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19th Boston Area Japanese Speech Event

On November 2, 2019, the 19 th  Boston Area Japanese Speech Event was held at Brandeis University. 16 non-native Japanese speakers from eight different universities in the Boston area gave a 5-minute talk entirely in Japanese, without the aid of any supporting materials such as powerpoint slides, video, music, and handouts.   One of the speakers was  Luis Guerra, who participated in the 2019 Mino Boston Exchange program . Entitled  “ 思いやりの紙 ” (compassion for paper),  he efficiently delivered his experiences during his stay in Mino, focusing on its history and the handmade Japanese paper (Washi) made in the city. Luis also talked about how Mino’s citizens have been carefully preserving its manufacturing methods, without losing its commercial value for over 1300 years.  After the speech, he conversed with the audience further about Mino Washi in Japanese.
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School Visits

The group visited the Showa Middle School and the Nakauchi Elementary School to take part in teaching English to its students.  At the middle school, students interviewed us, reporting on what they learned in front of the other classmates.  Even more impressive was that the entire process was conducted in English! In the elementary school, we ate school lunch with their students as we learned how to craft Origami from them.  Again, the entire time we spoke in English, demonstrating how impressive these students’ skills were ! We truly had a memorable and wonderful time with the people of Mino City and really appreciated their warm hospitality. We are very thankful for how they opened their hearts and minds to the visitors.

Another Day in the Mino City

We got up very early to participate in a  Zazen meditation session , followed by a vegetarian breakfast at the Enshoen Temple. The hour-long meditation was refreshing and uplifting; a perfect way to start a new day! We went to City  Hall to meet with the mayor and deputy mayor of Mino City.  At the beginning, Bob Graham spoke in Japanese to express our gratitude to how warmly the citizens of Mino have been treating the group.  The mayor taught us the distinguished features of Mino w ashi paper , as well as what it plans to be used for in the near-future: for the  certificate s of recognition for athletes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.   In the afternoon, we visited the Mugi High School for its physical festival. The cheering party competition was never heard of in the USA, with its aim for students to gain group collaboration. It was a unique competition to  observe.

English Class in the Mino City

The group participated in a Polish artistry paper workshop to make Polish Christmas decorations.  Afterword, we toured the Japanese sake brewery, the Udatsu Townscape (Udatsu no Agaru Machinami), and the Mino Washi Lantern Museum. For lunch, we enjoyed the autumn taste of Matsutake mushroom rice, sashimi, tempura, and some traditional Japanese side dishes hosted by the local supporters. In the late afternoon, we were invited to a cooking teacher ’ s home to experience a typical Japanese home-cooked dinner, including paella and pizza. It was hard to believe that Japanese people eat this much various and delicious types of dishes as and everyday meal. In the evening, we taught two different levels of English conversation classes to about 50 students, ranging from elementary students to middle-aged adults. We truly enjoyed the time with the students, who consisted of friends , couples, various families, and high school students.

Mino and Mino Washi Paper

After completing the intensive Japanese language study at the YAMASA, the group traveled to Mino City, Gifu Prefecture. The city is renowned for its traditional Japanese Mino Washi paper and the streets known as "Udatsu Townscape”. Mino  W ashi  is considered “intangible heritage” by the  UNESCO  (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). M ade  out of wooden leather fiber, washi is famously used for Japanese style sliding door as a replacement of glass, when crafting origami, as well as the kind of paper used for wagasa, the traditional Japanese umbrella. Other items made with washi include sensu, uchiwa, the traditional Japanese fan,  paper lanterns, and painting & writing materials.  Udatsu is a small kind of pillar attached to the roof of a Japanese house, often used to protect it from fire damage.  However, in the middle of the Edo period, it became used more as a decoration to show off one ’ s financial strength. The city offi

Yamasa Japanese Language School

After touring Toyota City and Okazaki, the members of CEI attended classes. At the Yamasa language school, the classes are divided into three sections: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The beginner class consists of learning the fundamental basics of Japanese. The intermediate class consists of learning keigo, the humble form of speech used in Japanese to show respect to others. The advanced class consists of open discussions on various topics in Japanese. Each day, there are six 50 minute classes that focus on the five different language skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and cultural awareness. These classes are led by a rotation of enthusiastic and passionate teachers with a variety of teaching styles. CEI members working studiously in class At Yamasa, cultural activities were also part of the learning experience. For example, the CEI members participated in making dragonfly charms with beads and string. The dragonfly is famous in Japan because it represents

Kyoto Trip

While they were staying in Okazaki, the CEI members took a day trip to Kyoto for cultural activities. First, they went to the Yasaka Shrine located in the Gion district on the eastern side of the city. Originally built in 656, this shrine is home to the Gion Matsuri. This festival takes place over the entire month of July. It was originally a religious observance to appease the gods and avoid plagues. Now, it is a festival celebrating the culture of Kyoto. CEI members and Kumiko-San taking a group photo together in front of the shrine's entrance gate Next, the members traveled through the Higashiyama District that consists of many narrow pathways between the Yasaka Shrine and the Kiyomizu Temple. This district highlights the historical style of Kyoto from the wooden buildings to traditional shops.  CEI members posing in front of the Yasaka Pagoda Then, the members visited the Kiyomizu Temple. Founded in 780, this temple is surrounded by wo

Toyota City and Okazaki Tour

On August 23, the members of CEI explored various attractions in Okazaki. First, they visited the Toyota Kaikan Museum in Toyota City next to the city of Okazaki. The museum showcased Toyota's latest innovations that will be displayed at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as well as Toyota's contributions in the automobile industry. Next, the members toured Toyota's Motomachi Factory and observed how the cars were made. The tour featured robots welding pieces of metal together to make parts of the car as well as workers putting together car pieces to build the car. CEI members and Kumiko-San gathered together at the Toyota Kaikan Museum. Next, the group visited the Maruya Hatcho Miso. There, they received a tour around the company that creates hatcho miso. The members learned abot the process of creating miso with large wooden barrels, a traditional method that has been passed down from generations. After the tour, the members were given a sample of hatcho miso to try. Some

2019 Mino Boston Exchange Program Begins!

The 2019 Mino Boston Exchange Program began on August 22, 2019. The members of the program gathered together at the Tokyo station. There, they took the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, to Okazaki, where the YAMASA language school is located in. Unfortunately, Alexandra fell ill and could not continue with the program. Members of the program from left to right: Bingnan Zhou, Lei Lek In, Bill Chiem, Luis Guerra, Doug Smith, Alexandria Forte, Julie Huynh, and Bob Graham. When they arrived at Okazaki, the members were picked up at the station and taken to the YAMASA language school. Then, they attended orientation to become familiar with the rules and expectations as students of the language school. Next, an opening ceremony was held to introduce the members to the school. At the ceremony, graduates of the school also gave out commencement speeches. Bingnan Zhou introducing himself in Japanese at the opening ceremony. After the ceremony, Kumiko-San from the YAMASA langu

2019 CEI Meeting

The members of the 2019 Mino-Boston Exchange Program gathered together on July 13, 2019 at Showa Boston to discuss the details of the itinerary. Members of the 2019 Mino-Boston Exchange Program gathering together from left to right: Bingnan Zhou, Luis Guerra, Mikiyo Hattori, Bob Graham, Alexandria Forte, Doug Smith, and Bill Chiem. At the meeting, the members introduced themselves to each other. Unfortunately, Lei Lek In and Julie Huynh could not attend the meeting, but Bob Graham was able to join the meeting through video chat. During the meeting, each member received a handbook for the program. The handbook featured a welcome letter by CEI founder Mikiyo Hattori, a detailed schedule of the journey, and a self-evaluation template to reflect on the progress of one's goals during the program. During the program, the CEI members will meet in Tokyo on August 22 and travel to Okazaki together. From there, the members will be attending the YAMASA language school

Japan Festival Boston 2019

On April 27 & 28, 2019, the CEI participated in the Japan Festival Boston 2019 held on the Boston Common. Members and friends of the organization decorated our booth with pictures, Japanese Emas (which are wooden plaques where people can write their wishes on), and handouts about both the Mino Boston Exchange Program 2019 and the City of Mino. Japanese language students from Showa Boston and their friends also came to help, leading to a smooth operation of our booth overall. The Shori Kubrick, the band including CEI members (Jackie as vocals/guitar and Philip as keyboard) played live J-POP music on both days; this attracted many people to our booth.  This performance was featured in the Japan Festival Boston 2019 official site.   Over 67,000 visitors came to the festival. It was a very nice way to kick off the Mino Boston Exchange Program 2019.

Thank you, Mino!

A special thank you to Atsuko-san, who cooked and delivered warm dinner every day.  Not only was it very delicious, but her warm hospitality (called here as おもてなし) made us feel as if we were back home.  We're very grateful for the success we had with the first-ever Mino Boston Exchange Program!  

Home Stays

Four days with the Kawai Family -  Kawai-san brought me to many different places around Mino-Shi and Seki-Shi such as the Mino Washi paper museum, where we had the chance to make paper, the Feather Museum where we saw how knives are made, and also introducing me to the local onsen! Every person in her family was warm and welcoming, and they helped me with my Japanese as I helped them with English. I know that when I come back to Mino-Shi someday, I’ll always have a home there. (Written by Grace) Three days with the Fukuda Family - They were so welcoming and eager to show me around, immediately making me feel like I was part of their family! Playing with their younger daughter and helping their high school student with his English homework was so much fun. We went to make sample food in Gujo, made takoyaki for dinner one night, and even fed koi fish! (Written by Grace) Weekend with the Sumi Family -  The father works at Mugi High School in Mino City as an English teacher, and his w

City Hall & Education Boad

On August 24, 2018, we had a wonderful meeting with Higuchi-sensei, the Mino City Education Board Chair. The English Teaching Assistant from the US (who was there via the JET Program) was also in the meeting. During the meeting, Milton spoke in Japanese about our gratitude towards the citizens of Mino, showcasing how welcoming the citizens of Mino have been during our stay. The American TA also talked with us about the more challenging and enjoyable aspects about teaching English and living in Mino. On September 4, we went to City Hall to meet with the deputy mayor. In the beginning of the meeting, Milton once again spoke in Japanese, showering praise on the citizens of Mino regarding how eager they were to welcome us to their town and how they enjoyed spending time with us during our stay. Afterwards, the deputy mayor and we talked about how we could continue the program in the future.

School Visits

High School English Speech Coaching:   We coached three Mugi High School students who would be participating in the English speech contest. First, we edited their manuscripts, smoothing out stories that could be told naturally, as well as correct any grammatical aspects that are not conveyed naturally in English. Then we helped them how to pronounce these words properly, speaking with emotion that helped with the story’s flow. We truly enjoyed the time with these three students! School Visits We visited the Mino Middle School and the Nakauchi Elementary School, observing how students study at these schools. On the day we attended, students were learning to put out a fire with a hose. With arms outstretched, they also practiced Kanji (Chinese characters) stroke order. Similar to the kindergarten students, the kids served lunch and clean their classrooms. The reason for them cleaning: there are no janitors in these schools!