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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.