There are so many events organised by the international division in every city in Japan that invite international students to spend the day to try to improve the children’s skill to speak in foreign languages (especially English) and this one in Sagamihara really exemplifies that. This event is an annual camp with many foreigners participating. The name of the event is “International Exchange Camp”.
Then, here we are, about 1 hour away from Tokyo Station by train, Sagamihara Station is located on the west side of Tokyo. Our journey does not begin at Sagamihara Station. We get off there then have to take the bus until we reached a facility called Sagamikawa Village, Wakaayu.
On the first day, there was a welcome event, introduction, and also we sang a song! After that, we got a chance to get to know each other, at least among the foreigners, we also have to prepare a presentation about our country. We come from several countries around the world, like Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, America, and Thailand. Me and the other foreign students got to become “staff” who will teach English to the Japanese children, aged 5 to 18! There is also the committee and some of the teachers who assisted.
Some students gave their best to represent their culture through some visual guides, such as flags, their own country’s currency, a map, or even showing their food! Japanese children had to listen to the explanation in English.
Of course we use really ‘easy-listening’ English, and sometimes mixed it with a little bit of Japanese. And amazingly, with every fascinating speech of each country, even the children who could not speak English, felt encouraged to interact more with the foreigners!
Besides the presentations, the committee also prepared some activities based on the children's age. So the ‘staff’ were divided into different groups with the children. For the kindergarden and elementary kids, they have an Easter Egg hunt, while the kids from middle and high school play more intellectual games, such as finding and making a list of the countries in the world starting with one particular letter of the alphabet.
At night on the first day, we have ‘candle fire’ activities. For this activity, both the staff and committee presented some dance performances before the kids. Both a student from Ghana and Solomon Islands performed their duet, then a friend from Thailand danced a traditional dance. We enjoyed each country's dance styles and techniques a lot. Finally by the end, the staff and committee got to show their talents and joined together in a performance by all of the participants in the camp!
The next day, we take a morning walk not far from the facility. There was a river which had a cherry blossom path along it. Take a walk under the trees with the pink lantern ornament along the way made my walk totally worthwhile. Some families opened a picnic and played together.
We moved to some open space not far from the river, where there was a little hill, so you can see all of the beautiful garden below you from above. Now it was time to display the camp's main theme: to play and learn. We played some games like run-and-catch, among others. We also, made the children interact a great deal with the foreigners, so they will be brave enough to speak in a foreign language one day.
The best part was when the older children, which came in the age of 15-18, were always encouraging and supportive of those still in elementary or even in kindergarden. They helped and supported each other to understand what we, the foreigners, were trying to explain. When I am in Japan, I love any opportunity to play with Japanese children. Not just strolling around out of nowhere, but also get to know the people better, an go explore places that aren't explained in the guidebook. That is where the real adventure is.
Maybe you too would like to partake in these international student events? Click the link to find out more.