Dressed up like princesses

Friday 2nd February

This morning, we awoke to the news that an article had been published about the Aberystwyth Cultural Ambassadors in Kyoto’s daily newspaper, focusing on our kimono experience the day before. The newspaper was waiting for us as we arrived at the Town Hall, and we were told that the headline read “dressed up like princesses”, which we were all very touched by. The article gave us all a morale boost for the busy day ahead, where we would be working at the Town Hall to put together our presentations for the town council the following day.


We began the morning by choosing a topic we’d like to focus our presentations on, and I chose to examine the education we had experienced in Yosano, as this was an element of the visit that had proved extremely interesting for me. We then shared photographs from the previous days, which helped us to put together our scripts, which needed to be completed by midday to allow Haruka time to translate them. We took a break mid-morning to get some drinks and snacks from the mini-market next to the Town Hall, and we were amazed that the shopkeeper recognised us from the newspaper article. We took a short walk along the road to the waterfront, where we paused for a few minutes to take in the beautiful surroundings, before returning to the classroom to finish our presentations.


We had lunch at a local restaurant which specialised in ramen, a delicious Japanese dish consisting of noodles and meat/fish in broth. We ate our food under the traditional Japanese low tables, known as chabudai – I found these very comfortable, but it was rather amusing to watch Val (who is well over six-foot) struggle to fit under one of these cross-legged! The food was amazing, as always, and we made our way back to the Town Hall, feeling very satisfied, if a little sleepy.


In the afternoon, we had a poetry workshop with the Assistant Language Teachers and a man called Koh, who we had heard a lot about over our trip. Koh was the owner of the museum we had visited a few days prior, and he introduced the format of his haiku challenge which we all participated in. First, we were instructed on the basics of writing a haiku, which is essentially a seventeen-syllable poem split into three lines of five, seven and then five syllables. Koh explained that most haiku focus on themes of seasons, nature and emotion, which made writing the haiku a very peaceful process for each of us. Once we had written two haiku per person, we rewrote each other’s poems in different handwriting to make them anonymous for the competition. We then compiled everyone’s haiku onto a master sheet, which we were each given a copy of – we then had to vote for our three favourites and explain our reasons for choosing each one. I was delighted that my two haiku came in first and third place out of fifteen entries, and I have documented them below for anyone who would like to read them:

Sunlight reflected,
the glistening water on the
endless horizon
(first place)

Trees bare, lilac sky,
the first dusting of snowflakes,
winter has begun
(third place)

We then had an informal chat with the ALTs about the JET teaching exchange programme, which I found especially useful as it is something I am considering doing myself in the future. This talk gave us the opportunity to hear the personal experience of each ALT, as opposed to the generic information that is available online, which was an invaluable experience.

At the end of the day we met our homestay families once more, and my family took me to a local Korean restaurant, where we had a traditional Korean barbeque style dinner. The food was all cooked at the table, which was fascinating to watch, and the plates of food were unlimited for the first ninety minutes! By the time we had finished, it was getting very late, so we made our home and went straight to sleep to ensure we were well rested for our presentations the following day.


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