Speaking of, a lot has changed in the world since my last post. Of course, the most pressing issue on everyone’s minds is one that needs no introduction. The coronavirus pandemic has hopped in the driver’s seat of all our lives in the last few months and it looks like it will continue to steer our every movement for the foreseeable future.
Hello everyone! This is an update from Mary Ho, the Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) in Kyotanabe City.
On Thursday August 22, I held the kids event “Let’s Play and Talk with the CIR!” with a group of 16 young participants at Doshisha Yamate North Community Center. We had lots of fun using English to play games and singing various songs. This event is a continuation from a similar one I held last year.
Hello everyone! It’s
me, Gavyn, the CIR from Seika Town.
This past July, I took part in a Chikyukko Lecture event held by our local international exchange and support group Seika Global Net (SGN). The Chikyukko (Japanese for “small world”) Lecture is a series of talks held a few times a year usually focused on multiculturalism and cultural understanding. This time, the event challenged attendants, both local and foreign residents, to consider not the differences between their respective cultures, but the similarities.
Hi everyone! I’m sad to say that my time as a CIR for Kyoto Prefecture is coming to a close. I have made countless wonderful memories and met so many different people here over these two years, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Some things I got up to during my time in Kyoto will stick with me in particular. With the Kyoto Prefectural International Affairs Division and Kyoto Prefectural International Center, I was involved in many different regional level sister-city events and projects. For example, I helped out with the Kyoto Infused with Tea Expo in 2017, attended by the Deputy Lord Provost of Edinburgh, which was a success! I attended various festivals and events specializing in the wonders of Kyoto, such as the Tomorrow’s Kyoto Festival and also worked with Keihanna Science City and getting involved in the fields of sustainability and smart city, something that really piqued my interest. I met, guided and interpreted for foreign officials and organizations from all over the world; helped residents with disaster preparedness, traffic and extreme weather safety; assisted international students and residents in Kyoto… the list goes on!
Through KPIC, I am especially glad to have been able to run a number of intercultural understanding lectures, where I had the opportunity to interact and debate with diverse people from all over the prefecture. Some of the topics we covered include introducing the culture, history, and politics of Scotland; Easter festivities where we also did a traditional European activity of dyeing eggs with natural onion skin dyes; talking about the real Grimms’ Fairytales from Germany and how they relate to Japanese folklore and mythology, whilst making glass silhouette candle holders; and most recently, a lively workshop on intercultural communication and the many socio-anthropological theories and reasons behind these differences, and how we as individuals can help cross cultural boundaries to make for a more open society.
Living in Kyoto City has of course been incredible, but with the CIR role, I was also able to travel further afield, all around the whole of the beautiful prefecture that is Kyoto. I went on school visits where I felt like I was able to directly connect with and learn from the next generation of young people in Japan; helped out on tours; and worked at a kids’ English Camp! It really has been a blessing to see every corner of Kyoto Prefecture and know that it is not just the world-famous city that is so special.
As I prepare to continue my studies in Public Policy in Berlin from August (something I grew interested in through this position), all that remains is to say a huge thank you to all of my wonderful and supportive colleagues, both at the International Affairs Division and at KPIC, and the welcoming and enthusiastic people of Kyoto Prefecture who have made my stint as a CIR something I have learnt so much from, and of course, an absolute and unforgettable dream. ありがとうございます！ I’ll be back!
Hello everyone! This is an update from your Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) for Kyotanabe City, Mary Ho.
On Saturday May 25th, I ran the event 2019 Kyotanabe International Exchange Association Annual Anniversary Event: Let’s enjoy Taiwanese Culture! Every year, the association selects a theme and this year it was chosen to be Taiwan. This year the event featured Taiwanese cultural talk and Taiwanese martial arts performances.
As the speaker for the Taiwanese cultural talk session, I talked about Taiwanese people’s personalities and communication style as well as a brief introduction on Taiwanese history. It was the first time that many of our participants listen to such content and everyone was very curious. At the end of my talk, I had a quiz session with prizes. The participants actively raised their hands and people who answered the correct answers got Taiwan-related goods as prizes. It was exciting to see the participants enjoyed the talk so much. Everyone had fun during the quiz session too.
Then we had Mr.Wang and Mr.Chen perform Taiwanese martial arts for us. The lead performer – Mr.Wang is currently teaches at the Osaka Chinese School for various traditional martial arts such as swords arts and Tai Chi. During the event, not only did they perform the martial arts on stage but they also arranged a practice session with the participants. The participants got to learn the basic moves of Tai Chi and how it can be practiced for daily exercise. Everyone was amazed by the performances and enjoyed learning Tai Chi with the performers. The two hour event went in a blink and I was very happy to see the participants learn about Taiwanese culture in an enjoyable atmosphere. It was a wonderful day filled with the wonders of Taiwanese culture.
Hi! It’s me, Michelle, the Kameoka City CIR. I will be finishing up my term here at the end of June. When I think back on all the valuable experiences I’ve accumulated here, my heart becomes filled with deep gratitude. Thanks to all the people who looked out for me, I was able to lead a truly fruitful, fulfilling and blissful life in Kameoka.
The time I spent here is an irreplaceable treasure to me. I got to learn a little bit of calligraphy, traditional Japanese dance and kimono dressing. Work-wise, I did more than I ever thought possible and it has led to close friendships with amazing colleagues, fellow foreigners, citizens from sister and friendship cities and last but not least, kind local people. When I received my placement notice 4 years ago in May, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would come to love Kameoka this much and that I would be so blessed in both my professional and personal life.
I also love Kameoka city
itself. It is blessed with beautiful nature (Sakura Park during cherry blossom
season and Kuwayama Shrine during fall), delicious food, and a great location.
I remain ever so grateful and amazed that I got to enjoy gorgeous rural scenery
on bike rides, hiking at the breathtaking Hozu valley, eating delicious
traditional cuisine and cozy cafes (my favorite café in the world is Limone!)
while being only a stone’s throw away from the famous Kyoto city.
Volunteering as a
facilitator for the Powwow English Conversation session run by local citizen
group Kyo-cro-cul was especially rewarding when I saw how enthusiastic and
interested participants were to use and learn English. Learning about calligraphy,
Japanese dance and kimono dressing allowed me to experience traditional
Japanese culture up close and deepen my understanding of the intricacies behind
Creating, planning and facilitating the Global Café sessions (organized by KIEA) brought me immense work satisfaction when I saw how happy participants and foreign guests were when interacting and exchanging cultures. I was initially intimidated and overwhelmed at first with business trips abroad. However, not only did I increase my professional competency once I overcame various challenges, I also formed close bonds with some wonderful and interesting people I met in the countries I visited.
Through my position at Kameoka City Hall and
Kameoka International Exchange Association, I was given many chances to be
actively involved in a variety of work from official visits and exchanges
between sister and friendship cities, 2020 Tokyo Olympics related Host Town
initiatives, to projects and newsletter editing work to promote international
understanding amongst local citizens. Neither words nor pictures are enough to
convey the diversity of experiences I was blessed with, so allow me to
introduce some of these many experiences via the video below!
Thank you all for
making me the person I am today. My next step takes me to Tokyo where I will be
challenging myself on an entirely different stage. However, I hope to make
similar connections in my new community by making full use of my experience as
a CIR and to continue engaging in international exchange activities as I move
This past March,
I accompanied a group of American high school students and chaperones on a
visit to Seika Minami Junior High School. The purpose of this visit was to
provide the Japanese students with a chance to communicate and connect with peers
The event was
kicked off in the school gymnasium with a self-introduction by the 12 students
and 4 teacher-chaperones from Peoria Christian School, a private school located
in Illinois. After a short presentation where they told the Seika Minami
students about their school and the surrounding area, everyone broke into
groups for game time.
The first two
games tasked students with getting to know one another. Using a worksheet, they
asked each other questions in both English and Japanese, such as their favorite
color or school subject. The language barrier was difficult to overcome, but, through
a liberal use of gestures and simple words, it was eventually conquered as
small whispers turned into lively conversations.
After getting to
know each other, they separated into boy groups and girl groups to play “Human
Knot” and “Through the Hoop.” The groups used both their best English and
Japanese words to help untangle themselves out of a messy knot, and be the
group with the most passes through a hula hoop.
time, the Seika Minami students sang two classic Japanese songs for their new
American friends; their wonderful performance was met with roaring cheers and
applause. The event was brought to a close after a few words of thanks from a
Seika Minami student representative, and a short question and answer session.
I was initially
worried that the students would have a hard time connecting with each other due
to a 4-5 year age difference between the American students (who were older) and
the Japanese students (who were younger). That uncertainty was wiped away after
seeing both groups thoroughly enjoy their time together from start to finish. I
hope this experience becomes a cherished memory for everyone involved and an
impetus for the students of both schools to build lifelong international
Hello. It’s been awhile since I last posted. Today I’d like to talk about something new I’ve started doing in Miyazu. Starting this January, I’ve started visiting an elderly persons care facility in Miyazu.
At first, I didn’t know what I could do at the facility as a foreigner so I decided to try and teach the people simple English greetings and about American culture. However, after visiting a few times, I realized that it is more effective to communicate with the people at the facility without introducing anything. The residents are elderly and most worked in agriculture for the majority of their lives so they were not very interested in English.
I also tried to introduce new culture to the people such as holidays but it was not very effective. Since most of the people there had never been abroad or talked to a foreigner before, it was very difficult for them to imagine or grasp the idea of foreign culture and foreign festivals. So, I stopped trying to introduce something to them and decided to just try talking to them. This worked.
However, I found that the conversation had to be natural. At first, I tried asking them things I often ask at our English activities or when I first meet someone like “what are your hobbies ?” Or ” have you ever been abroad ?”. However, I found that these questions made the people uncomfortable and it was difficult for them to answer. So instead of leading the conversation I decided to try to just participate. Instead of asking the people many questions to try to forcefully continue the conversation, I tried just listening to whatever they seemed willing to talk about. The people seem to find it easy to talk about things from the past. They especially found it easy to talk about their experiences during World War II or their jobs. When the people at the facility talked about these topics, I could tell that the residents actually wanted to talk about the topic and I wasn’t just asking them questions forcing them to talk.
The last time I visited the facility, the cherry blossoms were blooming and we took turns walking to a cherry blossom tree blooming near the facility in two groups. The people were so happy to be outside and to enjoy the spring weather and the cherry blossoms. I had never seen them so excited. They even picked some of the blossoms and brought them back to the facility with them. Everyone stayed very cheerful and in a good mood even after we got back to the facility.
I still plan to introduce culture to the people at the facility but only after making sure that they are interested. If they aren’t interested, I don’t think it’s necessary. At first, I thought that since I’m a foreigner I should introduce American culture in some way or else there would be no point. However, I don’t think so anymore. So long as we share something and communicate in some way, I don’t intend to try and push American culture on them if they aren’t interested.
I realized that changing what you talk about and how you talk about it based on your audience is what it means to communicate. You can’t truly communicate with people by talking about what you want to talk about or what you think you should talk about; it has to be what your audience is interested in hearing about. The people at the care facility made me realize that I don’t have to necessarily do anything special to communicate with people just because I’m a foreigner. I can communicate and interact just by being there and that doesn’t by any means make my visits to the facility meaningless. I hope to continue these visits and this job to learn more about both international communication and the essence of communication in general.
An international culture-exchange event is held once a month. The theme is either a seasonal event originating from overseas, baking, or an event designed around the interests/talents of one of the city’s AETs(We sometimes have AETs from surrounding areas cooperate in our events but it is usually the AETs stationed in Miyazu City). There are two major types of events: events where foreigners introduce their culture to Japanese residents and events where Japanese residents introduce their culture to the foreign residents. As examples of the first type, since I have started participating, there has been a Halloween party, an Easter egg hunt, a St. Patrick’s Day painting event, A kickball tournament, baking events (cookies, cakes(several)) etc. As examples of the second type, there has been a Japanese New year’s games event, a traditional Japanese dance experience, and a guided tour of the different shrines and temples during the setsubun festival.
IOHMIYAZU is also working on another project that involves training volunteer English tour guides. Volunteers who have interest in English are trained in pronunciation etc of English explanations of famous cultural sites or culture of the area. The volunteers practice both together at the sessions and at home until they are able to guide foreigners in English while referencing the document. One purpose of this activity is for the Japanese volunteers to rediscover Japanese culture and the culture of Miyazu by studying the famous historical sites and culture of the area more deeply and of course, to then be able to convey this newfound knowledge in both English and Japanese. The first trial was held at Seirinji Temple in Miyazu and the theme was Zazen meditation. Volunteers both experienced Zazen meditation for themselves and did desk work where they studied the significance, methods, etc of Zazen meditation. On October 17 several members of a gospel choir from New Zealand and the UK agreed to participate in the Zazen meditation during their stay in Miyazu in accordance with the 40th anniversary of the Miyazu-Nelson sister city connection. It was the chance the members had been waiting for and although it was their first time to actually guide visitors, they did very well. Sessions have also been held on origami and paper crafts and the Old Mikamike House (a historically significant building once used as a sake brewery)but there haven’t been any chances for the volunteers to actually try guiding visitors yet.
Lastly, I am doing a monthly lecture on American culture in order to try to improve the citizens’ awareness of foreign culture. This lecture has been held four times thus far on the topics of the American election system, guns, Easy to identify with topics(drinking age, smoking age, and other age limits; driving; and the school system), and discrimination. The aims of these lectures are to raise citizens’ awareness of foreign affairs and to foster a sense of global awareness and broaden their horizons by learning about foreign cultures as well as to gain a deeper understanding of their own culture by learning the differences that it has with foreign culture. In addition, I am always hoping that through learning the differences with other cultures that the participants will also be able to grasp the similarities that their culture shares with other cultures and by doing so learn to communicate more effectively with people of different cultures and gain a deeper perspective to be able to think of things from many different angles and perspectives. Many international activities, not restricted to my town, target people who are interested in studying and learning English and so only a small portion of the community can participate. I think this is a big problem that needs improvement so I conduct these lectures all in Japanese so that more people can participate easily.
This April, something unexpected happened. After coming back to the office one day. I heard from my boss that while I was away visiting a nursery school or kindergarten that the police had come and wanted me to lecture at the police station. At first, some of my coworkers were worried about me doing it alone and seemed to think that it would be better to do it with the AETs as a group even though the police had specifically asked for me to do it and it was a Japanese speech. However, in the end, I convinced my coworkers to let me do it alone as I had been asked to do.
The content of the lecture was to gather information and stories from other foreigners and discuss the good and bad points of Japanese police officers, areas that need improvement, how to interact with foreigners, and about police officers overseas from a foreigner’s perspective. The reason for the lecture was that with the recent increase of foreign visitors, the police have to interact with foreigners more and more despite not knowing how to or being used to doing so and thus they hoped to gain insight by listening to a foreigner’s opinion about the issue.
I asked around and gathered information from the AETs and other foreigners around me and gave a short lecture in May as I was asked. Newspaper reporters and other media personnel were there and so it was very nerve-racking but after the lecture was finished many of the police asked me questions which assured me that they had been listening. The lecture was held right after the weekly morning assembly and so quite a few people were there to listen. The police listened very carefully and actively and seemed to be interested and asked many questions so it felt worthwhile.
This lecture was the original reason that I was able to make a connection with and started working with the police but even after it was finished, I was asked to cooperate in many activities such as flier distribution and PR activities. Through these activities I was able to have many memorable and unique experiences for which I am very grateful. As a part of a an activity to raise awareness about terrorism, I translated and helped distribute an English flier to the foreign tourists at Amanohashidate station. I also was able to ride on the police patrol boat and relay English messages to the residents of Ine reminding them to lock their doors when they leave their houses etc; One of the Miyazu AETs was free in the office on the day that we distributed the fliers at Amanohashidate station and so she also helped us and we were able to distribute the fliers together.
The police also came to the monthly lectures that I am doing and introduced me to members of the Japanese coast guard and Japanese customs as well. I was later asked by the Japanese coast guard to serve as a one day coast guard officer which involved distributing fliers at a community event while wearing a Japanese coast guard uniform.
I was also able to have dinner/drinks with members of the police, coast guard, and customs workers which was fun since I was able to talk with many people that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to talk with.
During the month of August, since I had no nursery school/kindergarten visits, I was asked to teach English at the police station and I accepted. The police asked me to do this because they were having troubles handling lost item reports and giving directions in English and wanted to become able to handle these cases more effectively. A police officer who had experience working in America taught and my job was to read the foreigner’s role in the scenarios that he had prepared. However, the content of these practice sessions was very difficult for the participants and I couldn’t help but feel that memorizing a pre-written scenario would not actually be effective in dealing with foreigners in everyday situations where you cannot predict what they are going to say and would need to have enough English knowledge to deal with flexibly. It seemed like it would be more effective to hire one person with the ability to use English practically and have them deal with all foreign cases. Regardless, I continued to participate in these English sessions once a week through the end of August.
I hope that I will continue to have more opportunities to work with the police and others in the future.