Jenesys 2015, Japan
On the 15th to the 24th of November, a group of 20 students, 12 from Dunman High School and 8 from Raffles Institution participated in a programme organised by Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE). The programme, Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths, JENESYS for short, aims to send messages to foreign countries/regions about Japan’s charms, as well as promote the current generation of youth, who hold the future in their hands, to have a broad vision, strengthen relationships beyond countries/regions, and to create the future together.
On the second day of our arrival in Japan, we were honoured to be given the opportunity to sit in a lecture addressed by Mr Kimura, the Executive Managing Director of Strategic Int’l Management Associates. Through the lecture, we learned about the similarities between Japan and Singapore, such as the common ageing population problem. We also learned about the differences, such as the different strategies put forth by the government of both countries to tackle the problem of ageing population. On the cultural side, we learned briefly about Japan’s various art forms, such as Noh, a traditional theatrical art. Most importantly, we learned about the teaching of “一期一会”(pronounced as “ichi go ichi e”), meaning a once in a lifetime opportunity, where this very moment we are sharing together happens only once in our lifetime. It was definitely a pleasure for us to learn about Japan through Japanese’s point of view on the land of Japan.
On the third day of our arrival in Japan, we visited the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). The most interesting part of the museum is the robot exhibitions and showcase. The Kodomoroid and Otonaroid are so much like human, that we mistook them as human beings upon the first glance of their photographs. Their facial features and movements are designed and programmed so well that they do look like human in real life too! The most heart-warming thing about this museum is the large group of volunteers made up of retirees. They take charge of different exhibitions and would kindly give explanations on the exhibits to visitors. This shows the older generation’s determination to adapt to today’s technology and even their spirit to learn. The visit to the Miraikan was a great way to learn about today’s cutting-edge technology.
In the afternoon of the third day, we travelled to Ohtawara city in Tochigi prefecture, about three and a half hour drive from Tokyo. When we reached Tochigi prefecture, we were greeted by misty hills and plots of farmlands. The autumn scenery of the countryside was breath-taking. We stayed in a Japanese style hotel where most of us get to sleep on tatami, bathed in communal bath together and wear yukata as pyjamas to sleep. It was indeed an unforgettable experience for all of us.
During our stay in Ohtawara, we visited many of the famous landmarks such as the Nasu Shrine and Nakagawa Aquatic Park. These landmarks were eye-openers for many of us because we only see such Japanese shrine in animes. We also visited the local’s noodle factory, Onishi Noodle where we learnt of the various steps taken into manufacturing different types of noodles and tried out hands-on experience of making our own ramen. On top of that, we had school exchange to Ohtawara High school where we interacted with the local students. The students of Ohtawara High school were very welcoming and enthusiastic during our visit. One of the highlights of the school exchange was the cheer performance before we depart. The cheerleaders were loud and firm and took pride of what they were doing.
The atmosphere was comparable to a grand closure of some ceremony. We were all amazed by the professionalism displayed by the cheerleaders and felt that Singapore students should also put up such a good spirit in cheerleading instead of feeling embarrassed. At the end of the cheer performance, the once unyielding cheerleader bid us farewell in a gentle tone and his sincerity touched our hearts.
The homestay experience was the most memorable one for us. The students were all separated into small groups of 2 to 3 people and then sent to different host families. As a result, the homestay experience was also different for everyone. The host families lived in different parts of Ohtawara, such as farmlands and in the mountains. The following are some comments from the students.
“My homestay experience: it was a memorable experience staying in a farm with the opportunity to appreciate an authentic Japanese way of life.”
“I have been on a homestay in Japan before, but staying in the countryside was a totally new experience, one that I would probably not be able to have in Singapore.”
“Home-stay was super enriching HAHAH and through living with the Japanese, I am better able to understand their culture and assimilate it”
We were able to experience first-hand the daily lives of the people living in Ohtawara. Such experiences would include observing how farms are run, going up mountains, making gyoza and attending a festival. We also noticed that most of the people living in Ohtawara seemed to know each other, possibly due to the small population size in the area. The homestay was, although short, one where we could make bonds with the Japanese that would not break. At the farewell ceremony, the host families had sang a song, ふるさと, during the farewell ceremony, a song that represents the feelings of people leaving their hometown to search for a job in the city, to us, it felt like our host families had accepted us as part of them, and it was a truly touching moment.