JET Program CIR Report





CIR Report from Kanazawa (6)

By Marlies
(Coordinator for International Relations)


Cherry blossom season has arrived!
The entire city is wrapped in fluffy clouds of pale pink petals. It is hard to believe that only a couple of weeks (or was it days) ago it still felt like the middle of winter, but now everything has come to life again. Looking back on the past winter months, it’s almost as if I had a winter sleep myself… there’s very little to report on January and February, but in March things start to pick up :-)

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“Very little to report” does not mean “nothing” though… In fact, for me those few events I had in January and February were quite memorable.

In January I got a rare treat… a visitor from Belgium! Not an official one, but a close friend of mine, who had decided in a kind of spur of the moment thing to come to Japan. Together we did some sightseeing in Kyoto (saw Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) just before sunset, bathing in the most breath-taking golden glow) and the area around Kanazawa. Highlights included a little trip to snow-covered Shirakawa-go and “sake paradise” Hida Takayama. Not to forget the Oyster Festival in the Noto and a visit to Kanazawa’s Ninja Temple!

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Kinkakuji Shirakawa Hida Takayama

Then come February, I was invited to Nanao to give a presentation about Belgium at an international event, and to Kawakita to answer the questions from a group of curious high school students about my country. I also did a kindergarten visit, where I managed to keep a group of 60!! 5-year-olds entertained for an hour and a half, which is quite a feat even if I do say so myself! :-)
( )

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Nanao Kindergarten

Then there was the yearly Ohara Ikebana New Year’s lecture class. The lecture class is a 2 hour demonstration during which a teacher, invited specially for the event, makes several large creations up on stage in front of an audience of eager ikebana ladies. At the end of the event the flowers are raffled between a few lucky people… and guess what… this year one of those lucky people turned out to be none other than yours truly!! :-) Not only did I win a batch of flowers, I won the exact batch of flowers I wished for: a big bunch of Iceland Poppies! Lucky me!

A few weeks later I got to pack my bags for a trip to Yokohama. The weekend was the perfect occasion to meet up with Sophie in Tokyo :-) and to discover Yokohama, which I hadn’t seen yet. The weather was gloriously sunny and it felt great to be out and exploring new sights. (Amusing yet slightly disturbing observation: instead of walking their dogs, a lot of people in Yokohama seem to enjoy walking their pet rabbits?!)
Anyway, my trip to Yokohama wasn’t just for fun, after the weekend I attended the After JET Conference. Yes, the “After JET” conference… meaning my JET life will be coming to an end soon. I decided not to renew my contract this year, and will be returning to Belgium in August. It’s time for the next “brave Belgian” to take over :-)

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Yokohama Walk with Rabbits

But I’m not done yet! March certainly reminded me of that fact :-)
There were interpreting duties for an international meet and the visit of the Dutch consul-general to Kanazawa, lots and lots of translations, an Easter event for kids, a radio interview, and much more… ;-)

The one that stood out was definitely the Easter event! This time the event was a joint project with my fellow European colleague Julie (for those of you who don’t know, Julie is our French CIR). We planned a real Easter party with egg painting, making chocolate Easter nests, decorating baskets, and the best of all… we got the Easter bunny to come by and hide loads of Easter eggs so the kids could have a real egg hunt!! Managing twenty-something kids was quite the challenge, but the beaming faces over baskets full of Easter treats at the end of it made it sooo worth it :-)

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Easter Event

Meanwhile in my private life, I “graduated” kimono kitsuke lessons in February (for more on the kimono, check out report 5bis) and had been looking for a new challenge, when Yoolim came with a suggestion: The Yosakoi dance group she’d been dancing with since last year, was about to restart training after their winter break… “Why not come try out sometime?”… Little did she know just how tempting that sounded to me (= dance crazy! ahem enthusiast since the age of 5 or so :-) )
Yoolim came to try out ikebana with me, and I went to Yosakoi practice with her. I don’t think she will continue ikebana, but I got hooked on the Yosakoi :-)

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Ikebana Yosakoi Dance

I can already hear most of you thinking: “But what ìs this Yosakoi-thing she’s going on about?” Well, it seems to be a generally well-known phenomenon around these parts, usually described as “oh, the wild dancing”… :-)
For an explanation, that’s a bit meager though isn’t it ;-)
I think it might take a bonus report on Yosakoi to fully be able to explain what it is, but for now let’s suffice it to say it is a show dance performed in teams (consisting of both women and men of all ages), kind of jazzy but with a traditional Japanese twist… or should I say traditional Japanese but with a modern twist :-) Teams compose their own songs, design their own costumes (can be anything as long as it’s flashy, but most teams go for the traditional happi coats or kimonos) and combine elaborate choreographies with drummers, flags and even entire floats on stage! The one mandatory prop is the naruko, a kind of wooden clappers the dancers hold in both hands. The teams compete against each other during the many Yosakoi festivals that are held all over the country throughout the year, so there is a constant pressure to perform. I’ve barely started practicing but my first performance is already coming up soon… I will let you know who I fare ;-)

Farewell Colleagues

Meanwhile, it’s April again… the time of goodbyes… and welcomes.
Our CIR supervisor Iwata-san was reassigned to the tourism section. I was sad to see her go. Our Chinese colleague Shin-san has left too. I will miss them both a great deal. In their places came Tanbo-san and In-san… and a series of goodbye and welcome parties of course :-) Seeing the new people trying their best to settle in, takes me back to the summer when I first arrived here. It seems like an eternity ago already. I hope we will all get to hang out together and do some fun stuff before it will be my time to say goodbye in summer.

The next months will get pretty busy at work and I’ve got some travel plans in the making too, so that should give me plenty of things to write about next time. So keep an eye out for the next (and probably last) report in a few months!

Enjoy the spring weather!

Groetjes uit Kanazawa,


(Photos by Marlies)