Chinese New Year Is Almost Here!!!

Hey, it’s Brian from KizugawaCity here.
This time I want to tell you about an important festival to many people in the world – Chinese New Year.


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Chinese New Year is the start of the year in the lunar calendar. The date changes every year, but it usually is around the end of January to the middle of February.


Taiwan foodThere are many traditions for celebrating Chinese New Year. Families prepare delicacies and gather together for a big meal on the eve of Chinese New Year. The meal typically includes a hot pot, a fish dish, dumplings, Chinese rice cake (similar to mochi), and daikon. There are many local variations of the content of the meal. In Taiwan, people eat chicken, leek, lima beans and spinach, including the root, for prosperity and longevity.


Guangdong_Nian_cake[1]With the common name “Chinese New Year,” some may think that it is only celebrated in China. Chinese New Year is also celebrated in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, UK, US, and other countries with a significant Chinese community. In the US, there are big celebrations in many cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. A big parade is held with many performances. Chinese New Year celebration has grown into a pan-Asian fusion celebration. Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and even Hispanic floats appear in the parade. The most iconic performance is the dragon dance. Firecrackers are lit to start the year with a bang.


LA_ChineseNewYear[1]firecracker2[1]This year, it falls on January 31st. To prepare for Chinese New Year, people clean and decorate the house with oranges and calligraphy on walls and doors. You can research online for ways to celebrate Chinese New Year. If you are looking a reason for another cleaning day, Chinese New Year is right around the corner!



French cooking class and seminar in Oyamazaki – 大山崎町でのフランス料理教室と理解講座

On December 18th, I did a French cooking class and seminar in Oyamazaki Town. Given it was my 3rd time going there I knew some of the participants and the atmosphere was really relaxed.


Preparing the vegetables 野菜を準備する

Preparing the vegetables

We first started with the cooking. This time I chose to do some “petits farçis niçois” or meat stuffed vegetables. It’s a typical meal in the south of France, especially around Nice or in the Provence area. It’s also really healthy given that you have meat, vegetables and rice all in the same dish.
We used tomatoes, zucchinis and red and yellow peppers that we stuffed with meat seasoned with garlic and Provence herbs. At the bottom of the dish you put some rice so it cooks together with the vegetables in the oven and develops a particular flavor as it absorbs the juices released by the vegetables when they cook.

まずは料理から始めました。今回は「Petits farçis niçois」という「ニースの野菜の肉詰め」を作りました。南フランス、特にニース市やプロバンス地域でとても人気な名物です。また、一つのおかずで野菜、肉、米が全て摂れるので健康的な料理となります。

Presenting the Gironde area - ジロンド県を紹介する

Presenting the Gironde area – ジロンド県を紹介する

While the food was cooking I did a short presentation about the Gironde area, the department where Bordeaux, my hometown, is located.
I started by presenting the different sceneries. Indeed, Gironde’s Atlantic coastline is more than 100km long and boasts many beautiful beaches that are famous for surfing. We even have a world surfing competition that takes place every summer.
The Gironde area is also famous for its wine, but also for its numerous medieval villages and historical ruins: while sipping wine in the various wineries along the way, you can visit many churches, abbeys and fortified towns as well to polish your knowledge of history.


Many events also take place throughout the year in the Gironde region too. Some events will take you back to the medieval ages (the Saint Macaire festival), others to the 20th century (Soulac 1900), others focus on culture with concerts, poetry, theater, dance or circus performances (Les scenes d’ete en Gironde), one gives you the opportunity to run among the vineyards in strange costumes (The Medoc Marathon) etc. Everybody can find something to enjoy!
The Gironde area also boasts many delicious treats. It is the homeland of duck cuisine (magret, confit and foie gras), caneles and almond macarons (you will never find those in Paris!).

また、ジロンド県では一年中色々なイベントが開催されます。例えば中世時代の祭り(サン・マケール市の祭り)もあれば20世紀にタイムスリップできるお祭り(Soulac 1900)もあります。コンサート、詩の朗読会、演劇、サーカス、ダンスなど文化を中心としたイベント(Les scenes d’ete en Gironde)があり、仮装して葡萄畑を走るイベント(メドック・マラソン)もあります。必ず好みに合うイベントを見つけることができます!

The food was then cooked so it was time to fry some French toast for dessert and enjoy our hard work! Everybody loved it, especially the lovely presentation of the vegetables – perfect when receiving friends for lunch or dinner at home.
Looking forward to meet everyone again next year!


Bon appetit! - いただきます!

Bon appetit! - いただきます!

One Day Trip in Kameoka(ワンデートリップ in 亀岡)

Eric from Kameoka! 亀岡市のエリックです。

Kameoka FTOne Day Trip in Kameoka is a day trip program held every year organized by the Kameoka International Exchange Association and Kyoto Prefecture International Center. International and Japanese participants spend the morning exploring Kameoka, and in the afternoon the international participants visit their host families to enjoy various activities together. You can think of it as a homestay without staying the night.

It was a big group! 参加者が多かったです!

It was a big group!

This year, we had a total of 18 international participants from 13 different countries: Korea, Mongolia, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Swedem, India, Australia, Egypt, Thailand, Russia, America, England and 16 host families. We also received cooperation from The Kyoto Crocul Group, Kameoka Municipal Museum of Culture and Oomoto.

Taking a stroll among Kameoka's castle ruins 亀山城の跡を見学する

Taking a stroll among Kameoka’s castle ruins

After a very detailed explanation about Kameoka’s history at the Kameoka Municipal Museum of Culture, we went out to explore the old castle town before it started raining. Due to the rain we headed to Oomoto, which is located at the Kameyama Castle ruins. After an explanation of Oomoto, we went out to see the castle ruins. The autumn leaves could still be seen and was very beautiful.

Meeting with the host families ホストファミリーとの対面

Meeting with the host families

This time we had more than the expected number of participants, both international students and residents and host families. They had a great time talking and learning about each other and I’m sure they all enjoyed the event.

Fushimi-Inari, Sake, Sweets, and Kimono! 伏見稲荷、日本酒、和菓子と着物!

Hello everyone, Mark from the International Affairs Division here! It’s been a while since my last post, but this is about a field trip we organised and held on Sunday 15th December. Altogether we were 21, with exchange students studying at Ritsumeikan and Doshisha universities, from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, USA, Germany, and Australia! We all managed to meet up on a chilly morning and left on our bus just past 9am.




Our first call was Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. Arriving just past 9:30am, it was already busy with many people trying to get the best shots of all the torii gates. Everyone enjoyed trying to do the same, and our guide taught us lots about the meaning and the history of the shrine. Personally, Fushimi Inari is one of my favourite shrines in Kyoto, so it was nice to go and help show the exchange students around!



Afterwards, we took a trip to the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Here we were given a very detailed, but easy-to-understand, explanation on the sake-brewing process and history of sake by a very knowledgeable guide. The tour through the museum includes replicas of the actual traditional tools and containers that the brewers used in the olden times to create the famous sake made in and around Kyoto. Once we had finished the tour and the explanation, we were all (the members over 20, of course!) given a chance to try some of the local sake and umeshu brewed there. As there was a shop there, I myself was very tempted to purchase some! I think the students came away with a good understanding of both what sake is, and the taste of it!




Once we had our fill for lunch, we went on to a place called Oimatsu, which crafts and sells traditional Japanese confectionery, and in particular, Kyoto confectionery, or kyogashi. Here we were given a wonderful demonstration and taught how to make our own kyogashi creations! We were all given the basic ingredients, and shown how to make one, then had the freedom to make a couple more of our own designs. It is said that enjoying this kind of confectionery is an experience for all 5 senses: naturally, the taste is to be savoured; the design of the sweet appeals to the eyes; the touch and the smell as you eat it as well. However, how are the ears and hearing involved? Apparently, hearing is the most important sense of them all! By giving a name to our creations, when we hear it, we can imagine the scene and what the sweet represents as we enjoy eating it. Once we were finished, we had one with some maccha tea, and brought our other ones home with us for later!




Finally, we finished the day at the Nishijin Textile Center, where we were again given another great explanation and shown examples of the exquisite detail that go into Kyoto’s Nishijin silk products. Ending the day with the kimono fashion show at the Center, I think all the students got a great selection of photos of some of the best kimonos that Kyoto has to offer! After the show, we all made our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves despite the chilly weather, and I think we gave everyone a really good opportunity to learn a bit more about things that exchange students don’t usually get a chance to. All in all, a great success, and I had fun too!



5th International Education Lecture 国際交流サロン第5回

Happy New Year! This is Steven from Seika. This article will be about the 5th lecture in my series, which was on Thursday, December 5th at the Seika Town Office. The topic for December was the 50 states of the U.S.


Japan has almost as many prefectures (47) as the U.S. does states, and each prefecture boasts some kind of famous attraction or product. For instance, Aomori Prefecture is known for its apples, and Oita Prefecture is famous for hot springs. I wanted to show people that all of the states in America also have their own claims to fame, and to talk about how different all of the states are.



Rhode Island’s Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in North America ロードアイランド州にある北アメリカ最も古いシナゴグ(ユダヤ教会)

I presented the 50 states in alphabetical order. For each state, I showed a map highlighting its location within the country and talked about the state’s total area, population and racial statistics as of last census, nickname, largest city, and capital. Then I gave a brief overview of the state where I talked about what the state is known for. From the participants’ reactions, I got the impression that they knew many of America’s landmarks, but often didn’t know which state they were in. For instance, the Grand Canyon seems quite well-known in Japan; the state of Arizona, in which it is located, does not.



Grand Canyon グランドキャニオン

After I had talked about each of the 50 states, there was a short discussion. Participants’ questions focused more on American federalism (i.e. the relationship between the federal government and the states) rather than individual states.


That concludes the lectures for 2013. Hope to see you all again this year!