This past weekend, there was a YFU sponsored camp held in Fukuoka city for all YFU students on the island of Kyushuu (a southern island of Japan, where I am living). This camp invited all exchange students, including Japanese students returning from their year exchange to America, Japanese students preparing to leave for the next year, American year students living in Japan now, summer exchange students to Japan (me), and siblings of any traveling student who wanted to attend. The event took place on Friday and the morning of Saturday at a community building that I think may also serve as a hostel, since it had rooms with bunks, and everything else necessary for us to stay there over night. On Friday the activities were various, all dealing with Japanese culture. We had origami classes, participated in a Japanese flag lowering ceremony, "Kitsuke", and also learned Japanese dances. One of the coolest parts of it all was that we wore our yukata (summer robes) for many of the activities. As a matter of fact, just learning how to put them on was a 45 minute class on its own. The summer, year, and siblings of American students all wore their robes, which was so neat, since everyone's was unique in its own way. The thing that I liked best about the weekend was the unique conversation opportunities we received. I loved talking with all of the Japanese year students that just returned to Japan. They had many great stories, and on top of that, they actually knew English. I can't stress enough how happy some of us summer YFU students were to hold fluent English conversations. For many of us, it was our first chance to do so all summer! Everyone was extremely fun, and you can bet that our "traditional" Japanese dancing kinda lost its authenticity, haha. The Japanese girls liked to mix in what they "learned in America", haha. That was one of their favorite things about American schools, the dances.
After the first afternoons activities, we were told to go to the ofuro, and head to bed. Ofuro is a Japanese style bath, and in a public place... always communal. All of us were wondering what was going on... and almost frantically asked around "is it really communal", "are there separate showers"? We got "Yes" answers for both... so we were confused. Well, in any case, for most of American students it was our first time using a communal bath (separated for men and women), but we were all going to experience it together, haha. As for the answer about separate showers... it just meant that they were separate shower faucets with stools to sit on (Japanese showers are "sit-down", but more on that later) all around the community bathtub. Perfect example of "lost in translation". After our unique washing experience, it was bed time. Of course many of us were too excited to sleep. Many groups of boys and girls met together in rooms talking about all stuff related to our culture clashing experiences late into the night (until we were busted of course ), but that is what made it special. The second day was a little different in terms of activities. This day we had small group sessions to introduce and share about our Japanese or American cultures and experiences (pretty much a more formal version of what we spent hours doing the night before!). After that we all got together for a ceremony for YFU Japan students. The year long students returning and leaving were all recognized for their accomplishments. On top of this, American students were also recognized as guests for our trips to Japan. Afterwords we sang traditional Japanese songs, and took many, many pictures with all of the people that we just spent over 24 hours with. Some of the students at this event I had already met and had become friends with while at the Narita Hilton hotel when we first arrived to Japan. But there were many other American YFU students I met for the first time at this event, along with all the new Japanese exchange students that I soon became close friends with. The amazing thing about this YFU experience is how quickly you can create strong bonds with people, only hours after meeting them, possibly due to our very noticeable cultural differences, but most importantly what we all have in common with our travels. I had a great time at this camp, and now have a whole new list of people to stay in contact with all around the U.S. and across the Pacific!
The pictures are of a few of us hanging out the first night in our yukata robes.
This is a picture of me with Erika and her friend, Honami, that joined us for the weekend.
The second picture is of me with Derek, who I became friends with earlier this summer. He is from New York.
It was great to recap all of our YFU friends on all of our experiences from the past weeks. The last two are of me with a few of the great Japanese foreign exchange girls. They were so much fun to talk to. The pictures can also show you a VERY MILD form of what Japanese fashion for girls can be.