On July 3-5, 25 international students and staff from Waseda University arrived in Minamiuonuma City as part of its Summer Session, visiting Tochikubo on the 4th. ECOPLUS supported their activities.
On July 3-5, 25 international students and staff from Waseda University arrived in Minamiuonuma City as part of its Summer Session, visiting Tochikubo on the 4th. ECOPLUS supported their activities. With activities such as walking the area, visiting homes, and enjoying local food, they had a chance to learn about Japanese traditional village life.
The students were from 9 countries and area like the US, the UK, and China. They stayed with host families in Minamiuonuma for two nights. While some students could speak a little Japanese, many could not. Because they had many different backgrounds, they had varying perspectives on what they saw, heard, and felt here.
The activities in Tochikubo began at 8:45 with the participants, taken there by their host families, gathered at the top of a mountain of 700 meters. The panoramic view was shrouded in clouds, creating an almost dream-like vista.
Two interns students of ECOPLUS spoke briefly about Tochikubo, mentioning the population size and elevation as well as industries such as the ski slopes, and of course, the rice fields. As we walked down the mountain, Takako Takano, Professor at Waseda and executive director of ECOPLUS, pointed out notable plants like heartleaf, called Dokudami, a plant that has many medicinal properties.
After a sumptuous lunch prepared by local women, the students were divided into different groups and helped visited local homes with a variety of tasks. The group I went with weeded a garden and tasted freshly-grown cucumbers. They asked many questions and really immersed themselves in the experience.
When finished working with the villagers, they gathered again on the second floor of the community center and watched a video and a presentation by the interns about their experiences over these eight weeks in Tochikubo. The students then had some time for questions and discussion, which proved very enlightening – a student from England commented on the differences between the Japanese and British countryside, and a Chinese student said that she was surprised at the cleanliness and level of development in Japanese rural areas.
At 4:15 it was time for them to return to their host families. Through being here and interacting with people, they had the chance to genuinely experience life in rural Japan. Based on what I saw and heard, I think they had an excellent learning experience.