It has been a long time since I started to have interest in Japanese culture. At first, it was all because of my curiosity in their unique ways. Now, I was able to get a chance to see, with my own eyes, the country that have caught my attention.
Everyone of us has expectations before going in Japan. For me, since I have a little knowledge about their nation, I was expecting that I will not be too surprised whatever I learn in our trip but that was a big mistake on my part. With just the keynote lecture given by Mr. Hideo Kimura, we were all shocked to learn some interesting facts such as: the number of Japanese in their 100’s exceeds 65,000; that most of Japan’s industry consists of SMEs; and only 2% of the total Japanese citizens are outside the state. Because of Mr. Kimura’s talk, I was very thrilled to discover more amazing things during our trip.
Being separated with the older Philippine delegates made me quite anxious because no one will be the dad or the mom of the youngsters, us – university students, but I was really excited at the same time to bond with the other delegates. In this program, the Philippine delegates became the social butterflies of group B which consists of delegates from Thailand, Timor Leste and the Philippines. As a matter of fact, we decided to scatter during meal times so that we will be able to talk more with the other delegates. One time, Stella, a delegate from Timor Leste told me she noticed that we, Filipinos, are very happy people. I guess, all of our efforts to lighten the mood became fruitful. They noticed that we were always smiling and telling fun stories with beaming energy! Yes, it is our nature to be happy! Our Kyogen workshop in Ohori Theater really suits our character. We were able to return back to our childhood days and use our broad imagination to further enjoy the experience.
Philippines, Thailand and Timor Leste are all countries with agriculture as its main industry that is why, we were all amazed on how prosperous farmers are in Japan and the fact that the government can control the agricultural activities like planting and harvesting periods. I salute Japan for their continuous efforts of finding ways of improving their methods also known as “kaizen”. As someone who advocates saving our Mother Earth, I was very interested in their recycling center in Ooki town that produces a beneficial bio-gas liquid fertilizer which their farmers could use to prepare the soil and even though I lack the technical knowledge to understand the mechanisms of fuel cell hydrogen powered vehicles being further developed in Kyushu University, I appreciate the thought of finding energy that will not emit carbon dioxide and harm our environment.
As I was conversing with other delegates, I also noticed that delegates from Timor Leste came with the resolve to learn and improve their newly liberated country. I was astonished with their patriotism and seriousness while joining this program. In addition, I learned that several words from Philippines and Timor Leste are similar because both countries was colonized by Spain and Portugal respectively for several centuries. On the other hand, the Thai group has the average age closer to us that is why engaging in conversations with them was effortless. We also learned some things about our co-delegates’ culture while having fun interacting with them.
Speaking of sharing culture, I enjoyed our cultural experience in Yanagawa City. Trying different seasonings in nori, the city’s specialty, was so much fun! The kumode-ami fishing was a challenging game of pulling and waiting, yet it was one of my most cherished experiences. I laughed a lot during our boat ride through the Yanagawa river. I though we were just going to have a city tour but no one told us that we have to duck to the point of lying flat down in spite of wearing a dress, just to avoid obstacles! I also had the honor to present to the Yanagawa City Mayor our tokens, in behalf of the Philippine delegates, in return of his warm welcome and gifts to all of us. It was a very wonderful encounter with the beloved mayor of the city who was already in his third term after 8 years of service. It made me wonder why he was loved very much by the residents. The answer appeared to me not long after we met him. He was truly a generous and humble man.
The finale of the day was the farewell party prepared by the local residents. In spite of the language barrier, we enjoyed sharing each other’s culture by dancing with the performers, sharing food including the shrimps and fishes we’ve caught and of course taking pictures especially with the “famous” ones during our camera craze (taking pictures with someone randomly pointed as someone famous). On that day, I promised myself that if given the chance to return to Japan, I will definitely visit Yanagawa City and meet with the people I was acquainted with. It warms my heart that several people mentioned to me that they have plans to go to my country and they will make sure to let me know when that time comes.
The thought of leaving Fukuoka gave me an awful feeling. I want to see more and learn more about this prefecture. On our last day, my thirst of Japanese tradition and culture was quenched when we went to a Buddhist Temple and a Shintoist Shrine. Even Mikiko-san, one of our coordinators who accompanied our group during the tour, noticed my extra-ordinary interest and maybe my glittering eyes at that time. This experience was what I was really anticipating because it was my specialty. Our tour guide courtly answered all of my queries. Her answers were not something that can be learned from my Japanese culture organization back in UST.
Although I badly wanted to stay, the day to come back to Tokyo came. That was the only time I realized that I really miss our working youth delegates and looked forward to meeting them again. I was very proud when they sent us videos of them practicing our performance for the party after the reporting session in Tokyo. As the person who arranged and taught them the presentation, I was very touched with their efforts. It was not a surprise when our performance ended, lots of other delegates complimented that it was a very good performance.
I thought that what I felt during the farewell party in Yanagawa City will never return just like what the Japanese idiom “ichigo ichie” says, but dancing with the other delegates during their cultural presentation made returning to Tokyo more meaningful to me. Since we all have our own groups for the whole week, I was not expecting that other people will come at me, compliment my dancing skills or give me a gift but some people did which really surprised me and made me really happy.
Overall, the whole experience was wonderful. Even the word wonderful is an understatement. I had lots of fun and my interest in the culture of our neighboring countries grew significantly. I wished I was able to interact with delegates from the other aside from Thailand and Timor Leste. Now, I was able to go back to my home country as a more informed person with lots of knowledge and experiences to share!
Written by: Tricia Villarosa