out more interesting points from the minds of all the delegates.
After a successful forum and many speeches later, the delegation found itself at the
beautiful English Garden in Matsue, where (thanks to the generosity of Shimane industry leaders and members of the community) delegates, special guests, and host families broke bread together over a beautiful spread of food and drink. Shimane gave two brief performances: one of samurai culture and another by the costumed prefectural mascot, Shimanekko (Shimanekko is a yellow cat, dressed with icons from Shimane’s famous historical Izumo Taisha shrine).
Many photo ops, small plates, and business cards later, the delegation sadly bid good-bye
to our newfound friends, program supporters, and respected community leaders (as tomorrow we were to move to our third location, Kyoto)! The memories of Shimane, however, will forever stay in our hearts. The smiles of our homestay families and the shared countryside experience were an excellent part of our JASC programming, and we gained a perspective many of us would never have seen otherwise. Dan-dan (thank you), Shimane! Until we meet again.
My first experience in Japan was in Ishikawa, Komatsu – a small town tucked in the western side of the main island of Honshu.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, I fell in love with the true Japan.
A week in Shimane reminded me of the first few feelings that I felt landing at Komatsu airport.
Such feelings were excitement, joy, a fear of the unknown and the feeling of being stuck in Inaka Japan.
To a country boy that was raised outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and turned city boy due to living in New York and Boston, Komatsu came in with mixed feelings and so did Shimane.
However, surrounded by nature and open fields, Shimane brought upon me time to reflect.
Moments of serendipity that are rare when boggled down by a crazy schedule and fast-paced cities like Boston, New York and Tokyo.
Since the summer of the year 2011 to now the summer of the year 2015, in the timespan of these 5 summers, I’ve traveled to Japan more than 10 times, completed multiple internships, studied abroad, worked as a consultant at multiple companies culminating to me being now a member of 67th JASC. I could not think of any other way to end my college career and mark the beginning of my life as a Shakaijin in Japan.
Nonetheless, the never ending sea of rice fields and rows of mountains forced me to ponder upon the original reason why I decided to learn Japanese.
The reason actually stems from my time living in Haiti.
The Haitian market is dominated by Japanese goods. From Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Isuzu and more, Japanese cars made made up an overwhelming amount of the vehicles on the street.
The television predominantly showed Japanese shows such as Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z and such all translated into French or English. Onigiri were redrawn to be burgers, names were changed and made to have an American or French flair to mask the Japanese influence.
Once I realized the Japanese influence that was hidden in the shadows, I was astonished to see how a country so far has such an influence on a small country like Haiti. This officially launched me on a quest to learn more about Japan and how it became a leading soft power player in the world.
Never did it occurred to me that I would be coming to Shimane, the land of the gods and cradle of many of Japan’s cultural influences.
In the silent and moon-bathed nights of Shimane, I was able to remember and likewise reflect on the original mission that I had in mind when I decided to learn more about Japan.
We started our fourth day in Shimane in a cloudy day, which was pretty good for us
because usually the sun light was too strong.
But, the sceneries in Shimane are always beautiful.
After about one hour bus riding, we arrived at Nakamura Brace Corporation. During the presentation,
we are all amazed by Mr. Nakamura’s story for founding his company. I am deeply inspired by Mr.
Nakamura’s story because we all have dreams, and we are trying hard for achieving our dreams despite
other people told us our dreams are impossible.
This is the artificial hand that was produced by Nakamura Brace. At first glance, the hand was scary, but
it will help a lot of people who lost their hand.
Iwami-ginzan is the world heritage. There is a small town in Iwami-ginzan. The town keeps its original
atmosphere from the ancient period. Even the vending machine needs to merge into its style.
Kumagai family was the most powerful family in the area. We were very happy to visit the family’s home
as you can tell from the following photos.
After we finished our lovely lunch in Omori city.
We went to Onan city to discuss how to renovate the city. Yoshiteru-san and I think about letting
scientists and researchers to live in this peaceful place. It could be better for them concentrating on their projects, and at the same promote the education in the area.
Finally, our day ended with celebrating Ayaka-san’s birthday. Yeah!
We got to sleep in today!!! Whoooo! Well, we were only able
to sleep until around seven o’clock this morning, but it was something. At this
point, every second of sleep counts. #allsleepmatters
breakfast, we were separated by roundtables (RT) before boarding buses. It was
a twenty minute drive to Izumo Taisha, one of the most influential and
prominent Shinto shrines in Japan. On the way the religion RT, fondly called
“Rem Rem,” gave a presentation on Shinto religious characteristics and told us how
the world was created according to Shinto philosophy. The story is quite
interesting, so I’ll share it here on the blog. Before the world existed there
were two gods named Izanami, a female deity, and Izanagi, her male counterpart.
When these gods used a tool to stir the ocean, several drops of water dripped
off their utensil and formed several of the island of Japan. Although Izanami
and Izanagi saw that the newly created landmass was good, they were still not
content, so they took to their marriage bed. Izanami later gave birth to the
rest of the islands one by one. This story is just one of the grand bits of
Japanese mythology that we learned about today. We also heard the story about
how the gates of hell were sealed with a stone and about how the one of the
gods added land to Japan by stealing it from the Korean Peninsula. Shimane
prefecture is bursting with ancient stories passed down from generation to
generation. There is a deep relationship between religion, history, and life
here, resulting in a sense of mystery and intrigue. I, personally, (and I’m
sure many others share this feeling) believe that this connection with the
local culture and its past is very important and inspiring. We were lucky to be
able to learn about this all in person.
In addition to being a
famous shrine, Izumo Taisha has a long history and many interesting features.
It’s official name is Izumo Oyashiro, and it houses Okuninishi-no-kami, the god
of relationship building and interpersonal relationships between humans. Because
of this god’s area of expertise, girls often come to this shrine to pray for
marriage or their relationship status. This is prefect for all the
Since JASC is one of the best programs in the world (…maybe I’m biased…),we
were given special access to parts of the shrine that few people aside from the
monks ever see. We were privileged enough to be invited to observe a worship
ceremony. The entire event, though nearly thirty minutes long, included only
one priest, a priestess, and two drummers, all in long traditional robes. After
a few moments of Taiko style drumming, the priest chanted a gorgeous melody
from a scroll and systematically waved a specially designed flag towards the
alter. Then a brightly dressed priestess walked in a tight circle multiple time
while holding a rattle composed of a cone shape with bells hanging off of it
and a handle draped with long, sweeping ribbons in bold colors. At certain
points in her circle, the woman would twist her wrist, sending the shrill sound
of bells throughout the large worship hall. After walking in many circles, she
shook the rattle in our direction, which I assume was either a purification
ritual or a way of blessing us.
After attending the ceremonial event, we were invited behind another special
gate. Before we could enter, our leaders had to offer a tribute to
Okuninishi-no-kami. This is a very special process that deviates from the norm.
Our leaders wore white robes and held a small branch in their hands. We all
bowed twice, clapped our hands four times, prayed, and then bowed once more.
This process is unusual because the normal process to pray at a Shinto shrine
in Japan involves one bow, two claps, and then another single bow. We also
received a bit of sake to drink once we entered through the gate. A monk later
gave us an informational tour regarding some of the unique characteristics of
Izumo Taisha. This included explaining how the roof is made with bark and an
overview on the complexities of the shrine’s architectural designs. Once the
tour ended, we all headed to a restaurant to eat Shimane’s special soba!! It
was so good. It was also wonderfully cool on such a hot day. Many of us treated
ourselves to some refreshing ice cream in an attempt to find further relief
from the heat.
We then returned to our lodgings and began the American culture presentation.
This was done by a few people who had volunteered long before JASC officially
started. The presenters talked to us about certain aspects of racism and then
organized us all into smaller groups and mediated discussions. Because JASC has
a large amount of diversity amongst its delegates, it was interesting and
sometimes saddening to hear people’s experiences with prejudice and
discrimination. We were also prompted to talk about other race/sexuality
related issues such as America’s Affirmative Action legislation and the line
between harmless jokes and micro-aggression. While it was all engaging, the
portion I found especially interesting was the conversation about the relationship
between one’s personal identity and social labeling. I learned more about the
labeling that takes place everywhere, even in the U.S. census, and the sheer
amount of labels that Japan and the America have, whether they are meant in an
innocent or derogatory manner. Though it was a sensitive issue, all of the
delegates worked hard to create a non-judgmental and caring atmosphere, which
enabled depth in the conversation because no one felt it was necessary to
withhold their opinions.
Once the culture segment ended, the delegates formed their separate RTs and
began topic specific discussions like normal. RT time sped by, and soon it was
time for dinner. While we typically savor each bite of our meals (food is
wonderful), tonight we rushed each bite. The difference between tonight and
every other night was the impending talent show!!! We raced through dinner in
record time in order to find a spare moment to perfect our skills. It was well
worth it too. Everyone spent the evening in awe. Delegates and RTs preformed
standup comedy and dance routines. Groups also sang and played incredible
musical numbers. Each segment was so creative and skillful, and now the extent
of JASC talent has been revealed.
From learning about Japanese mythology, attending a Shinto worship ceremony,
engaging in deep discussions, and participating in the talent show (not to
mention everything else in between), it was a long and exhausting day. Every
day in JASC is a new adventure. Tomorrow will be no exception. So with that in
mind, I’m heading to bed. Over and out!
To be honest, I was very nervous to participate in home stay. With my incredibly limited knowledge of Japanese and worrying about violating proper etiquette in a Japanese home, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate or would come off as a rude American 😅 Luckily my 岡さん and かちょさん were very patient and understanding of the minor difficulties I had the first few hours of meeting me. I’m also super fortunate to have ミドリさん as a roommate/translator! Supposedly we’re all going to 温泉 tonight. I’m anxious again – but if JASC or my homestay experience has taught me anything, it’s that my anxieties are usually far worse than reality.
I started the day bleary-eyed, dressed in Business Formal, and a raisin bun in both hands. At 8:00, morning announcements were read, and we filed out of the Bunka Koryu Kaikan, each pulling out our fans in an effort to offset the Hiroshima heat. I have since been informed that I have not yet experienced real Japanese heat because Kyoto is next on our itinerary.
After a brief stint on the train, all 71 delegates of JASC were soon gathered outside of the Wendy Hito Machi Plaza. The day’s programming started with scheduled RT time. My fellow GEARS (Global Eco-hazard and Resource Sustainability) delegates were soon discussing our plans for promoting a more sustainable lifestyle in Tokyo. We focused on the wasteful abundance of vending machines, which adds to the consumption of plastic, and negates all efforts to use reusable water bottles. Next, we brainstormed ideas on how to slowly phase out the use of plastic bags in stores throughout Japan.
Lunch was served quickly, but personally, I was too excited for the Hiroshima Forum to eat. The first guest speaker was Mr. Sadao Yamamoto, a hibakusha (survivor of an A-bomb attack) who recounted his story for us. On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m, 3 B-29 bombers flew overhead as he worked in the field picking sweet potatoes. “We didn’t believe they would drop the bomb,” he told us, “We thought they were only reconnaissance planes.” Within seconds, the bomb exploded in a blast of heat and fire. The huge fireball burned at the temperature of almost 4,000º Farenheit. Although his face was badly burned, there was no medicine on hand to treat his injuries. Like many victims, tempura oil was applied instead. In addition, they were denied water due to the belief that burn victims should not drink water, as it dilutes the body’s natural water storage and prevents quick recovery. Mr. Yamamoto’s family was fortunate enough to survive, but he explained how his uncle—although seemingly in perfect physical condition after the attack, died a few days later due to the residual radiation. After his presentation, Mr. Yamamoto said a few short words which really struck a chord with me. “I have no grudge against the Americans,” he said, “Let’s work together to create a nuclear free world. Let’s join hands to prevent another Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” I believe that it takes a person of incredible strength to see past the hardships of one’s own life and look to the betterment of all human kind. His message of peace and the need for strong action towards the cause of nonproliferation is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The second part of the Forum was an active discussion between Mr. Kazumi Mizumoto (the Vice-President of Hiroshima Peace Institute) and Mrs. Mihoko Kumamoto (the President of UNITAR, Hiroshima Office). Among the topics discussed was Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development. As an Environmental Studies major at Franklin & Marshall University, I found both topics within my area of study and learned much from the two experts. It was very enlightening to hear their opinions and thoughts on issues I am very interested in, such as the roles of economic development and social aspects on the sustainable development of nations.
Lastly, the third part of the forum focused on Group Discussions. In Room C, we talked about the contentious issue of U.S forces being stationed in Japan. Although Okinawa accounts for less that 1% of landmass in Japan, it houses more than half of the U.S forces in Japan. U.S forces place an incredible burden on the people of Okinawa, and some hope to see the U.S forces move elsewhere.
Our last stop was at Hotel Sunroute, where we were greeted by many JASC supporters and alumni. I had the pleasure of talking to a prominent hibakusha who told us all about her travels. I was impressed that out of 20,000 applicants, she was selected as one of three women in a group of 35 Fullbright scholars. Many of us struck up conversations around the room, even coming away with a few business cards. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the lives of JASC alumni.
There are times when JASC can be overwhelming. Some days you can’t wait to change out of your business formal clothes, rub your tired feet, and lay in your bed for years! But then, there are days like this, when you realize how lucky you are to be a part of JASC. Every day, I learn so much about Japanese culture, American culture, and myself. I get to meet prominent members of Japanese society, visit historical sites, and explore all Japan has to offer. Today was an experience I will never forget. I am sure that the lessons I have learned from the city of Hiroshima and its inhabitants, will stay with me forever.
AAAAAAND OFF WE GO! On the third day of JASC, we visited
Otafuku and Miyajima.
Otafuku is the company that makes okonomiyaki sauce. Arriving at the shop, we split up into 4
groups (we had 71 people in total).
For my group, we began by watching an introductory video on
the origin of the okonomiyaki sauce.
Following the video we toured the museum introduced us to the history of
okonomiyaki sauce. What I found most
interesting was that the okonomiyaki sauce was developed for okonomiyaki in the
recent century. I have always thought
that okonomiyaki was a traditional Japanese food, but surprisingly, the
delicacy was only recently developed post-World War 2. Accordingly, the okonomiyaki sauce was
developed for okonomiyaki. At first, Worcester
was used, but it turned out to be too “runny.”
Following the advice and requests of okonomiyaki shops, a sauce was
created to compliment okonomiyaki. That
sauce was the okonomiyaki sauce of Otafuku.
Throughout the tour, Isshu (Eco-hazard coordinator)
At the end of the tour, we were each given a fresh bottle of
okonomiyaki sauce. Since the bottle just
came off the production line, it was HOT!
As you can see in the picture above. We were thoroughly surprised at how
hot it was! It was too hot to hold.
Following the tour, we were invited into a kitchen to cook
and eat our own okonimiyakis!
After the Otafuku museum, we took a short ferry ride from
Hiroshima to Miyajima.
Miyajima is famous for its Itsukushima shrine and deer. After dropping our luggage off at our hotel,
we split up into random groups of 10 to explore the island. Our first stop was
the famous tori gate that floats on the ocean during high tide (it doesn’t
actually float, but you get what mean).
On the way, we ran into many deer. Unlike the deer in Nara, we were not allowed
to feed them. The “wild” deer were much
less aggressive than those in Nara; perhaps, because they don’t see us as a
source of food. O.o
It took 300 yen to enter the Itsukushima shrine. For many American delegates, it was their
first time visiting a Japanese shrine.
Before entering, you must wash your hands and mouth with the shrine
water (as shown below).
It’s very popular to get fortune told by omikuji (fortune
paper). Unlike the fortune cookies that
we get in the states, there are bad fortunes within those slips! If you get a good fortune, you take the
blessing slip with you, but if you get a bad fortune, then you tie those slips
in the shrine to ward off the evil. (Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of
the tied bad fortune slips!)
Following the shrine, we toured the streets of Miyajima,
eating local treats such as momiji manju. We eventually ended up at a
restaurant for dinner. Shops close
really early on Miyajima so we had dinner at 5PM!
After dinner, we regrouped back at our hotel for RoundTable
discussion. At 7PM, I ran out to get
this picture of the sunset at the tori gate.
That night we slept early (lights out at 11PM) because the
following day was extremely packed (waking up at 4AM to go back to Hiroshima
for the Peace Memorial Ceremony).