In my about two decades of existence, Japan has always been one of the countries I’m dying to see. Being the country of technological advancements and embodying discipline as one may know, there is an urge for me to visit, if not stay, in Japan ever since I was a little kid. The Land of the Rising Sun is my own definition of an ideal country – prosperous, innovative, organized, advanced, and interesting. From its growing economy to state of the art technology to manga and animes to unique cultures to creative products. In a perspective of an outsider like me, Japan never disappoints, at least from how I see it.
Teacher: Dream country to visit?
M: I love Japan just the way it is.
T: You need to go someday then!
I still remember this very moment when I was a sophomore in high school. I never got tired of imagining myself stepping on the land of the rising sun. That instance when my teacher told me that I needed to go someday gave me more inspiration to get that imagination into reality. How sick is the thought of this! For after about five years, from that simple question in class, I am able to do so. Here comes JENESYS 2016, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Sushi. Mount Fuji. Hello Kitty Products. Washlets. Train System. Creativity. These are the things I know and love about Japan before the JENESYS program. As mentioned, I have perceived that most of the systems, policies, and initiatives of Japan can be applied to the Philippines. Well, I have always thought that there’s so much to learn from Japan as a nation. But I say to myself, “How do I really know?” So, one answer pops up, “to know is good but to experience is best”; thus, my participation in the JENESYS (Batch 9) program.
Guess who got excited for Japan and JENESYS 2016? Of course, you know who. Being an academic and a cultural exchange program, the week-long stay comprised of orientations, workshops, lectures, site visits, and cultural activities. JENESYS showed multiple perspectives of the country from its well-known technology, developing inventions, investment in education and research, rich tradition, and diverse culture. Each activity had something to learn from; each day I spent had an impact and a realization. As part of the delegation of the Philippines, in my perspective, the stay proved how a country can fully develop as a nation without sacrificing its beautiful culture while still striving for progress and improvement in ways no one can envision.
There are so many activities to like during the program. With that in mind, I will be sharing three of the most memorable activities during JENESYS 2016. To start, Day 5 (Yanagawa City Day) in Fukuoka is on top of the list. The day started with a nori workshop at Takahashi Shoten where the delegates had the opportunity to season seaweeds and know more about the industry Japan is undeniably proud of. Then, the day moved as we went to the City Hall meeting the very welcoming mayor of Yanagawa as he gave interesting facts about the city including the beauty and activities it has to offer. Kaneko-san, the mayor of Yanagawa, even gave us some treats to take home. In the afternoon, we truly experienced Yanagawa by participating in river cruises, kumode-ami fishing, yukata wearing for some lucky participants, and a dinner party with the residents. What a day of thrilling cruises with a loveable boatman, an interactive fishing activity in the coastline, meeting the very friendly local residents, and performing cultural and novelty dances. At least I can say that this was my most memorable day.
“Tote kamo!” Secondly, included as one of many unforgettable activities during the program is the visit to the Ohori Park Noh Theatre (also in Fukuoka) where we were given an opportunity to do Kyogen, a form of traditional Japanese theatre related to Noh, in a workshop mentored by a professional Kyogen actor held in the same theater where the professionals actually perform. Having a comedic nature in need of lots of expressions, performing acts in Kyogen style was challenging yet a lot of fun. I personally loved how the Kyogen actor taught us different interpretations of scenarios and personalities often included in the play. In addition, the delegates were able to mimic and even gave their own ways of acting and delivering a scene. Being an enthusiast of theatre, I got to experience, first-hand, Japanese theatre. The kyogen definitely is a part of Japan’s culture that so many people from around the world can relate to. Contrary to the stereotype image of the Japanese, they are also excellent theatre artists and performers in their own rights.
Finally, I consider the last day in Japan (Tokyo) as part of the three most memorable activities during the JENESYS program. Aside from the reporting session that made the delegates share their insights, experiences, and action plans, the concluding farewell party highlighted the day and probably the stay of most delegates. The farewell party was an avenue to talk and interact with all delegates from all groups from all countries including Thailand, Timor-Leste, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Each country presented their cultural performances featuring traditional dances, song numbers, and other cultural presentations. What sets this farewell activity apart from the other activities during JENESYS is the fact that delegates and organizers from different walks of life form a bond reminiscing the days that they have been and learnings that they have learned in Japan, showing unity and strengthened relationships among each other, and making JENESYS the program that it is – building one community and family which promotes global understanding of not only Japan but also of the participating countries.
With almost 10 days participating in JENESYS 2016, alongside activities prepared by the organizers, it is inevitable to have no realizations and insights as a delegate. With how the program was handled, I could list down a hundred realizations (and I am not even kidding!) starting from the day I landed in Japan on the 15th of May. However, I will be sharing only a few of best ones. First, JENESYS is about interacting with new-found friends among your country delegation, delegates from other countries, and the Japanese people which includes the organizers, residents, and locals you meet around the town or city. Making new friends from Thailand and Timor-Leste was one of the biggest things that happened during JENESYS. Conversing with the Japanese locals in Nihongo during the workshops, lectures, and even in convenience stores, malls, and train stations was an achievement and the same time fulfilling. The people you interact with in the duration of your stay sets JENESYS on a different kind of experience.
Second, all the places you visited, events you experienced, and memories you made stick to your mind and heart carrying it for the rest of your life. I honestly can’t stop thinking about how amazing the experience was. Once done, you will want to go back. You will miss the people and the environment. You will long for Japan the way that it is. But at the end of the day, you still think of the happy memories including the thought of how the experience gave you a new perspective in life.
Third, I attest to the idea that Japan is a country where we can get inspiration from in many ways. Japan is one of the most advanced countries in terms of technology. Innovation and development are at the forefront of the country’s goals and objectives. Use hydrogen to fuel up a car, anyone? They lead in initiatives toward efficiency and environment conservation through their day-to-day processes. They always seem to find a way to improve for the benefit of all. Also, one of the fascinating thoughts about Japan is the country’s ability to preserve its culture despite a developing and globalizing economy. A rich land with a rich culture, surely you can’t ask for anything more. Add up the discipline that the Japanese have to contribute for their country, it is unquestionably an ideal country. JENESYS gave me hope for all other countries including the Philippines to learn from Japan (not only from its ups but also its downs).
Fourth, obviously from what I realized the moment I went back home, the JENESYS program was a special learning experience binding insightful educational activities and deeper cultural understanding among countries including Japan and the delegates. It was not a mere participation or a simple program, but a whole lot of experience.
Lastly, I summarize my JENESYS 2016 journey in five letters.
J – ourney of learning one remembers for his lifetime
A – stonishing views and amazing people
P – erfect way to immerse one’s self in the society, economy, and culture of Japan
A – chieving a deeper sense of global understanding among many countries
N – ew and unique way of discovering on how Japan is as a nation
Me joining JENESYS 2016 and experiencing Japan is not only a granted wish or a given blessing but undeniably a genesis of a new life journey as one of the Philippine delegates – developed a new kind of love for Japan, connected by more relations and founded friendships, enriched with new learnings, improved sense of cultural awareness, and driven by passion for global understanding.
Written by: Nelson Natata