A Week in Japan

It has been said that one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things (Henry Miller). Through the past week, we have experienced Japan in this way. Our names are Andrea Green and Gretchen Lee, and we are in Chiba, Japan on an exchange program. Chiba is a suburb community 20 km west of central Tokyo. We have been attending Wayo Women’s University with Dr. Garcia, and have been hosted by Japanese families. We have been here for one week now, and would love to tell you about our experiences!

Host Family

We arrived at Narita Airport on Sunday June 10th, after an excruciatingly long 14 hour plane ride. When we arrived, we were driven to Wayo University and met Reiko-sensei, Ikuko-sensei, Etsuko-san (the staff who graciously arranged the exchange program), and our homestay families. Prior to this, we were nervous to meet our families and exhausted from the long trip, but we were welcomed warmly and immediately felt at home. We settled into our new homes, had our first Japanese dinner, and fell asleep.

Welcome Lunch

On Monday, we had our first day of school! We had a welcome lunch, where we met the president of the university, the rest of the faculty, and the 3 students that will be coming to Brescia in the fall. It was evident that they went to great lengths to make us feel comfortable. Ikuko-sensei and Reiko-sensei brought us on a tour of the university. Like Brescia, it’s a small women’s university, with a large nutrition and home economics department. However, unlike Brescia they have a smaller piece of land, and have 3 tall buildings, with another one on the way.

Birthday Dinner

After school Andrea celebrated her host Mother’s birthday with a traditional Japanese meal and Birthday cake. The sushi in Japan is more delicious and fresh than it is in Canada!

Institute of Health and Nutrition

On Tuesday we traveled to Tokyo during rush hour and had our first Japanese subway experience. Everyone was packed into the train like sardines. In Tokyo we visited the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, where we learned about Japan’s approach to health promotion. They have what’s called Health Japan 21which is very similar to Healthy People 2010. We also learned about all the research they do and we got to see their metabolic chamber. It was interesting to see the extent of research that is done at the institute and learn that the government funds it all. In the afternoon we went to a hospital in Tokyo and a dietitian taught us about food service in Japanese hospitals.

Food Sciences Lab

On Wednesday we attended a class similar to our food science labs with Mrs. Mahood. We made fish, a tofu salad and a dessert with glutinous rice balls. There was a big emphasis on presentation of the food; however in our labs at Brescia we focus more on the science aspect. Our second class of the day was a public health class, which was very similar to a statistics class.

Food Group Origami

Thursday morning was spent in a nutrition education class. The teacher showed us how to make an educational food group origami, and the students showed us their hand-made fabric/plush food models. In the afternoon we attended a traditional tea ceremony. We were surprised how precise they are in carrying out this tradition (i.e.: turning the bowl clockwise twice before drinking the tea).

On Friday, we first observed a food preparation class. Unlike the class we participated in on Wednesday, the students here spend all day in the kitchen in order to standardize a chinese meal recipe. We learned that Wayo provides many hands on activities because their internship is only 3 months long, so it is essential that they gain experience at school. We then observed a food science lab demonstration in the afternoon.

We both spent the weekend with our host families and learned a lot about Japanese culture. Gretchen ventured to Askusa to see the Asakusa Kannon Temple on Saturday, a famous temple in Tokyo. Sunday was a day of rest and relaxation at home.

Temple in Tokyo

On Saturday Andrea went to a public bath, where Japanese people go to enjoy some relaxation time. On Sunday she visited her host Grandmother and host Grandfather’s house which is a traditional Japanese style home. Her host Grandmother gave her a Kimono as a gift. Japanese people are so generous and kind.

Update from Japan

Alicia Garcia

Andrea Green, Gretchen Lee and Kryatal Gopaul, are our three Food and nutrition students studying in Japan this summer at Wayo Women’s University in Chiba. They were accompanied by Alicia Garcia, head of Brescia’s Food and Nutritional Sciences program. The four women have been in Japan for almost two months now and are adjusting well to their new settings. Here’s an update from Alicia:


Professors Ikuko and Reiko have kept us very busy so far at Wayo, attending their classes and participating in their activities.  Yesterday, we were in the food lab to prepare a meal: fresh mackerel boiled in ginger and miso (soybean) paste (they asked me if I would gut and cut the fish, which I did like an expert they said), boiled rice and peas, boiled vegetables (carrots, Chinese cabbage, white gelatin from seaweed) and mashed tofu, steamed sticky rice flour with green tea powder and dried apricot and chestnuts in syrup.  After cooking, we arranged the food nicely in individual bowls for each food and ate it with chopsticks and had green tea as beverage.  In the afternoon, we attended a public health nutrition class where we participated in the data analysis of a survey that the students generated.

 Today, the university had photographers following us in classes (taking pictures to use as part of their promo materials for this exchange program).  In the first class, we prepared and colored paper nutrition education materials (shaped like an ‘origami’ when folded and have three hexagons of different foods from their food guide) and they showed us how the students cut up cloth scraps and make food models out of patterns for the ‘obento’ (lunch box).  Andrea and Gretchen loved the hands on work.  In the clinical nutrition class, students were doing a demo on nutrtion counselling and they were using food models similar to ours. 

 The highlight of our afternoon was the 30-minute tea ceremony where we had a geisha mistress directing members of the ‘tea ceremony club’ in showing us how the green tea ‘macha’ is made (in ancient past) and serving it to us with all the flourish of bowing, gesturing and hand placements that we had to follow. Previous to the tea drinking, we were served in a napkin a sticky rice ‘moshi’ with purple-colored gelatin on top that we had to eat with one very short flat bamboo chopstick. Really quite an interesting ceremony and the geisha said that it is one thing we are lucky to have experienced once in our life!


Stay tuned for more updates from Japan!

Community Development takes a BOLD First Step

Elyse Golian and Ashley Hassard are two Brescia students who are currently volunteering in Ghana teaching english at the Sankofa school. Elyse is the first student to go through Brescia’s new Community Development in a Global Context module and will be using this trip as the culmination of her Honours Community Development Project. Elyse is not only a role model for the children in Ghana, but also for students here Brescia!

Sankofa Mbofra Fie is a children’s home for disadvantaged children in Ghana. It provides them with a safe place to sleep, eat and learn. The home believes that with education the children will be able to seek a better life for themselves and help to improve the conditions in their communities for future generations.

Read more about the project on the Brescia web site.

Here’s a note from Elyse about her trip:

“We are working in a small village call Eguafo. David, a Ghana native, owns the school and the orphanage in the village and started both of them about 6 years ago.  There are 18 children aged 6-16 in the orphanage and they all attend the school.  The school in called Sankofa and is one of the only free schools in the Ghana.  It is amazing all the work David had done.

We usually wake up with the rest of the village around 4:30 and go to school around 7:30 until 1 or 2.  If the teachers don’t show up or do not want to teach, which is frequent, then we teach a class or we assist children who need extra help. The school system here is very unorganized and unstructured.

After school we wither the kids from the orphanage in the farm that we all built at the beginning of our trip or we tutor the kids and help them with their homework. The kids are all amazing and it is going to be so difficult to say good-bye to them.

I also can’t believe that it’s almost over! We will be at school all this week and then on Friday we are having a big good-bye party at the orphanage for all the kids and we are hoping to buy a goat for them to breed and sell.”

Here is Sankofa’s website if you want to read more: http://www.sankofachildrenshome.org/