Monday morning’s deluge of rain didn’t dampen the spirits of Technos students lined up with umbrellas and ponchos to greet the International Week visitors, who had landed in Japan the night before. Student cameramen bustled around to prepare for when the student and faculty representatives from Technos’ ten sister schools in America, England, and Australia would make their entrance. There was a rush of applause as their faces appeared on the jumbo television in the central plaza, and one-by-one, each group was introduced and led through a hallway of students, who cheered and high-fived the visitors.
Afterwards, the visitors and Technos students were gathered in the cafeteria for the welcoming party, complete with sushi platters, an inflatable pool of water-balloon yoyos, and a student-drawn mural featuring, among other things, a Japanese monkey. (I asked, but the other Technos students didn’t seem to have an explanation, either.) Professor Emeritus Brian Rogers from Pembroke College gave an opening speech, and afterwards the students were encouraged to relax and mingle. Many of the Technos students were nervous about interacting with the visitors, which was understandable; I was scared to talk to the newcomers, and I’m a native English speaker. Still, they seemed to get along well, and even though they were jetlagged, the visitors were still eager to interact with the Technos students.
The next day, the visitors received a crash course in Japanese, then took an in-depth tour of the school. Technos is a vocational school, so they were able to sit in on classes for flight attendants, wedding planners, hotel staff, and other similar careers. Meanwhile, the students were busy making final preparations for various presentations and activities with the International Week visitors.
As I mentioned before, Devesh and I were most involved in the Sister School Fair, during which the Technos students would get the chance to share something about Japanese culture, like major festivals or famous actors, and the visitors in turn would talk about their schools. The fair was a new addition this year, so everyone was a bit nervous about how it would go. When the time came for the fair, each of the groups sat together at a table with flags, photographs, and other memorabilia from their school, and the pre-assigned groups of Technos students sat across with little scripts and, in some cases, some Japanese foods to share with the visitors.
Like some kind of speed-dating event, the students talked with three groups for twenty minutes each, and as Devesh and I walked around to see if anyone needed help, I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged both the visitors and the Technos students were. Admittedly, I was worried that the students with greater English proficiency would overshadow the others, but very rarely did I see a Technos student sitting quietly on the side. This was also thanks to the visitors, who were patient, friendly, and adept at speaking on a level appropriate to their English ability. The professor from my university said that the language barrier wasn’t much of an issue at all, which was a relief.
Besides the Sister School Fair, the Technos students also gave presentations around the theme “roots.” I only got the chance to watch the second-year English Career students’ presentation about rice farming as the roots of Japanese society, which all the English teachers agreed went very well. The presentation featured a skit involving “rice fairies,” so the night before, a student and I went to Daiso (the nicer equivalent of a Dollar Tree) to pick up cheap supplies for me to make a last-minute set of fairy wings. I love making costumes for anime conventions back home, so I was more than happy to stay up sewing!
Despite all the hard work that went into the first week of International Week, there was still time outside of school to have fun with some of the Technos students. On Tuesday night, we went to a nearby restaurant with traditional tatami rooms and lots of Japanese-style dishes, including hot pots where you cook and eat your food over a flame.
Then on Thursday, we went out for karaoke, which was honestly a blast. You go into a private, sound-proof room with microphones and TV displays, and there’s a tablet with thousands of songs to choose from in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. The place we went offered free ice cream and drink refills, and there were no time restrictions. (Apparently, as long as they’re out by 5 AM, it’s okay for some people to sleep the night there!) We were also allowed to bring meals and snacks from a nearby grocery store. And it was all for just 300 yen per person! Never go karaoke-ing with a Japanese person, though, because they’ll blow you out of the water. Seriously, I feel like I have an average voice, but when we got to some Disney songs, it was like actually listening to some Disney princesses. Still, we had a great time singing and dancing, and five hours passed like it was nothing. Definitely something to try with your friends while you’re in Japan!
On Saturday, the rain from Monday came back with a vengeance, so I opted to spend my afternoon indoors at Tokyo Station, which is basically a labyrinthine city all to itself. Its major attractions include Tokyo Character Street, a line of shops dedicated to different Japanese anime franchises; Okashii Land, which sells unique Japanese sweets in different flavors; and Ramen Street, which features eight popular ramen restaurants to try. Again, this all inside the station, not to mention the adjoining multi-story shopping mall, the slew of convenience stores, and… oh, yeah, the actual trains. I don’t have a lot of pictures, since I don’t want to spoil any souvenirs I may have possibly purchased there, but I had lots of fun just wandering around and admiring all the exclusive items for sale.
Wow, I actually churned this one out in a timely manner! That’s all for now; see you next week!