Every academic year Kansai Gaidai hosts their Asu Tomo Sports Festival. The international students are put on teams based on where they live, alongside Japanese students. Since I live in Seminar House 1, my teammates were my neighbors and friends. One of our resident assistants drew the color pink so our whole team was mandated to wear the color pink, thus the trend in color in the pictures. We started off the day doing a Japanese version of Rock, Paper, Scissors called “Janken” with our teammates. We introduced ourselves and then played and whoever lost had to get behind the one who won and form a Conga Line. Once we were warmed up our first game was Tail Football, where we had to grab as many “tails” that the other participants wore as possible. I decided to represent my team in the first game and it was tons of fun. We also played a game where we had to run to a box in the middle of the court and grab a paper. You had to read what was on this and then grab someone who represented the statement written. We also played Dodgeball, which my team dominated. To wrap it up we played a Japanese version of “Red Light, Green Light” where the “demon” or “oni” turns around and the rest of the players have to try to touch the oni first. Once someone does, you book it out of there because the oni then “finds out” we’re there. In between turns of pausing and running, we had to pose according to the sign that someone held up. We got such things as “Model” and “Harry Potter.” It was a great way to build friendships with my housemates and the Japanese students . At the closing, it was announced that my team, Seminar House 1, had won 1st place. GO PINK!
Through one of my classes at Kansai, I was able to participate in a weekend trip to Hiroshima. I have been once before a couple of years ago, but I was seeing this city in a new light, and with a better academic foundation. We took a Shinkansen from Osaka station, taking about an hour and a half.
The trip centered around hearing an Atomic Bomb survivor, whom was 15 at the time the atomic bomb dropped. It was interesting to hear her perspective of the Americans at the time and after the war, and the story she told about her journey to get back to her family after the bomb exploded really touched me. I thanked her personally after the talk where she exclaimed that she was so surprised to hear me speak the Japanese language so well. I thought about how she had lived though a time where Americans were her hated enemies, to shy acquaintances, to now close friends- to the point that my country sends hundreds of students to Japan to learn-like me. I wondered how this contrast was for her in terms of her experiences.
After this, my friends and I went to Itsukushima, more popularly known as Miyajima “Shrine Mountain” via ferry , where the famous red tori stands guard over the the Itsukushima Shrine and native deer. We petted the various deer (“shika”) on our way to the shrine and afterward shopped. Here, they have pastries filled with various fillings in the shape of a maple leaf. I tried the chocolate one and it was pretty delicious! We took the ferry back to the mainland, had dinner, and left to check out Diamond City which is supposedly one of the best places to go to shop in Hiroshima. We never made it though, because we ended up in a huge mall and it was too late for any other shops to stay open. We reserved beds at a local hostel previously so we checked in. The owners were nice and I felt perfectly comfortable in the international setting. They even gave us a free drink on the house.
The next day we headed out for Okunoshima Island, aka “Bunny Island”. This island used to be a testing facility for weapons and ammunition during WW2. After the war was over, the rabbits that were initially going to be used for testing were set free, and, well, populated…Because of this rabbits are abundant here on the island, and it is now a tourist site. However, not as many people come to island as someone might expect because the trip out there is a bit difficult. It took us 3 hours to get here. The train took an hour. The first part of the train trip was the most crowded I’ve ever seen a train here and I actually experienced the “Japanese Train Ride” where I was literally pushed against my friends and strangers. At one point, EVERYONE left and my friends and I were left alone as we journeyed farther away from urbanized sites and into the rural parts of Japan. At one point, you have to take another line to the Tadanoumi station to catch the ferry to island. We had no idea that this train ran only 2 times a day from this station, so we waited 45 minutes INSIDE the train wishing it would just move. Definitely not in Osaka anymore. Once we reached the station, we took the ferry, which only costs about 200 Yen one way. The island not only has adorable bunnies, but abandoned buildings overtaken by nature, and great sites that include miniature hikes to get to them. The trek out here is not something international people take very often, and I was glad I was able to do so.
This week is also midterms, and everyone has a Spoken Midterm, and for those that take writing, a Kanji Midterm. Lecture midterms are this week for most people as well, most of mine are actually just papers. I found it hard to focus on studying after having such a fun time, but regardless, I came to Japan to learn. Wish me luck! Till next time!