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!
Yesterday night August 8, 2015, marked the beginning of our
stay in Shimane Prefecture. It also marked the start of my favorite experience
as of yet: a homestay with a local family. Throughout my time in Japan thus
far, I have had a lot of firsts, such as eating my first onigiri and bento,
visiting my first temple, attending my first lantern festival, and even
visiting Japan itself is a first for me. However, through my stay with Ikoku
(my homestay mom) and her family, I was able to experience many more firsts
through the perspective of locals.
My Homestay Family and Home
(Left) Ikoku’s family picture, (right) Starting on the left, Suzu, me, Saya,
Ayaka, Ikoku, Haru, Aki, taken today in one of their “toconoma” rooms
This is my homestay family, the people who lovingly took me
into their home for a day and kindly took the time to show me around Shimane.
Ikoku (left picture, top row, 2nd from left) took Ayaka, a Japanese
delegate, and me around her community.
Ikoku’s children, shown above, were lively, inclusive, and understanding
of my limited Japanese language skills.
This home also happens to be a temple named “Dairyuji,” or
“temple of the big dragon,” as Ayaka translated for me. It was so pretty, I had
to take lots of pictures.
Next, we went to the Community Center, where the
kids had taiko practice. I got a chance to play!
In the Evening, I got the chance to attend the Shinwa
festival. Although not the biggest one, this festival brings in many different
people from throughout the city. Ayaka and I got the opportunity to participate
in the “Bonodori” dance, which was the highlight of the evening. I danced with
shop owners, civil servants, young, and old (all of which danced better than
Ikoku’s co-workers with whom I joined in dancing. They
work in city hall.
(Left to right) two fellow dancers, Ayaka,
Saya, Suzu, Aki, and me
We ran into the leader of the American delegation, Hannah
Today, we went back to the community center to make “hashi”
a.k.a chopsticks, and bowls to eat “nagashi somen.” This was by far my best
meal in Japan so far. Because of the lively people, the welcoming atmosphere,
and the general sense of community I felt from the people made this a meal to
Various youth who attended this community event.
Everyone is making their own chopsticks and bamboo “bowls” to use for later
Various youth who attended this community event.
Everyone is making their own chopsticks and bamboo “bowls” to use for later
Eating “nagashi somen,” which is somen noodles — and in
this case pink somen noodles, cherry tomatoes, ham, and cucumbers — getting put down an open bamboo shoot. You
try your best to catch the food and eat it. At the end of the shoot is a basket
to collect the fallen food and it is returned to the top and saved
I again felt the family atmosphere, especially when a young
girl gave me one of her tomatoes when she noticed I was unable to catch one
myself. The people were welcoming overall; they were constantly asking me if I
was doing okay, they checked up on my progress, told me to try different things
(like cutting the bamboo or hand-carving the chopsticks) and were considerate
of my limited Japanese abilities. I felt like I was given the royal treatment.
As I was leaving the facilities, young children leaving in a separate car yelled
out “See you” in English, a phrase I had told them just moments before.
Upon coming home to the temple, Ayaka and I were
treated like guests of honor, through a special tea ceremony in the main
“toconoma,” an area only the “most important guests are taken to,” as Ikoku’s
mother told me. There, we made our own Japanese tea, ate traditional Japanese
sweets, and sat in a beautiful and large traditional Japanese room.
Making the tea with the kids. Suzu and Aki were especially
good at it
After speaking to locals and getting to know my host family,
I learned many things. First off, I learned more about life in rural Japan.
Through my conversations, I learned more about the need for revitalization in
Shimane, particularly in education and work opportunities for locals. I got a
deeper understanding of the forms of community bonding that take place in the
city, such as through festivals and fun, educational activities. I got to learn
about 100km, where students in Shimane in the 4th-6th
grade walk 100km in 5 days, as a type of spiritual and educational experience
where children learn their limits and strengths. Japan in itself may be new to
me, but I can say now that I at least know a bit more about Shimane.
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).
On one axis, there’s price, on the other, quality. Most people, he explains, think that you have to sacrifice one for the other. This is visualized by a line that looks like this: \
Mazda doesn’t believe in that kind of exchange. At Mazda, you can have both. At Mazda, you can breakthrough.
Their insight feels a lot like marketing, but I think there’s a great deal of truth to it. More abstractly, presenting a dichotomy as an exclusive choice tends to promote myopia rather than logical clarity. It’s easy to pick out two contrasting ideals and begin to think that you can only have one, but that just isn’t true. This kind of thinking is important for JASC.
There’s a similar perception that you have to choose between helping other people and personal happiness. In some ways this makes sense. If you think of value as a limited thing that can either be held on to or given away, the more you give to others, the less you have for yourself. In practice, that just isn’t true. Just as teaching is the best way to learn, giving is often the best way to gain.
My thoughts here are even more radical. As Joanna mentioned in our reflection, peacekeeping starts on the individual level. In other words, the very framework of me/others creates a false dichotomy that prevents any real resolution. Inevitably, seeing selfishness as a sacrifice only leads to burnout and moral indulgence.
After Mazda, we head to the opening ceremony. After watching a video about JASC I’ve started to realize just how important this conference really is. This doesn’t come from the words of distinguished alumni nearly as much as it does from the historical context. It’s easy to see the U.S. government as an immense and all-powerful monolith that somehow exerts immeasurable control. The truth is that the entirety of U.S. Japan relations are managed by a large handful of foreign service agents who tend to move from country to country every few years. JASC is important because so little else is.
Today marked the last day of American Orientation for the Amedeles at Cal Poly Pomona. Our delegates rose early (and to the occasion) by breaking off into RT groups after breakfast and morning announcements to engage in meaningful discussion. For me, that discussion consisted of the points we wanted to discuss with our Japanese counterparts and the questions we wanted to ask.
After RT time, we were given time to pack for the journey ahead (LAX->SFO, SFO->Haneda, Haneda->Hiroshima). We also had time to work on the American Culture skit we plan to present to the Japadeles upon arrival in Hiroshima. This time was put to good use and we went through several run-throughs of the script, including one for the EC board. I wouldn’t want to give anything away in this post, but just know that working on this skit really helped us all to bond. Humor really is a great way to break the ice (even further.)
We also did a lot of traveling today. It took a while to get to LAX and to SFO due to some uncontrollable mishaps, but the EC did their best to mitigate the situation. I think today was a particularly stressful day for the EC, but I want to take the time to thank each of them for doing their part to keep us organized and on time for our flights. I know it’s not easy to coordinate travel plans, especially with a large group of people, and there were times when I noticed their frustration, but each of them did their best to rectify the situation.
I’m writing this from SFO, where we have a four-hour layover. I hope everyone sleeps well on our flight to Haneda and I can’t wait to get to Hiroshima!
Here we are: first full day of JASC that graciously does not include any flying or running around to various quarters of the globe. That will come in time, but for now, I take liberty to say we are content being mostly stationary.
Admittedly, this morning came a wee bit early. Collectively we reacted with bafflement and quiet tears when we learned that we would be breakfasting at the hellish hour of 7:00 am. Nonetheless, we looked f-i-n-e and in the height of fashion as we dined on coffee and bacon – because the world is a brighter and cheerier place with both – and then filed into the conference room for a talk by Peter Beck, in which we learned about various issues facing Japan at the moment, such at the US military presence in Okinawa.
Afterwards we were dispersed to our respective Round Tables for discussions of our topics. For a group of people who have known each other scarcely more than 24 hours (and hardly that since thank God we were sleeping for some of them), our conversations are über deep. As a wise man once said:
Photoshoots followed. We were fierce, fiery, and highly attractive. Naturally. Little else need be said.
Lunch was a very pleasant, picnic-type affair on the lawn, and then we retired to the conference room again for a culture information session. Much was learned, but especially this fun tid-bit: apparently it is instrumental to listen for the click of a phone camera on subways and not to step over people’s backpacks because they might be secretly documenting delicate body parts. Moving on. An extra part of the cultural information session was the proper distribution techniques of business cards, which is NOT (thank you, Kevin and Jackie), “making them rain”. That is not proper. And it is probably frowned upon. Instead, one should formally hand one’s card over, and then receive the incoming card with due care and doting attention.
A favorite part of the day was the Special Topics session, where we discussed normally sensitive issues like “Does God Exist?” and “What is the American Dream to You?” and that type of thing. Happily, this went so smoothly and civilly as to make us very cozy and comfortable, and was a perfect transition into our next scheduled event: The Planning of The Skit. Now, from what I hear, we are at a great disadvantage, relative to our Japanese counterparts who, by all accounts, have been preparing their act for a great amount of time, and are probably at this moment going over an elaborate dance routine or dramatic scene yet one more time for good measure. Well, I proudly announce that in a mere 50 minutes, we had a theme, scenes, characters, and part of a script. So there. It’s fine. We will make this epic yet.
I’d like to end this day by touching on our American Orientation Reflection Session. While I cannot delve into details (what happens in the Reflective Session stays in the Reflective Session), I will say that in one day’s acquaintanceship, the overwhelming consensus is that we are very happy with the prospects of this conference, and the prospects of our company.
I hopped off the plane at L.A.X. with a dream and a cardigan…
Hi everyone! My name is Caitlin Hoppel. I am a rising junior marketing major at Villanova University and an American delegate of the Power and Responsibility in the Business World RT. I am incredibly excited to be a part of the 67th JASC and cannot wait to see what these next few weeks hold!
The first day of JASC was a whirlwind of smiling new faces and never-ending introductions. Just yesterday afternoon, the American delegates met at the Tom Bradley International terminal. As the delegates slowly filtered into the small seating area, we passed the time sharing stories and getting to know each other. Nothing says bonding like sitting on a linoleum floor for three hours! But truthfully, it was wonderful meeting everyone and winding down after a long flight. Although we were caught in LA traffic, the bus ride to Cal Poly Pomona was another opportunity to find out more about each other.
After a much anticipated bento box dinner (for the record, I’m awful with chopsticks), we all gathered together to break the ice. Now usually icebreakers make participants want to crawl and hide, but this group was different. JASC is different. Everyone here is so warm and welcoming, and by the end of the exercises many of us already felt like old friends. Personally, my favorite activity was two truths and a lie; I love listening to all the incredible experiences and stories the American delegates have to share. Although I have not been here 24 hours, I know that this conference is going to be absolutely life-changing. I am so grateful to be surrounded by such amazing and open-minded people. The 67th Japan-America Student Conference is certainly going to be one for the books! Stay tuned!